I spent a few minutes drawing out new table groups yesterday. For those of you who have never dealt with a classroom full of 8 year old personalities, this is not an easy job. This one can focus longer if he is not near that one. This one can’t go a day without fighting with that one. This one will copy off that one if they are together, but diligently work out a problem if there is some distance. This one needs language support, this one needs a confidence boost, this one needs help making friends. So, making groups of 5 just isn’t easy. And clearly, not everyone can get what they need.
I’ve changed the arrangement in my room several times this year. I started out with groups of 4, randomly assigned since I didn’t know the students yet. The only information on seating I had was those few students with preferential seating in their educational plans. But it quickly becomes apparent who needs what sort of seating. So, about two or three weeks into the school year, we worked together on a rearrangement. This worked until about Thanksgiving when students were beginning to grow in different ways, and to grow apart from old first grade friends. We rearranged before Christmas break, but still in groups.
In fact, I never thought I would put desks in rows. I don’t like walking into a classroom to see rows of desks. It feels industrial, old-fashioned. But, when I had the opportunity to try out a document projector in my room, I quickly adjusted the desks so that everyone would have a view of the screen during Math lessons. I still had desks touching each other side by side and everyone had at least one conversation partner within easy reach, but I didn’t love it. There was nowhere to send a small strategy group to work on a project except the one rectangle table I have. I cleared off the little round table that served as our Listening Center and put the CD player on the floor with some cushions to free up another table for group work. That was better, but not great. I was thinking through how to satisfy both the need to see the screen and the need to get kids working together when I got my evaluation. While my principal said many nice things about the work in my classroom, I couldn’t get past her comment about the desks being in rows that did not foster discussion. UG! I really wish she had asked me about that before putting it in my official evaluation. Still, the comment stung so much because I was struggling with the arrangement.
So, back to the drawing board.
What is the perfect classroom arrangement? Is it possible to satisfy the needs of 21 second graders and 1 principal?
Next year, I might try this one: