I'm currently a student intern in a fourth grade classroom. At the beginning of the year my teacher had the desks in groups, however the children were extremely talkative so she changed the set up to rows and now the children do not communicate/colllaborate as much on work. Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions on the best ways to arrange desks in the classroom?
I really like having kids in groups. It opens up room in the room, and creates immediate little work groups. The two main problems are that it does increase socializing, and it makes it harder to ensure that everyone has a clear line of sight of the board/teacher.
Rows are quieter. They're less interactive. They take up more space. I don't like them as well, but I have them at the moment because my current class simply doesn't stop talking.
Last year I had a sort of horseshoe facing inward--that was high school kids--but it wasn't my choice, it was what the woman who shared the room with me preferred. It worked nicely.
I've seen classrooms where all the desks face forward, but they are in groups of 3 (so the sides of the desks are touching). That way they can all see and collaborate, but may be less prone to talking during whole group teaching (?).
C. Green- Thanks so much for your ideas! I'm in a fourth grade classroom and want to teach older elementary. I love the idea of the groups and horshoe inward ideas because I want my students to be able to collaborate with one another and share ideas. I know you teach older students but do you have any suggestions or systems in place to help decrease socialization in your classroom?
Lady Di- I love the desks groupings in three and will try to implement it in the future. It's a great way for the students to be working independently at times and still be working together at other times. Thanks for the idea!
I like groups. I have done them in sets of twelve, sets of eight, sets of four. A fellow teacher I know does rows where all the desks in a line are together. I have tried ones like that but I hate how much the desks slide around. My favorite are groups of eight or twelve. It gives the classroom a feeling of openness while keeping the kids interactive. I just work hard on training the kids to know when free talk is acceptable, when no talk is expected, and when work focused talk is expected.
The room I am in now is set up in rows, but they are sort of clustered in groups of 4, partnered by 2's all facing forward. This makes it easy to get around the room, easy for partner work, and easy for collaboration in larger groups because they can talk to each other when they need to, but not so easy when they should not be. (This is a 7th grade class, BTW), but it could work for younger grades as well. It also works well because the room is not exactly square, so the rows/clusters don't have to be straight, but can be shaped to fit the curve of the room. If they really need to collaborate for a longer time, they turn their desks to the middle.
Desks should be arranged to promote teacher mobility. Setup should allow teacher to move from one student on one side of the room to another on the other side in the fewest steps. Avoid circumpolar routes - ones which make teacher go around the perimeter.
Move the teacher's desk from the front of the room. That's the worst place. Move it to the side or in the back. Move the first row of desks close to the board so when writing you can turn, take one small step, bend, and touch the desks.
If using horizontal rows sit in a seat and slouch down with feet out in aisle. Add two feet. That's how wide the aisle should be. Some students make an art form of slouching and sticking feet out knowing some teachers will take path of least resistance and go down another aisle.
Whatever arrangement you settle on, proximity - your bod - and how close you get to students will prevent most discipline problems from starting in the first place. "Distance is safety. Proximity is accountability." - FJ.
I understand your frustration. I teach a 4th grade ELD classroom, and while talking is appropriate to develop a stronger grasp of the English language, my students speak to one another way too much. Thus, I have them in rows, but side-by-side with another student, like a pair.
It's helping somewhat, but the main issue in my school is the lack of support from administration. I have numerous students on IEPs for aggressive behavior and I am not supported when I ask an administrator to intervene. I am told that I should take care of it.
My belief is that 'taking care of it" should not interrupt the learning of other students at all. We have no sort of "Thinking Room" at our school, which would greatly benefit every teachers' management.
I use the board at the front of my sixth grade classroom for teaching a lot, so I like to have students facing the board (and they like it better too so they are able to see). I have rows of students (3-5 in a row) facing the front board.
But -- this doesn't mean we don't do group work! My kids work in groups all the time. I've trained them to move their desks so they can get into desk groups in under a minute. I also have floor space in all four corners of the room so they can sit on the floor in groups and work collaboratively. We often sprawl out into the hallway for group work, too. I number them off 1 to 4 or 1 to 6 for these groups, so they stay flexible and they are not always tied to the students they sit near.
The desk groupings (or lack thereof) should not hinder you from allowing group work -- or getting your students to work silently!
I take into consideration my students with sensory, distraction, and focus issues. No set up is perfect...but it is difficult for these students to be seated elbow to elbow in one of those horizontal rows, even in groups of 3 or four. They can't handle the space restrictions. Rows don't work for me. I lose students on either end if I walk around or am up front. I found a pinwheel-type arrangement to be the best. They are still clustered for group work, but individual enough to provide a space of their own. I have square desks in groups of 3 or 4. Think about it, draw it out, and then try it. Sorry I don't have a photo to attach!
My teaching style is to walk around and through the desk arrangements. Sometimes I take along a small folding chair and move to join a cluster during group work or to help a student if we are working at desks.
We also use literacy centers, so desk work time and whole group teaching is not the entire day of instruction.
I'm having the same issue with my 4th & 5th graders. Right now they are in a square around the outside of the room, with everyone facing outward. When I teach I pull them down to the carpet anyway, so they are usually doing independent work at their seats. My small group teaching table is in the center of the square so I can see everyone but 3 or 4 behind me (guess where I put the really good kids?).