As we go back to school this year, you’re probably looking for social distancing classroom setup ideas. For many, 6 feet of separation isn’t possible. Many are going to have to get rid of some of their comfy, soft flexible seating and look for something new. We also need to think about keeping each child’s materials separate from others. Good bye shared materials!
Here are some social distancing classroom setup ideas to help you make your classroom a little bit safer during this unprecedented time and keep you sane. Classroom desk arrangements and social distancing classroom ideas to help your kids learn and you teach!
With all of these ideas, it’s best to verify with your school and district that these follow school, district and state policy. The Centers for Disease Control are also a great resource for the latest guidance on spacing and organizing your classroom for human safety.
Social Distancing Seating
Social distancing seating arrangements. Many of us could barely fit our kids in our classroom when we DIDN’T have to keep them 6 feet apart, am I right? As you’re trying to get your classroom set up for social distancing, here are some ideas for desk seating options and classroom configurations.
Classroom Desk Arrangements For Social Distancing
Well, table clusters and pods are pretty much out and a lot of people are talking about going back to straight rows of desks. Not the most inspiring option to be honest. Enter…
The Horseshoe Configuration
Picture all of your tables or desks pushed up against 3 of the walls of your classroom (or all of them if you need to). It roughly resembles a horseshoe. Students can be facing the wall or the center of the classroom. You can then space out tables as far apart as you can. You can be in the middle. It’s a sort of Socratic seminar type feel where you would teach in the center or the wall where no students are sitting. Tip of the hat to reader Annmarie for this idea!
Not enough space? I’ve got more social distancing classroom setup ideas you could also try…
The Double Horseshoe Configuration
Picture as many tables as you fit against 3 walls of your classroom to make a horseshoe shape. You then have an inner horseshoe of tables/desks. Ideally, the group closest to the wall is facing the wall and the group in the inner horseshoe is facing the center of the classroom. This would, in theory, limit students breathing in the same direction. I then put all of my bookshelves and materials in the open space in the middle of the horseshoes.
This is actually what I’m using this school year. Is it perfect? No. I have kids who try to hide that they’re drawing or using their tablets at their tables. Kids also turn their chairs to talk to each other and just see the lesson. I’ve noticed, though, that for me this is the best seating arrangement for social distancing and teaching. The kids are the most spread out, and they are facing different directions most of the time.
Most of all, we can still have great classroom discussions using this simple social distancing classroom setup! I read an article the other day about designing our classrooms for social distancing and how thinking about making in-classroom learning meaningful by designing the space for social interaction. I could not agree more. Social interaction is what makes learning in a classroom more meaningful for students who participate more readily when the space is designed for them to interact.
What about flexible seating?
Flexible seating with social distancing? We don’t have to get rid of flexible seating! Well, not all flexible seating. Many schools are talking about or already have said that soft/squishy/fabric seating options are not allowed. Here are social distancing classroom setup ideas for flexible seating.
Plastic it is! Here’s some ideas:
Kids are going to need visual reminders about where they should sit. Can’t get much more visual and specific than a floor spot. You can write on them really well with permanent markers and my custodian doesn’t mind them because he can vacuum right over them and they don’t clog the vacuum. I’m going to be all about making our custodian’s job easier this year.
Remember how I said that kids would need visual reminders? You can assign areas that your kids can sit in and mark them off with floor tape. I’ve personally used this tape for creating carpet spots on my class rug. It holds up pretty well especially if you remind kids to not pick at it. Even if they do pick at it, it sticks pretty well, and again, my custodian was able to vacuum right over it with no problem.
A more flexible way to set spots in your classroom that still sets boundaries for where students can sit. You probably won’t be able to get a whole class set from your PE teacher, so you may have to buy some of your own. The ones above are some of the cheapest ones I could find as of this writing.
I have a few of these wobble chairs but with foam on the seat. My admins are likely going to tell me that I can’t use them because of the foam, but these all plastic chairs would be perfect. My students literally fought over these last year. I suppose fighting will look different with social distancing, but these are a great non-squishy option to keep using flexible seating.
