Secondary teachers often ask, “I teach different subjects several periods a day and I’m not always in the same classroom. How do I arrange the desks for cooperative learning and then efficiently rearrange the classroom for the next period? I can’t keep rearranging the furniture because there just isn’t enough time! So, how do I get the room back in order?” While this is not usually an issue at elementary level because teachers tend to stay in the same room all day, the question still occasionally comes up from K-5 teachers, also.
The Solution for Arranging Seating in the Classroom
Here’s a strategy for rearranging the classroom for various groupings as well as an exercise for the students to expend energy and learn how to work quickly and quietly:
- Decide on three different desk layouts for your room.
- Draw out the three plans on 8 and a half by 11 paper. A table format in document or PowerPoint can work well for this purpose.
- Print the room arrangements on a different colored paper.
- Post them on the wall by the door.
- When the first student comes into the classroom for class, say, “We’re blue today, start rearranging the desks”.
- As students come in they join in the effort and arrange the desks according to the diagram.
Initially, you’ll have to train students how to arrange the desks quietly, neatly, and efficiently. Make it a game! Use a stopwatch and time them. Challenge students to beat their own record the next day. Possibly, use incentives such as awarding tickets or a gold star for rearranging the desks properly, quietly and in the time allotted. It’s amazing how excited even our secondary students will get for a ticket or a gold star!
Leave yourself two minutes at the end of the class for them to put the desks back into rows. It works beautifully.
For more information on differentiation strategies to reach ALL learners, see Susan Fitzell’s book, Special Needs in the General Classroom, Strategies That Make It Work. Available in both print and electronic versions!
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