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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Managing the Practical Classroom in Secondary School Science. Join the course to learn more.
Practical work taking place with students seated and apparatus in trays

Managing movement

The layout of a room impacts the movement of both students and the teacher around the room. Typically speaking, the movement of students around a classroom laboratory should be controlled in some way. There are three key times of movement to plan for: at the start of the lesson, during lessons for specific activities, at the end of the lesson.

Students tend to arrive in a classroom laden with coats, bags, PE kit bags, food tech ingredients and more! All of this can mount up and can pose a serious hazard in a room where students need to be able to move about freely and also in the event of an emergency, swiftly.

On entry to a classroom lab, you’ll need clear routines with regards to the storage of bags and coats. For example, hung on hooks on the way in, stored along the back bench or well underneath the teaching benches, out of the way of walkways. Of these, bags underneath benches are also at risk of getting dripped on by reagents should there be an accidental spill.

During the lesson, the location of equipment and apparatus around your room influences student movement. While it may seem sensible to put all of glassware and apparatus in cupboards grouped together at the back of the room where it is all together, this has a consequence on the movement of students. Consider how the movement of students to collect equipment when setting up a practical may result in a crush as all students go to the same place in the room to collect apparatus. Such situations also give rise to behaviour issues. Another option would be to arrange equipment around the room to ensure safe movement of students during practical set ups.

At the end of the lesson, similar routines are needed for the safe disposal of chemicals and tidying up of equipment. Again, identification of which areas of the lab environment are in high demand may inform how you create your tidy-up protocol. For example, do all students need to be involved, or would a designated person per group suffice, to reduce the number of students moving around the classroom.


In the next steps, we will look at how to manage movement during the lesson, and how the location of equipment influences this.

But first, what routines do you currently have for when students enter your teaching space?

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This article is from the free online course:

Managing the Practical Classroom in Secondary School Science

National STEM Learning Centre