An engaged student.
Learning Environment

Break the Mold of Traditional Desk Layout

Many teachers think you should stop putting your desks in rows. Here’s why.

Ditching the standard desks in rows model could be the easiest transformation a teacher can make when redoing the classroom space. More and more teachers believe that desks arranged in rows provide a prescription treatment for quantity output — not quality or collaborative work. Today, classrooms should help children construct learning and knowledge, not only receive it.

All teachers have a certain degree of control over course concentration. When they shape a space that invites dialogue, a child’s learning and social interaction go up. Middle school math teacher Alisha Sleeper of Southwest Licking School District in Ohio steers clear of “traditional rows” by setting up her classroom in pods of three or four. “The pods are arranged so that I can get around every group,” she says. “The closer they are to the front of the room near my desk, the better.

“In the back of my room I have a group table, often for working with me or for groups that have large projects and need more space,” she adds. Sleeper also keeps three computer desks in the back with the screens facing her to help manage productivity.

As long as trends continue to require showcasing interactive spaces that facilitate learner engagement, critical thinking, application and meaning, we must continue to focus on learning spaces that are personalized. In turn, how teachers structure their physical classroom demonstrates how they feel about students as partners in their own education.

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