Setting up a classroom. That may seem a strange topic with the year 3/4 finished, but Saturday I spent 3 hours cleaning double stick tape off of the students’ desks. Last year we started Daily 5 and CAFE. I had attended a workshop by the Two Sisters and was excited. The K, 1 and 2 teachers were all onboard. I decided to set up our room with common work areas. We had three groups of desks around the front of the room and a few desks that I had taken the legs off so it was more of a table that the students could sit on the floor and use.
The desks were turned so the students couldn’t open them. Their books, journals, etc were kept in baskets. Pencils, markers, crayons, etc were in baskets on the tables for everyone to share. The students were not assigned seats, but always found a place where they could work and it worked well. We did eventually get rid of the desktop computers and had 6-8 netbooks in the classroom.
This year I planned on doing the same set up except moving the meeting area to the front of the room because we had a projector installed above the whiteboard. We started off with students allowed to choose their own seats on the carpet and at the desk groupings. Unfortunately it did not work as smoothly with this year’s class as with last year group. There were frequent arguments over whose seat it was because a water bottle had been placed on the desk. On the carpet there was general chaos. Frequently my teaching partner and I were asking students to leave the group and sit at a table. After 6 weeks or so, I gave in, put the legs back all the desks, divided them into groups of 4 or 5 and gave each student their own seat. I still had the desks turned so they could not be opened.
After Christmas I turned the desks around and the students were allowed to keep their things inside the desk rather than in their book box and other baskets. I also made name tags with a place for the students to write 2 goals. These were laminated and then taped on the desks with double stick tape. This is NOT a good idea. When the name tags came off to be replaced with the names in cursive and 2 new goals, that I didn’t laminate, sticky residue was left on the desks. Every paper it came in contact with left a bit of its self. The non-laminated name tags were looking horrible so I made new cursive name tags with no goals attached, but laminated. Before attaching them to the desk I decided it was time to clean off all the goo. I needed “goo gone” but didn’t have any so with elbow grease, “magic” eraser and some other toxic smelling cleaning agents the desks look fabulous! I almost don’t want to attach the new name tags.
I have tried various groups and most recently put them in three rows with seven in a row. Two groups of two on the ends and three in the middle. I usually don’t like rows because every time a student opens and closes their desk it moves forward a few inches. By the end of the day we have to move all the desks back 4 – 6 inches. One of the main reasons I’ve gone with rows is in April the students will be doing Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. Needless to say, our meeting area in the front of the room is gone, but we still have a meeting area in our library. The really nice thing about meeting in the library is the students get to look out the window at the double cherry blossom tree which should be in bloom in April.
Will this new arrangement work? I don’t know. I know this present group of students like to talk. I would like to let them choose where they sit to work and not have name tags on the desks, but for the rest of this year, I know that won’t work. Will I try that again next year? Probably.
It was interesting when the present third graders walked by and saw the second graders had assigned seats this year, several seemed envious. K and 1 both have tables, although 1 does assign seats at the tables.
What have I learned from all of this?
- Ever group of students is different.
- What works for one group may or may not work for the next group.
- Be flexible.
- NEVER use double stick tape on desks!