Organizing Your Desks to Meet Student Needs
Nothing is set in stone with a classroom floor plan. Student desk arrangements are meant to serve the learning and management needs of your classroom. Very often, that means moving things around.
Rearranging for a Reason
As I pointed out in my first day of school pages, my kids start the year being being randomly assigned to table groupings. It really doesn’t matter how the groups start out, because they will not be permanent.
As personality conflicts or the tendency to talk or bother others become apparent, the changes begin. Near the first of the year, it’s a good idea to give them a heads-up about a change to the classroom floor plan:
“Wow…after teaching and learning for the last week, I see a few changes that need to be made so ALL students can focus and learn well. Be prepared for a desk mix-up tomorrow!
Children will accept these changes once they get used to them. And, truth be told, they usually know the reason they are being moved. It very quickly gets to the point where I’m don’t warn them at all…they just look for their name tags and carry on.
Humans do like a little bit of change now and then. New classroom configurations keep things interesting.
Bottom line: If desks need to be moved…don’t hesitate. And if you are in a classroom where it is difficult to move the desks, just move the students.
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Supporting learning objectives
Aside from personality and behavior issues, the classroom floor plan must sometimes be set up for curriculum. For example, if your science unit requires groups of six instead of groups of four.
And rows do have their place, even in our collaborative school environment. Aside from the “shock value” for behavior management that I discuss on this page, rows can also facilitate:
- Testing. Some separation helps limit attempts at cheating.
- Space. Sometimes kids need to take a break from groups for a bit, but many classrooms don’t have enough room to make every single desk an island with space all around it. Simply arranging students into rows is usually enough.
Hybrid Approaches to Classroom Organization
It’s entirely acceptable to arrange some desks into groups or pods and others into rows if that’s what you need to make your classroom space functional.
Here is my most-common room layout (I made it on floorplanner.com ):
Yep…four doors and three radiators to work around!
Community spaces small and large
Classroom floor plans are not all about moving desks around; they are also about creating space for other needs. I think a gathering place, as you see in the diagram above inside the horseshoe, is always important. Plus, I like to make room for a couple of comfortable beach chairs in a cozy corner for reading, as well as my circle table for group work and my laptop table.
These “extra” spaces also serve another important function: They provide spots where a kid can go to reset his approach to learning. Sometimes a small location change is all that is needed for a student to start getting something done.
The basic rules for creating your ideal classroom setup are:
- Be thoughtful
- Be flexible
- Be open to change
It’s all about effective learning.