Every teacher knows that the arrangement of the classroom contributes to the environment of the classroom. Different styles and arrangements serve different purposes. If you want things to be structured or you are testing, you pick rows. If you want to do projects and cooperative learning, grouping your seats or using tables is the way to go.
Lately there has been a lot of articles popping up about flexible seating in the classroom. The concept being that you have different types of seating arrangements in the room for students to choose from. You could have different types of chairs, tables, couches, bean bags, etc. The goal of this is to create different zones for students so they can find the most productive area for themselves. Edutopia has put out some great articles on the benefits of flexible seating and how it can be done. Check them out here:
Here is my classroom and I still consider it a work in progress.
You can see that I have a small section that are rows. I use this for testing and students that want to work individually on activities. Then I have partner desks in the center of the room and groups of 3 to 4 around the edge of the room.
Right now my students tend to sit in a section of the room based on progress. Students that are working on reading material and notes tend to sit in the rows. Students working on other parts of the content are grouped in the other sections of the room. This is not a perfect system and it is done partly as a classroom management tool. It breaks up certain groups of students that are having a hard time progressing through material because of the people around them. It also is nice for me when it comes to working with students because based on the zone they are sitting in, I already have an idea of what section of content they are working on. I also use the 4 person table at the back of the room as the place where I work with students on pull-out sessions.
When thinking about the self-paced classroom and room arrangement, it really comes down to giving students good work spaces that meet the needs of your content and allow for some freedom of movement based on student and teacher needs.
My classroom set up is very similar to Danielle’s room. The biggest difference between the coursework set up in our classrooms is that students have to constantly be quizzing in my class to demonstrate their knowledge. You can see I have two different sets of rows of individual desks. One of these is specifically designated as a testing area. When students move to this section of the room, it is a visible signal to me that they are attempting to progress through the content by testing and it also means I need to run over there and type in an access code for one of the quizzes.
I also have three pairs of desks and three tables that can seat up to six students. On some days I group them based on the lesson they are working on. For example, all of the students who are studying for a cumulative test would sit together and others who are on the first section of the next unit would sit together. This can be incredibly helpful for the students who can help each other out when they get stuck on a problem. It also provides a targeted small group I can work with for intervention or enrichment.
There are days where this just doesn’t work depending on the students and I need to rearrange them so they can stay focused. I just try to be as flexible as possible with moving students. That has been a big change this year I didn’t realize until writing this blog. While in past years moving a student during class may have seemed like a punishment, this year I hear myself saying, “Why don’t you sit here today?” and they just grab their stuff, move, and get back to work...at least 95% of the time that’s how it goes. I’m still teaching real live students just like everyone else so it’s not this easy ALL of the time but it has become part of classroom culture for the most part! :)
I think a large part of it is that I don’t typically have assigned seats, students have the option to work alone, in a pair, in a small group, or in a large group, and I brought in a couple of bean bags.
The key to arranging your room is to have options while keeping classroom management/behavior expectations very clear.
Still looking to improve...
Danielle: I am looking to create a ‘break zone’ in my room because I know if sometimes I need a brain break from my work, the students probably do too. I am looking to pick up some different types of chairs and tables so there can be even more flexibility in how it is set up. My struggle is class size and making sure that I have enough spaces in my room 26-34 students I have in my classes. This concept is leading me to think it is time to get rid of my teacher desk and find some new ways to store classroom materials. I am honestly not sure how things will change and evolve as I explore the self-paced environment. I am sure that my room next year will look different than it currently does. I promise to keep you posted on changes!
Becca: When Danielle told me about getting rid of her desk, the first thing I thought was that it would be the perfect way to add another flexible seating option to our classes. Something great about the desks we have is that the height can be changed. While I currently have a couple of bean bags for students to get comfortable closer to the ground, I have some student who like to stand. Some of them just use a clipboard and stand in the back of the classroom but it would be fantastic to move my desk to the standing height and place it either against a wall or in the back of the room for students who prefer to stand or use stools rather than the standard chair. I also love the brain break idea. While I expect my students to be working from bell to bell, I understand needing a break from a specific task. I am looking into setting up an area with some logic puzzles, geometric coloring pages, puzzles, legos, and maybe some play-doh. Obviously it would be expected that students don’t spend too much time at this station. It will require some self-regulation to know when they need the break. The expectation would be that students do not visit the brain break area more than once in a class period and that they spend no longer than 5 minutes at the station. There are so many fun hourglasses or timers out there now, I am sure I can find one or a couple to keep at the area for students to track their time!
To sum it up...
“Zones” are an easy way to get students up and moving throughout a class. Whether you have a 46 minute period, a 52 minute period, or a 96 minute period (we have a combination of the three!), students will need to get up and move in order to really stay engaged in any curriculum! When creating your zones, try to create as many options to fit your students’ needs as possible but you should anticipate needing to review class rules and expectations regularly.
We’ll keep you updated on what we are trying out! Let us know what works for you!