Discussing Desks

For a couple of weeks now, my students have been talking to me about moving desks. Students actually spend very little time at their own desks (as they’re always working all over the classroom), so as a result, I don’t move desks much. I knew that a change needed to happen though, and I thought that I’d make the move after the break: a new year and new desks.

Usually I just make the new seating arrangements, but today I thought that I’d try what some other teachers have tried, and I’d let students write down requests of seating partners. I also let students write down a person that they would prefer not to sit beside (for any number of reasons), as long as they kept their thoughts only in writing and completely confidential. I always find seating plans difficult to make, so I thought that I’d add the additional challenge to the class of designing a seating plan if they wanted. I really had no intention of redesigning the classroom — just moving the students.

Then two students, Emily M. and Ava, came to see me. They created six groups of desks in the classroom — instead of my three — and they asked if we could make these smaller groups. I was about to say no when Emily M. and Ava said to me, “We often work in small groups, and having these smaller areas will make it easier for the groups to find different spots in the classroom to collaborate.” What fantastic reasoning!

Students were telling me not just what they wanted, but why making this change would be a good idea. They were thinking about our classroom structure and the needs of students. I was so impressed by this that when the students went to the dance this afternoon, I started moving desks around. Here’s the new layout for after the holiday break: the students have already given me their nod of approval!


I’m excited about this small group set-up and what it will mean for collaboration opportunities. How do you arrange your desks in the classroom? Why do you have this layout? I would love to hear about your classroom set-up as well.


9 thoughts on “Discussing Desks

  1. I have round tables with four chairs at each. I like it a lot, but I would prefer to have a combination of types of tables. All different shapes and sizes.

    One thing I always remember Barrie Bennett saying is that students should rarely be grouped in larger numbers than pairs. I totally agree with this because its true that third and fourth members inevitably become marginalized. Hard to do all the time, but something to consider.

    You’re making me think of another aspect of grouping that I think I will blog about…

  2. Royan, thanks for your comment! I love the idea of various types of seating. I know that even with these smaller desk groupings, I’ll still have students that work at my guided reading table, on the floor, or in a variety of comfy chairs.

    As for grouping size, I agree with you that partners are ideal. Usually my students work in groups of two. I do have a few students though that work incredibly well in larger groups (of say 3 or 4), and always manage to find a way to all get involved. I think it’s because they break themselves into smaller groups as they work, and then combine again.

    You’ve definitely given me lots to think about! Thanks Royan!

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  4. For our full-class choral speaking activities, my students sit in 3 semi-circle rows ( chairs only, no desks). I am a Core French teacher with my own room. Depending on the small group activity we’re doing, my students can set up tables, or grab clipboards and sit in small pods. It’s pretty modular, and allows for students to find a work space that suits them. I would also advocate for having a discussion with teachers who come into your room, on how the seating is working for them.

  5. Thanks for the comment, Lisa! I love the flexibility of your seating. I’m trying to get an image in my head though: where are the tables located when your chairs are in a semi-circle formation? I’d love to hear more.

    Speaking to other teachers that use the room is a great idea! The French teacher also uses my room, and she said that the students often work independently at their desks. She told me that any set-up seems to work for this. I’ll have to ask her how things go after the switch.

    Thanks for chiming in on this discussion!

  6. Deciding how to configure the desks is one of the banes to my existence! I like to group the desks simply because it leaves more floor space. We spend very little time at “our own” desks; basically they are a storage spot. I wish I could have tables that could be put together quickly when you want a larger group and separated quickly for when you want pairs or individuals, like they use in K classrooms.

    Ideally, I wish I had enough shelving and storage where students could keep all of their belongings so we wouldn’t be dependent on using the desks for storage. Then no one would have their “own” desk and we’d work wherever was most appropriate for any given moment in time.

    • Thanks for the comment, Lorraine! I think that you just summed up exactly what I’m thinking. I really do like space in the classroom, so if this desk arrangement gives enough space and enough room for groups and individuals to work, I’ll be happy. I guess we’ll see what happens come January 7th.:)

      If you come up with a good system, please let me know too. I’d love to hear your ideas!

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