I talked with the students about the change, idea behind it, and their thoughts. It was shocking to hear so many that were unsure or not willing to give it a go. (I assured them that we could bring the desks back if they hated it and we were ready to begin.) We started with desk clean-outs--a MAJOR undertaking. If your students are anything like mine, they LOVE origami and have all kinds of paper, creatures, figures, etc. along with snacks, wrappers, pencil sharpeners, etc. It was quickly decided that THIS was the reason that they didn't want to give up their desks and cubby space.
I collected student textbooks since we rarely use them anyway and kept the one subject that we do use easily accessible on a roll-away cart. (A book shelf is a great option if you don't have a cart.) Students have one bin each in my storage cabinet, so we reassessed what was being kept there and added to it as needed. Each person also has their own magazine bin at their desk. We placed reader's notebooks, math journals, writer's notebooks, sticky notes, headphones, and IDR books in these and set them aside. Desks were moved out of the room and tables were moved in.
Next came the set up. I really loved the idea of a large gathering area in the center of the room from the Edutopia article. I placed the tables around the room so that I could achieve this space. For several years, my team has been using these stools from IKEA at our small group table and students LOVE them. I had more than needed at that table, so it was an easy decision to use them at one of the student tables.
|Four stools fit at this table--|
just the perfect height!
Students have more than enough space to gather
together for a whole group mini-lesson now.
My kiddos like to work on the floor, so having a hard surface on the ground was important to me. After assessing the tables that we had, it looked like maybe a low-to-the-ground table would be good rather than all the way on the ground. I found cheap body pillows at Target to place on either side and then used two outdoor patio cushions for the end. (This ended up being the students' favorite option.)
Rectangular table lowered as low as it can creates just the right height for students.
Another important seating option for my students was something with movement. Some of the KORE stools that swivel would be ideal; however, they're way out of budget for now, so some stability balls were the next best thing. I found these at Dicks on a BOGO deal, so I made out pretty well for eight of them. We definitely needed to set up some ground rules (keep reading) for these before students used them, but I was very impressed with the self-control shown.
Stability balls (one of two places I have them in the room) with room for a library/reading area.
I do have a few students that like to stand. No matter where they're working, they stand. You know what I mean. I created a little standing work space for those friends on the counter. This way, they're not blocking the view for others if I am teaching while they're at seats.
The Standing Workspace--our counter
So how does this work on a daily basis?
We first set up some ground rules and expectations together. I used an anchor chart found by a colleague on Pinterest and made it "fit" our classroom needs. As with anything new, procedures are key and MUST be practiced & encouraged often initially. Here's what we ended up with:
We recently added "DO keep feet on the floor" and "DON'T POKE THE BALLS".
Students keep their magazine bins at the front of the room (in alphabetical order) overnight. When they arrive in the morning, they choose their desired learning spot and move their bin to that spot. This helps me better see who has arrived and who hasn't. Students can stay at this spot all day or choose to switch with someone else if needed/desired. At the end of the day, tables are cleaned and bins are placed back at the front of the room. Each day is a new day and a fresh start in a very neat & tidy room.*I have to add in here that I encourage lots of movement throughout the day. Students never had to stay at their desks to work prior to this desk change. This just gave them a better option when they are at their seats. Students move from their chosen seat to other places in the room throughout the day.* The little bit of whole group instruction that I do have now happens in the large center space of the room. We also have our morning meetings here and now have more than enough room to "circle up". The center space is used as a "sprawl out" place when we are working in groups, doing IDR, or completing workstations.
Bins get lined up at the end of each day along the chalkboard. Students pick them up and place them wherever they're going to start working...bins are easily moved throughout the day as needs change.
When we started this change, I did as the article suggested and had students choose a new type of seat each day and encouraged them to spend the whole day there so they could get a feel for it during all subjects. At the end of the week, we talked about where everyone felt they were most productive (not what was the most fun) and charted the results. Students were encouraged to choose the seating option that they felt best helped them throughout the day, so everyone kind of has an idea of where they're going each day. It was brought up that students felt they needed something different during one subject over another--YES!--so we talked about how great and easy it is to move and switch as the day progresses.
What do you do that helps meet the different learning styles? Curious about other pieces of this process that I didn't talk about or want more explanation about? Comment below.