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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