Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Student Seating: Desks vs Tables: Setting Up Your Classroom Series

{Click to see more of my posts on how to set up a classroom.} 

OK friends.

I need to start this off with the disclaimer that I am 110% PRO-TABLE in this battle.

Therefore this post is biased.

Today I am going to talk about student seating.

Well, I'll type and you'll read, but feel free to comment and it will sort of be like we're talking.

I do understand that some of you either like or else have no choice but to use desks. Taking that into consideration, I am also working on a blog post chock full of tips for organizing and managing desks in the classroom. I'm also posting today about Alternative Seating in the classroom, which goes hand in hand with the tables and the Reading Nooks, but felt it too deserved it's own post.

Now onto the part where I profess my love for tables...

Why I Love Tables:
  • They take up less space.
  • They provide a community feel.
  • They don't shift.
  • Children don't waste time looking for books, folders, and whatnot.
  • They give you flexible seating.
  • They promote inquiry-based, hands-on, insert other buzzwords that good teachers are supposed to use here, learning.
  • You'll never find a moldy snack "in" a table. Can't say the same for desks.
  • They support cooperative learning.
  • They provide spaces for aides / volunteers to work with small groups.
  • Uneven desks make me nuts.
  • They are easy to clean.
The Evolution of Tables in My Classroom:
It may be harder to simply unload all of your desks and welcome in tables, but it's doable. For me it was a process. It took me several years to make the switch from desks to tables. Each year I would find a teacher or two who was planning to get rid of a table as she rearranged her classroom and it became mine and mine. As it would enter my classroom, I would kindly escort a few desks out of my classroom.

As I started bringing more tables in, I needed to develop methods for housing and distributing student supplies (more on that in a future post). To keep things consistent, I developed systems and procedures for doing so and adapted them to the "desk sitters" as well.

Essentially, I treated the desks as if they were tables.
I pushed four together.
I referred to them as "Table # _" just like I did with the tables.
I didn't let the table sitters store things in the desks.

Ultimately, I was able to phase out all but four desks. I have ample seating at tables for my entire class, but I like to have the option of having a few desks for when some friends want a quiet workspace. Basically, all of my students are assigned a seat at a table and the four desks are placed on the outskirts of the classroom. Kids move there as part of my alternative seating plan by choice or if they are struggling to work at the table with peers for a specific lesson. I think it's important to have options.

As for those four desks...I use them as storage for tissues, soap, and all those extra community supplies that the families are kind enough to donate.

If you have desks.

And you need to keep them.

But, you wish you had tables...I suggest the following.

Treat them as tables like I mentioned above.

A few weeks ago, I came across a teacher online who had put her desks together and then covered them with a showerboard cut to size. For the life of me I can't find it now. If you see it let me know. It was awesome.

Here's the same idea on a tabletop. The blog author provides great ideas for adding graphic organizers to it.

Here's a link to a blog post about someone who used a showerboard on her home desk.

Little Warriors wrote a great blog entry about how she convinced her district to switch her from desks to tables and offered a creative (and FREE) solution to not having room for her nametags. Check it out here:


For more ideas and pictures to help organize and manage your classroom, please check out my book: The Clutter-Free Guide to Classroom Organization and Management by clicking here.
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  1. I would also be Team Tables! I wrote about it here http://dualkinderteacher.blogspot.com/2011/06/desks-vs-tables.html
    I love all your organizational ideas :)
    Dual Kinder Teacher

  2. I wish I had tables!! I teach fifth and we switch classes so tables would be perfect in my room but they have SO many books! Where do you store them? What do you do when kids are testing?

    1. I am sort of in the same boat, but I'm going to do what they suggested here and treat my desks like tables. I may even tape the legs together! I don't have a suggestion for book storage, but when they take tests, I will use my students' "offices." I staple two colored file folders together along one edge so that it forms a carrel. Then, students bring in pictures from home and encouraging notes from parents and friends and glue them on. I pass these out anytime students need privacy.

  3. I agree completely! Thanks for the great post and all the ideas. I am new to blogging and I am completely addicted because of blogs like yours:)


  4. I will have tables this coming school year for the first time. How/where do your students store their "stuff" like pencils, folders, etc.? I've considered doing community supplies, but it was on our supply list that each student bring a pencil box to store their crayons, glue, and scissors in, so I feel like I should use those at least this year (then take that off the list for next year!). My students will also have book boxes for D5 and CAFE.

  5. I am l-o-v-i-n-g all your daily organizing posts! I seem to organized to outsiders...it's all a ruse! This stuff is great!

