10/23/2021 / Education

Creating Group Spaces in a Socially Distanced Classroom

It seems odd to actually type this, but a few years ago I used to be able to arrange my classroom desks in groups. In today’s socially distanced classroom, that is no longer a possibility as most classrooms have desks set in carefully measured out rows, allowing for no less than three feet between students. Moving around the classroom has become more strategic as well, ensuring anything touched by one student is wiped down with a disinfectant wipe before allowing for another student’s use. Of course, in the past I’ve used Google Meets to create small groups, and that works okay as long as all students have noise cancelling headphones or earbuds, as well as a decent microphone, but this strategy lacks that natural flow of conversation and sharing that only “in person” can truly offer. 
I decided to use the four corners and the floor space by my desk and my back bulletin board areas to create “group spaces”. Thinking strategically and considering all of my resources, I pulled out a set of cushions that I had ordered several years ago for my classroom. Back then I actually had a beautiful classroom library with several book cases and a nice rug for students to lounge and read. The cushions were for added comfort and the students loved them. Now, working in a slightly minimalist learning environment, I looked to slightly repurpose these cushions. I only had a set of four, so I jumped on Amazon Prime and purchased five more sets of the SoftScape 15 inch Round Floor Cushions with Handles. I love these cushions as they can be wiped down with a disinfectant wipe after each use. 

Now, my next thought was about ensuring the students stayed socially distanced in their group setting. So, I purchased spot markers that can be placed on the floor, and they actually stay in place very well. The added bonus is the sets that I purchased also have kind sayings on each spot adding that touch of social emotional comfort! Using a yardstick, I plot out and place each spot, and there it is- a fun way to create flexible seating in a small, socially distanced group setting! 

Next, in order to help students have a portable way to write on their paper, as well as keep individual papers for group work in place, I provide each student with their own clipboard. I purchased a set of 30 off of Amazon and they have been a wonderful resource in my classroom! 

Finally, in an effort to keep supplies individualized, I use a number system in my classroom. It works well for homework, assignments, and any work the students turn in, so why not use it for individualized group supplies? Each clipboard has the student's class number, as well as each cushion. It is an easy way to keep resources in order, as well as a way to maintain a safe learning environment. 

Until next time! 


Subscribe to Kathleen's Newsletter

Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox

Kathleen Palmieri

Kathleen Palmieri is a National Board Certified Teacher, a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Learning Facilitator, and a fifth grade educator in upstate New York. She reviews professional texts and is an educator researcher and writer. As a writer with a passion for pedagogy, Kathleen's focus is on education practices, and strategies, as well as her own experiences as an educator. Educator well being is a priority, thus the name "Mindful Teaching Moments". Mindfulness along with knowledge is important. She has presented at math conferences, writing workshops, actively collaborates in literacy projects, and networks globally.