No one says that keeping 30 nine-year-olds engaged in learning is simple, but as a school teacher, that’s what you’re expected to do among a whole host of other tasks that, at the end of the day, seem more like accomplishments that rival achieving peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately, some teachers add to their own obstacles by not paying attention to simple design rules that can help children stay focused on what’s being taught instead of on every possible distraction.

First, choose classroom furniture designed to help kids switch focus easily. We found a terrific example in the Downview Desk manufactured by Versa Products, Inc. Designed so students can see the front of the room and their computer monitors at the same time, this clever construction actually mounts the monitor below the work surface under glare-free glass. No more hiding behind a 17-inch screen and gazing off into an abyss. Give yourself the ability to see your students at all times and know when they’re “getting it” and when they’re not.

Second, arrange desks in a U-shape as opposed to traditional rows or “pods.” The problem with pods is that you are creating a situation where a few students will always have their backs to you even if you actively move about the room. Rows tend to put several students between you and the kids in the back each layer becomes another degree of disengagement. A U-shape formation allows you to stay in close proximity to all of the students making it easy to hear and see.

Third, manage with highlighters! Huh? Make sure each desk has Velcro (or a clip) to hold a regular highlighting marker. During times that you are in front of the class giving instruction, have the students remove their highlighters and highlight certain phrases or objects on their own papers as you talk about it. These moments of intense concentration will keep the students focused on what you are saying and what they must look for on their papers, instead of zoning out or chatting. The best part about highlighters instead of markers, is they wash out of clothes easily and don’t stain furniture that’s been coated with durable finishes like Nevamar Armor Plated Laminate.

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