For this coffee break I wanted to talk about a topic I saw online which I found very interesting: Desks.
I know what you’re thinking. Desks? How can desks be interesting. Well, it’s all a matter of perspective. And, interestingly, it’s the apparent change of perspective which I find...interesting.
In the new “socially distanced” world, we must consider the space between us more often than ever. This was always going to be problematic in a school. Tight corridors, shared bathrooms, limited classroom space. And that’s before considering children’s innate penchant for closeness.
However, this situation has seen a very “old school” trend re-emerge (and I use that saying very literally).
‘Victorian Style’ classrooms. Otherwise known as positioning your desks in rows facing the front. Before continuing, I would like to make it clear I’m not advocating the use of this style for younger children. I think we are all agreed on the benefits of a more loose and movable desk arrangement for children in Reception and Key Stage 1.
However, as an ex Key Stage 2 teacher, I can personally attest to this old school style. As with every classroom configuration, it won’t be for everyone, but it’s been really fascinating to hear some Key Stage 2 teachers who are trying out this set up for the first time and really singing its praises.
I can remember the first time I did this in my Year 6 class. It took a little while for the children to get used to it but, as with all things, we adapted. Having two to a desk and all facing the same way, I began to notice a huge uptick in focus.
The problem I had with group tables is it that you often end up with some children facing out the window or at the back wall. This is not conducive for concentrating. Also, it wasn’t that comfortable for the children who had to keep turning round to see me. Having them all face me meant gaining and maintaining eye-contact was much easier – a really important factor when communicating effectively with other people. And they didn’t have to shift about all the time.
If you do want to switch up your classroom a bit for the new year, here are my top tips for 'Going Victorian’.
1) Keep 1 group table for yourself. You can use this for your focus group that lesson, or as an intervention space.
2) Allow the children to switch desks at regular intervals. Some children may not want to sit next to the same person all year. And nor should they. Mix it up every few weeks and allow them to work with others.
3) Get into the habit of asking the children to put the tables back at the end of the day. The one problem with Victorian style is “desk creep”. Those desks are going to move. You won’t notice it throughout the day, but they will slowly creep towards the front and before you know it you are sandwiched between 15 desks and your interactive whiteboard. Build it into the end-of-the-day routine. Each pair of children are responsible for their own desk. I put little bits of tape under where the table legs should sit so the children knew where they needed to be, and how far they had moved!
By Jack Dabell
Edited by Jules