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11 thoughts on “Desks”

  1. I’m going deskless this year, inspired by Alisa, Carla and Su’s iFLT presentation, and I’m really excited about it. Reflecting on last year, I think some of my classroom management problems were caused by the kids’ chairs just being too big for the little ones. And with 6 tables and 3-5 kids/table, there was just no way to have everyone face me without turning chairs around, which became a whole “thing.”
    I am looking for carpet solutions for the little ones, K-3rd grade (the bigger 4-8th graders will likely sit in chairs in rows behind the carpet). If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I’m thinking I’ll scope some carpet companies tomorrow and see what they have for leftovers, as my budget won’t allow for something more commercially produced.

    1. talk to flooring stores — they will give away their old remnant samples free of charge!! Go to Walmart or Target and see if you can get donations! They have a policy of donating “X” amount of money each month to the local community. Go ask soon to get your name on the list of donations!!

  2. I’m going deskless! I cannot wait. I spent 8 years in Elementary without desks, (I loved having kids in a circle. I was often a part of the circle.) and now, in my second year at HS, I’m going deskless. No desks, no phones, no crap, nothing in-between us. I cannot wait. I have butterflies, though. It feels like stepping off of some cliff…
    There is a facebook page for the TPRS Deskless classroom, by the way.

    1. Liz I talked to Linda today and she said that the only thing about couches is that the space between kids can get so ill-defined that you can’t tell where one kid ends and the next begins. Then they start squiggling and so last year she had to remove the couch. She’s gonna try it again this year. So really if we have problems with no desks, we will need to address it from a Classroom Rules standpoint. If they can’t honor the rules and collaborate with us to create an L2 learning space, then if it gets bad enough we might need the desks in place again. So as everything else it’s up to us to require that our rules be followed, and esp. so here at the beginning of the year.

  3. I switched from desks to chairs last year (September) and it was nearly seamless. I had a few complaints but nothing serious.
    For me it was revolutionary (or evolutionary in keeping with Growth mindset 🙂 and the benefits would be far too numerous to list. I would NEVER go back to desks.
    The only two situations that I forgot to consider:
    1. My room is now not able to be used for any type of standardized testing (that was a real annoyance for the Guidance folks)
    2. My room can not be used for study halls.
    Having no desks has completely changed the nature and feel of my classes.
    Good luck! I think you will love it too.

  4. Having been without desks for several years now, I can’t imagine going back to them. I don’t have couches or bean bag chairs, so the amorphous nature of no clearly defined “spaces” isn’t a problem – though I still have students who like to get close to one another.
    For example, my set-up is a U shape with three rows on each side and two rows at the bottom of the U. The easily movable nature of chairs means that sometimes students move a chair from one row to another (usually in a migration toward sitting against the wall). I usually don’t say anything if it doesn’t affect participation and the chairs are returned at the end of the period. If participation suffers or the chairs aren’t returned, then students don’t get to move them. I also have assigned seating that I enforce with varying degrees of “rigor” depending on student behavior.
    The way that my school does standardized testing, my arrangement hasn’t been an issue. Since we don’t have study hall, that hasn’t been an issue either.
    I agree that not having desks changes the nature and feel of the class. Some students don’t really like it because they feel more “vulnerable” and are less able to hide. (However, in a class of 45, individual students can hide to an extent anyway; that’s something I continue to work on.) Most students, though, like not being confined within the ill-fitting chair-desk combo that they have in most classrooms.
    As others have said, you will probably love it.

  5. I’m excited for you, jen! I’m sure you’ll find a way to keep the desks from being a barrier. I threw my desks to the wall for my Spanish classes and back to the middle of the room for my History classes last year. It was worth all the commotion, especially since I was in a block schedule. We’ll see about this year… I have to be careful about perceptions on how I teach.
    Anyways… I look forward to hearing about your teaching this year, jen.

  6. Thanks Sean!
    Just to clarify, one of the first things I did after securing the job was to ask to get the desks removed. I went deskless 4 years ago and would never consider going back. The building and grounds director is super nice and I’ve talked to hime twice already. We are collaborating on a chair scavenge!
    I’m trying to balance going into a totally new place and culture and feeling out how it all works with my own needs and practices–without being perceived as a bulldozer. Hee hee! But from what I can tell we are pretty free in our classrooms.
    Sean (and anyone else on a block schedule), I would love to hear how you divide the block. WE have 80 mins. Im not super worried and have some ideas, but I’d love to hear from experienced “blockers!”
    I did not ask about study hall / standardized testing. Oops. May not be an issue bc I will have some fold up plastic tables against the wall so these could be set up for things like that.

    1. how to divide the block? Good question. I found myself often doing something like:
      1) checking in with gets: activity report,
      2) CWC or Special Chair w/ quick quiz
      3) extended brain break,
      4) introduce new vocab structure and PQA or storyask,
      5) extended brain break,
      6) reading activity,
      7) a “plenary” activity (I had a coach last year from England who used this term “plenary” which basically means an exit slip that has students reflect on the learning done that day)… which I’d often rotate between quick quizzes, fill-in-the-blanks that I’d make up on the spot, a QuickWrite, or a translation exercise.
      My first period morning class could sustain attention to the aural CI much longer than my after lunch classes. I really needed to adjust instruction delivery better for those after-lunchers. I’d have to break down and throw a dictation at them to reestablish order.
      Thinking back, I could have made better gains if we read more after each 15 min aural CI session. For example, I could have used the Speech & Dictation feature on my Macbook much more. But, this is also a goal of mine this year: getting my students to read more using a variety of reading exercises that keep things novel for students.
      What Alisa, Carla, and Su have been doing in Winnetka with FVR is amazing. Last year they built FVR libraries for there kids from re-phrasing (with post its and what not) illustrated story-books (Alisa’s specialty) writing original stories and having kids illustrate them (Carla’s specialty), and creating e-books (Su’s specialty). I went to their presentation at iFLT … wow! I’m so grateful that I get to ride their wake, sort-a-speak, as they participate heavily in our Chicagoland TCI group (we meet again on Aug 22).
      I mention the FVR because I think you’ll get more gains from it in a block schedule, though I’ll see what I can do this year creating my own FVR library.
      My lasting impression from teaching the block was that I was pushing kids’ attention span limits during the aural CI sessions for too long too quickly. They needed more time to get used to exercising the right side of their brain. There’s that novelty thing with students in learning the CI way that threw me off. You know, there’s this stage students go through the first 1 to 2 weeks where the CI instruction is very novel for students. Then, if you’re not already a pro at this, the novelty fades and the real challenge of practicing discipline and rigor kick in. Yes, I think there is a large degree of discipline that a student has to practice… discipline from not reacting to distractions but to release internal stressors and surrender oneself to this alternative reality which is our classroom CI conversation. So this year, in the first couple of weeks, I’m thinking that I’ll deliberately cut off the aural CI after 10-15 min (in a block that could be 2 x 10-15 min sessions) so that students learn to exercise the right sides of their brains, along with some discipline, incrementally over the semester.
      Good to hear that you’ll have some freedom, jen.

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