Another fun wobbly option for your kids who need to move while still being all hard plastic. I was surprised how well these hold up! The fifth grade teachers at my school bought this set (because it’s such a good deal) and the fifth graders still fit in these. If I’m honest, though, I think they’d be much better for younger students.
No more community supplies anymore if we need to practice social distancing. Here are some social distancing classroom setup ideas for how to organize your supplies as best you can while still keeping socially distant.
Plastic Storage Totes
This was literally the first thing I bought for next school year and not just for the lovely colors (they’re also in blue and clear). They have handles and can conveniently carry all of my students’ supplies. I literally ordered everything on our school supply list and made sure it all fit inside with the student iPads.
Our students will be changing classrooms next year for literacy and math/science/social studies, so I’m really excited to use these for transporting materials. You can also buy carts to carry these. I was already at school and started labeling the storage bins and have different colors for each class.
Having the handle makes it really easy for my students to carry their supplies if they need to take them home, and they have held up really well considering some of my students have not been as careful with them as I would like.
Here’s another option that has lots of different colors available and still latch shut and look easy enough to carry from class to class.
Wait, Band-Aids? Yes. Think about it: Your health room is going to have kids with fevers. Parents and administrators will not want you to send kids with minor cuts down to the health room because of risk of exposure to students who may need to quarantine. You’re probably going to be asked to provide first aid in the classroom. I know that I am. Stock up on those Band-Aids now or put them on your school supply list!
Also, if you don’t have a mini-fridge in your classroom, you’ll probably want one to put ice packs in. Like I said, we probably will be asked to do most first aid in the classroom. It’s just another of many smart social distancing classroom setup ideas that will make your life easier.
Epic! Online Library
Let’s face it: Will libraries be open? How will book access in our classrooms work? Will we have to put books away for a certain number of days before another student can read it? If we’re distance learning, how will kids get books?
We’re going to need even more access to books than ever before. Epic! is a free app for teachers and is an online library filled with popular ebooks and audiobooks for kids 12 and under. As a teacher, you can even assign books for students to read and create quizzes for books! Definitely an easy way to get more books into your students’ hands and ears!
Ziploc Variety Packs
We’re going to need to individually package ALL THE THINGS this year whether we’re in the classroom or distance learning. Manipulatives, games, books, you name it. It’s all going to need to be individually packaged and likely disinfected. Enter Ziploc bags! We used them a lot already but it’s probably one of my favorite social distancing classroom setup ideas because they’re cheap and still easy to find!
Not all schools will require them. For those that do, you know that there’s going to be those kids that don’t bring one. Not all schools will provide masks. Better safe than sorry, right? I know I’ll be getting a pack of disposable face masks.
Because you need things to help keep you sane!
Blue Light Filtering Glasses
When I first bought these glasses, it was to make a girl in my class feel comfortable wearing her new glasses. Another girl made fun of her, so I bought these blue light filtering glasses. When we first started emergency distance learning, I was getting headaches, so I figured I’d see if these would help. Go figure, THEY WORKED.
There are a lot of blue light filtering glasses with different magnification or no magnification and frame style. These J+S brand glasses had the most positive reviews on Amazon when I bought them in 2018. They still do, and I personally vouch for them. They look pretty good too!
If you’ve spent more than a week in a classroom where your kids are required to stay sitting at their seats while wearing a mask, your voice will be hoarse. Your throat will be scratchy, and you’ll feel paranoid that you’re sick! Help save your voice (and your sanity) and ensure that your students can hear you through your mask and face shield.
A voice amplifier was a GAME. CHANGER. for me. The model above is what I have. It’s comfortable, effective, and doesn’t break the bank. All things that I love. I like mine so much that I will probably still keep using mine long after we no longer need to have our students practice social distancing. I no longer need to raise my voice!
I tried 4 different faceshields and they ALL claimed to be anti-fog. This face shield is literally the only anti-fog face shield. It worked so well, most of the teachers in my building are using it. Some district administrators came around and they shared it with the rest of the district (of course we had to buy them ourselves). If you had to wear a face shield for any amount of time, you’d know how annoying fog can be. This is the one that you can buy and not have to worry about it fogging up.
