Sunday, August 7, 2011

Desks or Tables?

Many of the primary level teachers prefer tables to desks.  When I taught Kindergarten, I used tables, but in all the other grades I've taught, (which is most of them) I've used desks. 

I find the desks to be far more flexible.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Desks in a circle  If your class focus is group discussion, this is the way to go.  I remember classes in high school and college where there was a lot of group sharing, and the desks often stayed this way.  At my present level, it's not something I would keep.  I use my laptop/ projector frequently, and most students need to be facing the board.  If we are doing group sharing, I'll have the children bring their sharing items to the mat and have them sit in a circle.
  2. U shaped  I find this works great with the little ones with one exception:  it's hard to fit!  I've been known to make a U shape, with a line or two of desks inside the U.  This way, almost all of the students are facing the board for whole group discussion.  I've had to be creative when it came to small group work, joining 3 or 4 kids near each other to work together.  This setting also calls for plugging anything in (like an over head or the projector cart) in a different way.
  3. Classic rows   This reminds me of my "Catholic School Days" growing up, but there are advantages to rows.  It is ideal for independent work time or testing.  It is also ideal for whole group work, as all the children are facing the board and the teacher.  There are variations of the rows.  The desks could be in horizontal rows... touching.  They could be in groupings of two or three, in various spots around the room. 
  4. Small groupings  This would be groups of 4 or 5 student desks facing each other.  This is ideal for working in small groups and cooperative learning communities.  It's not quite as ideal for whole group lessons, since the students are facing lots of different directions.  Nor are the small groupings ideal for individual work, since the students are facing each other.
Whichever way the desks are arranged, teachers are, of course flexible enough to make it work.  A few things to keep in mind about desk arrangements:
  • Keep in mind those students who have trouble attending and following directions.  They should be placed close to role models, and in a spot the teacher can keep a close watch over.  (Although we do tend to keep a close watch on all of them!)
  • Allow room behind desks for the children to get in and out.  (I often forget this one!)
  • Allow spaces for traffic flow.  This one is especially true for the U formation or the whole circle.  They'll need room to get in and out, and from one place to another. 
  • Kids tend to lean on their desks, so by the end of the day, the desks are not where they started the day!  Try this idea from Charity at   The Organized Classroom Blog:


How do you plan to arrange your desks?  Do you prefer desks or tables?

1 comment:

  1. Having used both desks and tables I think I'd prefer desks because of the flexibility. Individual desks are also particularly helpful during "testing". That said, I have four round tables in my current classroom, and it works fairly well. I have folders that I set up to create individual spaces for testing and it certainly seems to work. Even though I teach Grade 4, I wouldn't be without my floor space. I purchased some large foam mats which make our very hard tiled floors more comfortable, and also clearly designate the seating space. When I need everyone watching the board/wall, unless they also need to use a book at the same time, I use the mats on the floor and that works well. For language arts we still use the mats, but with only half the class at a time, we easily sit in a circle on the mats.

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