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Suggestions for layout of desks

Discussion in 'Trainee and student teachers' started by piersonal, Dec 16, 2010.

  1. Hi everyone. I am due to start placement #2 in January and was speaking with my mentor about the class of his I am to take. We got talking about how we could experiment with changing the layout of the room as he admitted he had never thought about it before, let alone tried it.
    So I thought I might ask all you learned folk out there first if you have any thoughts or experience of this? What is the most efficient format that you think facilitates learning, group work, attention to the board and classroom management?
    My thoughts extend from my recent Primary School placement. They have their desks in blocks of 3 which I really liked, so 6 pupils per set, 2 desks facing each other and one desk at the end. This worked well for the primary school and was excellent for group work but for a secondary school, would this format just provide a breeding ground for misbehaviour? Its an Academy school that I'm at so discipline is 'interesting' and classroom
    sizes are tight-ish.
    How does everyone have their classrooms? Is having desks in a grid format all facing forwards really the most effective way to do it?
  2. I would not get bogged down in a mindset of a particular layout being always 'best'. It rather depends what kind of lesson you have planned; different set ups are optimal for different pedagogical approaches.
    If you're going to stand in front of a whiteboard and 'lecture', then everybody in rows, facing front, is probably best.
    If you want to lecture but also have opportunities for Q&A, and for the class to discuss ideas with each other (as a whole class) then the 'horseshoe' arrangement might be preferred.
    Perhaps you just want an open discussion involving all members of the class - so get rid of the tables and draw the chairs round in a circle.
    Small group work; 4/6 kids working on a task, then tables together in groups of 4/6 with the kids facing inwards so that they can work effectively with each other.
    Or get rid of all the tables, and all the chairs, for a full on interactive drama style lesson.
    I rearrange my classroom virtually every day (sometimes 2 or 3 times in a day) to suit the kinds of activities that I've planned for a particular lesson. Don't be afraid to do the same.
    Experiment (that's the whole point of teacher training), try different layouts and approaches and see what works best for you. You'll have some successes and some failures; that's fine as long as you can reflect, evaluate, and learn from the failures as well as the successes. Trust you own judgment.
    One small caveat; as a trainee teacher you're a guest in someone else's classroom (the regular class teacher) and they may have to teach the lesson after yours. Some teachers are very 'precious' about their room, and the way it is laid out, and you can upset them if you mess it about too much. Always let the host teacher know what you're planning, and ask their permission, and at the end of your lesson leave time to put the room back the way you found it. Once you're qualified and have a job and hopefully your own classroom - you can pretty much do what you like with it!
  3. As you are in another teacher's classroom, you cannot just do what you like. Make sure you discuss it with them first.
    How the desks are laid out depends upon several factors: class size, make-up of pupils, number of boys and girls, SEN requirements, classroom geography, desk style, carpet area etc.
    I have used different layouts for every class I've had because it's a case of finding what's right for each cohort and lesson.
  4. robmusicman

    robmusicman New commenter

    I have limited experience with this having only done my diagnostic placement, however, when I changed the layout of the tables it had a great effect. I was in a particularly rough school, and my yr 9's were horrible, and very difficult to control. (I'd spoken to other teachers in the school who had been reduced to tears by them). I changed the layout from rows to having two tables pushed together. The class were easier to control after I had done that, and worked better. Possibly, just because they saw that I had control of the room and was was able to do what I wanted to do with it, this contributed to my authority.
    If there is a particularly troublesome class I would definitely recommend changing the layout. If they prefer what you've changed it to, you can use that to your advantage too. I told my class I did it because it would make their work easier, but I also said I had no problems whatsover stopping, getting everyone to stand up and put the tables back how they were. This seemed to have a really positive affect on the class.
  5. What excellent response all round, thank you very much indeed!!
    I have of course already spoken to the teacher and he's really keen on the idea as its not something he's quite got round to doing himself.
    I also recognise the beauty of using different styles to good effect, as well as showing them that I have the power to not only change the room but also put it back again (I liked that one especially) and how different shapes work for different classes. The idea of potentially changing the room three times a day is something I would have thought might be too much so I'm glad to know its not ... and I honestly would not have thought of the horseshoe shape, let alone removing the desks entirely. A bit radical maybe, but like you say, now is the time to experiment while I can!
    Many thanks again everyone, really appreciated

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