  6. I love having tables too - and I also use paint-sticks for their name tags! I like how she had lines on hers...might have to try that this year. And some mod-podge sounds like a great idea - the names on mine would wash off when I used good cleaner on the tables when the plague of colds hit last winter - lol! I just cleaned off last year's sticks and will probably just spray paint them now and apply modpodge. They really worked out marvelously and only 1-2 got broken. Easily replaced!
    About pencil boxes - I am the only teacher on my kindergarten team who prefers to use community supplies. The kids bring in pencil boxes, and I send them back home with a few crayons and pencils and a note explaining where everything else is. I had one parent ask that her child use his own supplies last year, but that was more of a behavior solution. Everyone else was cool with getting the boxes back.

  7. When I taught, I loved having tables as well. Before I had tables, I had desks...some tips I found helpful with desks are...1)you can zip tie them together so they don't shift...2) you can turn them around backwards so students can't get into them...3) that little space where the back of the desk is that is now in front is a great space to put name plates or other educational aids...keeps them off the table top and 4) since the students aren't using the inside, it's a great place to store things without taking up precious cabinet/closet space. Just a thought for those that may love desks or have not choice but to use them.

  8. First, let me say that I LOVE your blog! Thank for for sharing your ideas! Second, I am in the process of trying to convince the administration that tables are better for kinders. Any research to back this would be greatly appreciated. Keep up the GREAT work :)

  9. So... what do you do when they have to take a test? I like the idea of tables, but how do you handle that?

  10. Oh my gosh ... I can't believe your timing ... it is SO perfect! I had a last minute K/1 combo last year and stuck with desks for the students, but added lots of tables for all of our small group work. This year my class size may increase to 30 with a K/1 again and my principal just asked me to think about getting rid of the desks. (Okay, I admit to having possibly the best principal in the world!!). I am in favor of using solely tables, but had so many questions. Now here you are answering them!!! More, more, more please on storage of supplies. THANK YOU!
    An Open Door

  11. Let me say I am a table girl and have been for some years now. I wrote on this topic a few weeks ago on my blog.

    I was just about to suggest, for those teachers that have no choice but desks, what Brandy did a few comments above about turning the desks around and using them for teacher storage. I've seen it done and it is brilliant.

    As for the teacher above with the pencil boxes, I use them for my center items. All my activities that have small items, which let's face it they all do, go in there. Almost all my supplies are communal.

    Ms. M
    Ms.M's Blog
    A Teacher's Plan

  12. I LOVE tables! I fought to take my tables with my as I move grade levels this fall.

    However if you have desks I've seen teachers take shower board add a lip around the edge and put it on top of a group of desks allowing them to have tables with what they have! The added plus would be storage. Just an idea for anyone who has to keep desks but wants to try tables. making tables out of desks!

    Learning and Laughing

    1. How do you add a lip around the edge? I am ready to do this. I have no tables, only desks. I have located the shower board, but I need to figure out how to secure it to the grouped desks.

  13. Thank you SoOoOo much for the shout out!!;) I really appreciate it so much! You made my day!!;)
    Someone asked about what to do when students are taking tests: I got these little privacy shields from Really Good Stuff! http://www.reallygoodstuff.com/product/ez+store+extended+side+panels+privacy+shields+jounior.do?sortby=ourPicks&from=Search
    They work pretty good. I just got one set and put one around every other student.
    Little Warriors

  14. Did you forget about me in all of your organizational goodness? :) Wait I shall....

  15. thanks for sharing your comments
    non voice projects

  16. I love tables too! I do have a idea for you about your name tags. Go to www.eichild.com (Environments), it is a wonderful website for making labels, nametags, etc. I use it every year. I make name tags for each child on cardstock and then laminate them. I put a velcro button on the back and the matching piece on the table. This works great because whenever I need to rearrange seating all I have to do is pick up the name and switch them around.

  17. Great post! What do you do if your kiddos have to test? Do you have any advice for convincing administration to make the switch to tables? My classroom is so small and the desks are those huge ones, so tables would be perfect. At first the principal said yes, but then the custodian brought up some "points" (standardized testing, ect), so now it's more of a "no." I was so close! Thanks!

  18. I'm pro-table too! I came from kindergarten, so it is all I know. The thought of desks actually caused me anxiety when I switched to 1st grade! My principal let me take my tables with me (smart and trusting lady!). I like that they are sharing community supplies. I never hear people complaining that so-and-so is using my stuff. I think it fosters classroom community faster. I LOVE this blog and have learned so much :) Thank you!