Update 7 months into using this face shield: It still does not fog up. Going outside in the cold and rain with it on was not a good idea. The rain left stains on the outside of the faceshield. I felt like I needed some wipers on it because I had to clean it each time any raindrops got on the face shield. I eventually broke the plastic glasses from cleaning the shield a little too forcefully. I bought a two pack of these face shields, and now I’m good to go again!
Logitech Crayon Digital Stylus
I got to try one of these out during the school year last year because our PTO was thinking of buying a class set. Man oh man did I wish that they had bought that class set before we went to distance learning. When I was home typing feedback or trying to draw with my finger, I was wishing the entire time that I had one of these with me.
These are digital styluses for iPads. My school is a 1:1 device school, and the Logitech Crayon works as a stylus for iPads. It works just the same as the Apple Pencil except it’s HALF THE PRICE! Want to give faster feedback and do it easier? You need a stylus, and the Logitech Crayon is a cheap, fast-charging option to help you write with your iPads.
I really want a class set of these for my class because I have a feeling that we’re going to be encouraged to accept digital assignments. My kids could write SO MUCH easier with a stylus.
My mom is a secretary at a middle school, and she bought this 10 packs because she has asthma and struggles to wear a mask for extended periods of time. She bought these to wear (my mom insists on using a different one each day so “the virus will die before I wear it again”), and has been using them now for 3 weeks. She’s been able to comfortably wear it the whole time.
Remember all of those Zoom sessions? How could you forget, right? When I was teaching on Zoom, I was able to move around the room to show things to students and have crystal clear audio thanks to my Airpods. I tried Zoom without headphones or earbuds and the audio quality was terrible and echoey. Some of my colleagues talked about how they’d accidentally yank out their earbuds when they’d get up to show something to their students. I tried another pair of wireless earbuds but they just didn’t fit my ear. If you use an Apple laptop, iPad or iPhone to teach your students virtually, Airpods are the way to go!
Update 7 months in: I use my Airpods almost every day. I’m teaching in the classroom, but I constantly have one or more students who have to quarantine. I put in an Airpod in one ear and have my microphone on. The kids streaming the lesson live at home can interact with and hear me with the Airpod and the other kids in the classroom can hear me thanks to my microphone!
Neato Robot Vacuum
Okay, this isn’t for your classroom. This is for your SANITY at home. This year is going to be stressful. If you’re teaching at home, the last thing you want to do is clean. But your house is messier because you’re at home all day! If you’re teaching at school or teaching a hybrid model, the last thing you’re going to want to do when you get home is clean.
For Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, my wife and I decided to buy ourselves a robot vacuum. You know, because treat yo’ self, right? We bought the Neato D6 specifically because we have a black cat and a big white dog and a WHOLE LOT OF HAIR. This thing is literally the best thing to happen to our marriage since we got a dishwasher. We can schedule it to clean while we’re out of the house so we come home to clean floors.
We’ve used it a few times a week since May and we love it. Our 1 year old daughter even sleeps through it during her naps! My aunt went through 3 Roombas with her 2 small dogs over 2 years. She’s a lawyer so she bought the really high-end ones. All 3 broke. We’re happy we went with our Neato.
Picture Book Brain Trust Membership
This year is going to be hard no matter the situation you’re going to be teaching in. Keeping our students safe is going to be our first priority now more than ever. Being in the classroom will be a huge victory in and of itself. And it’s going to be HARD.
With a membership to the Picture Book Brain Trust, you can find the perfect books to read to your students and give you ready made lesson plans and activities DESIGNED FOR DISTANCE LEARNING as well as teaching in a classroom.
Current members are already enjoying less stress and sharing quality literature with their students without having to think about what to do with the books and how to cover the standards with it!
Social Distancing Classroom Setup Ideas
Trying to plan out a social distancing classroom setup is near impossible. My kids are no more than 4 feet apart at most, so thinking of creative ways to practice SOME social distancing can be difficult. These were just some of my social distancing classroom setup ideas that have worked well for me. Do you have any ways that you’re practicing social distancing in the classroom? Let me know in the comments!