We’ve reached the start of another school year. With Teacher Workshop Week beginning on Monday, many of our RPS teachers are already starting to look at their class lists, hang posters on their walls, and send handouts off to Paper Tiger in order to ready themselves for the first week of school. However, before you make those first sets of seating charts, I encourage you to take a moment to think about how you arrange the furniture in your classroom as you settle in to the start of a new school year.
My first year of teaching I traveled from room to room with all my textbooks on a cart. Because I taught in five different classrooms, all of which were setup by five different teachers, I learned quickly to adapt to various room arrangements. My first class of the day was all in traditional rows, my second in pairs all facing the board, my third in groups of four, my fourth in rows again but with students all facing the center of the room, and my final class of the day in a ‘U’ formation. It only took me about a week to realize that there were definite benefits and sometimes detriments to each set-up. Here is what I found…
Of course, at the time, I hated pushing around a heavy cart from room to room and having to navigate busy hallways at passing time; however, when I finally had a classroom to call my own the following year I knew the importance of making a conscious decision about how I wanted to arrange my desks. Taking into consideration the types of desks I had and my small space, I decided to arrange them in pairs that all faced the center of the room. I did this because I knew that I would often have students doing partner shares, that they would occasionally be working in small groups of four, and that we would often have large group discussions and debates. This arrangement made such things easy while still allowing students to see the board and without making it hard for me to access students who needed help; plus, on test days, students could easy shift their desks to create single rows allowing for purely independent work.
Years later, after being given the opportunity to have two-person tables instead of desks, I opted for a ‘U’ formation—I had one large outer ‘U’ with one smaller ‘U’ nested inside. Of all the arrangements I’ve personally used, this has by far been my favorite. Again, it made partners shares simple, one table could join another to quickly create a group of four, and large group discussions and debates flowed naturally with this structure. The added pros being that I could also place myself in the center of the ‘U’, making myself a fellow learner rather than a teacher standing at the front of the room, and it was easy to turn the ‘U’ into an inner and outer square for our frequent Fishbowl Discussions. Of course, independent work was less simple, but I found that by teaching and re-teaching what I expected during such times made it rarely an issue.
As you begin another school year, I encourage you to consider your space and what activities you anticipate doing in your classroom—arrange your room accordingly. And remember: if the arrangement you opt for doesn’t work for a certain activity, desks and tables do move.
This post brought to you by Heather Lyke, Secondary Implementation Associate
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