    I l

  19. Home Depot has white showerboard. I bind the edges with duct tape. If you catch a nice employee when he or she is not busy, they will usually cut wood to size for you. A very nice man at the Evansville store cut about 20 pieces of showerboard, shelving, etc. for me one morning.

  20. I have become a fan of tables over the last year. I think they do foster a cooperative learning feeling. My class size just keeps growing, and I was running out of room. I had to do something or cut back my growing classroom library significantly. I finally moved 3 tables in and moved out 15 desks. I kept 9 desks. This year I moved out 2 more desks, kept 7 desks and brought in a small table that seats 4. I struggled with what to do with the textbooks at the desks though. I tried baskets at each spot, but they broke quickly and were always in the way. I finally bought a bookcase for the end of each table. Textbooks are kept on the bookcases and each chair has a chair pocket for folders and notebooks. The kids decide in their groups who is responsible for each subject. Then when we move to that subject that student is responsible for getting and passing out the textbook. When we finish, they collect the textbooks to put away, and if we are moving into another subject, the student in charge of that subject gets the books and hands them out. I don't lose as much time with students getting up to get books and put them away. I wanted to keep some desks because I have had some students in the past who have struggled with personal space issues, but I do group them though. The desks just give some boundaries for those who need them.

  21. My children come to school with around 8 books at the beginning of the year, not to mention all the individual stationary - I can't think where that could be stored. Any ideas?

  22. Did you ever post on your "methods for housing and distributing student supplies"? I was approved for tables next year!

  23. I am SO with you on the tables! If you do have desks though, I have also seen teachers move the desks so the open part is away from the student, so the student isn't tempted to stick things in it. I have HORROR stories of gross rotting milk and carrots in the back of someone's desk. ICK.

  24. I think you all have no lives

  25. I would love to see pictures of everyone's classrooms with tables. I have always had tables in my 5/6 classes but this year I am going to second and have asked for tables but was trying to figure out what to do with all the supplies and books, especially wheni will have teaching partners where we will switch students in a scaffolding program.

  26. HELP!
    I have wanted tables in my 3rd grade classroom forever but the school I work at seems to think desks are more appropriate. To make matters worse the desks they have put in my (very small) room are desks meant for high school students. How do I make the best of this situation and still allow kids to be in groups and able to walk around in such a small area! Please help, anyone?

    1. I have the same issue!! Desk that are made for high school students and I can't for the life of me figure out how to set up my classroom because they are so big and bulky!

  27. This may be blonde but what is the difference between a table and a desk?

  28. There is a teacher who was my mentor before I got my teaching certificate who used a great tool for organizing supplies for her Kindergarten students. She used the Classroom Carry-Alls from Lakeshore Learning. Then she put crayons in 2 of them, markers in two of them, pencils and erasers in one of them, scissors in one of them, glue in one of them, and spacers in one of them. These were placed in the middle of the table. http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/seo/ca%7CproductSubCat~~p%7CLA416~~f%7C/Assortments/Lakeshore/ShopByCategory/artscrafts/viewall.jsp

  29. I am loving all your daily organizing posts! I seem to organized to outsiders...it's all a ruse! This stuff is great!see more

  30. If you're worried about cheating, give each student a folder or two to put up. Check beforehand that they're clean of writing or doodles.

  31. Thanks so much for sharing this! I am in charge of setting up one of the classrooms at the school I work for and I have been trying to find some classroom tables that will be perfect for our kids. For younger kids, I agree that using tables is better than having desks.

  32. I love having my tables in my classroom, though I wish I had more rectangles and less rainbows(they take up too much space in my little classroom). I just put the nametags on the chairs, I found it helped because they learned to write it by having to turn around and remember the letters as they wrote...and it let me have more fluid seating, they just needed to move their chair, I didn't have to move the nametag.

  33. How do you store your students supplies? I teach 5th grade and our kids switch for 3 different blocks. I would LOVE to have tables,but I need a way for students to store their supplies in an organized and accessible matter while they are in the room.

  34. How do your students store their items? I teach fifth grade and our kids switch classes for 3 blocks.I have a total of about 65 kids in my room throughout the day. I LOVE tables but I want my kids to be able to store their items in an organized and easily accessible way.

  35. How do you store your students supplies? I teach 5th grade and our kids switch for 3 different blocks. I would LOVE to have tables,but I need a way for students to store their supplies in an organized and accessible matter while they are in the room.


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