Friday, August 29th, 2014
It’s amazing what a difference just two days can make. My homeroom class is still doing well, but I can see that they are really starting to get comfortable and their real selves are coming out. Thursday morning was a bit talkative. I was starting to see distinguished cliques forming and often sitting in the same places, a group of boys at my low floor table and a group of girls at the regular table. They were even whispering during a test, so I pulled them all back down to Earth (to the carpet) and we had a chat. I began with telling them they were not in trouble. They are still doing a great job, but their behavior is taking a small dip and I don’t want that pattern to continue. I told them that I knew they could do better. They all needed to start making better choices. They also needed to be self aware to know if they could handle sitting next to a friend without being tempted to talk. We did some more practicing of acceptable spots and places to sit and during that activity was the quietist I had heard them. They knew they were in trouble and if something didn’t change the desks were coming back.
Friday morning I used my first refocus forms. I had intended them to be used for single students being disruptive, but I had been struggling with how to use them for talking groups. I couldn’t send a group of friends into the hall to refocus: they would just talk. So when my girl clique was whispering during a test after I had warned them to stop I just walked over and placed a refocus form in front of each of them. Because the rest of the class was working silently it worked great having them complete the form right in the classroom. For the rest of the day, the girls were making obvious effort to sit apart from one another. I’m not sure it will last, but we will see what happens.
Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
In general, my homeroom class is super respectful and quite well behaved. That being said, I am still shocked and amazed at how well my students have been handling my classroom without desks.
On the first day of school I very thoroughly went over my expectations, procedures, consequences, and positive behavior systems. I made sure that they understood that I was putting the accountability back on them and if they made a poor choice in their seat they would be assigned a desk. I expected chaos of kids running around and fighting over spots and pillows, but they haven’t been! They have been sharing and making good choices.
I was even more impressed by their attention span. I try to be very in tune to my kids’ engagement levels, and these kiddos were able to stay in one spot and listen to me teach for much longer than I have experienced with my previous classes sitting at desks.
In past years I have struggled with managing read aloud. I do several read alouds a day and I always want the kids sitting on the carpet. Then I have one or two ask to stand in the back, a good example of kids learning differently, but then five or six more kids want to stand too and they all end up messing around or wandering around. Now, the kids know they can sit on the carpet, or they can be around the room and I have much less fidgeting.
Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
I knew that I wouldn’t have any trouble winning over my students with my desk-less classroom. I was a little worried, however, about telling the parents my plans of a flexible learning environment. My mind went to the worst: peppering me with a million questions, complaining to administration, not taking me seriously as a teacher, and demanding their children be pulled out of my class. I emailed parents my research proposal in advance so they wouldn’t be blind sighted. And then I proceeded to panic for several days. My counter attack to the panicking was over preparing. I created a sparkling multimedia presentation that I knew would keep me on track and help me not to forget anything important. And then I continued to brace myself for the coming storm. As usual, my imagination ran away with me and back to school night was nothing like I imagined. The parents came in, they sat on the floor, they listened to me talk, they asked a few good questions that I had already thought about answers to, and then they left. They didn’t attack me with concerns, they didn’t question my credibility, and they didn’t wait in a long line to each tell me about their kids in turn. Now that the hard part is over, the school year can begin. 🙂
If you had walked into my classroom at any point in the last 4 years, the majority of the time you would have seen kids working all around the room and on the floor. Every time I rearrange the desks in my classroom, one of the thoughts at the forefront of my mind is how much floor space there is for students to work independently, in partners, and in small groups. So I thought why not do away with the desks all together? I wanted to create an open and flexible learning environment granting the students choices in how they learn and making them accountable for their own learning.
Getting rid of student desks does NOT mean I will have an empty classroom.
I chose to have many different kind of learning spaces in my classroom based on my observation of the students I’ve taught over the last five years. These spaces include standing tables, normal sitting desks, individual “island” desks, tables lowered to allow students to sit on the floor while working at the table, and clipboards to allow students to lay or sit on the floor while working. All of this is designed to facilitate better collaboration among students and better classroom flow. I want to give them choices in their learning and teach them to be self reflective, self aware, and more accountable for their own education.
If a student does not make a good choice about where they sit, or they fight with other students over a specific seat, they do not get a warning. They get assigned an individual desk to sit at. They will have the opportunity to earn their choice back when they feel they are ready and are able to explain why and how they will make better choices. This process will need to be modeled and practiced. It requires a lot of self-awareness and reflection that they will need to be taught.
My classroom is space themed since Astronomy is the biggest science unit I teach.
This whiteboard by my door has been amazing. The kids have to sign their name in the appropriate box when they leave the room: boys bathroom, girls bathroom, nurse, specialist, library.
I have my daily schedule printed, laminated, and on magnets so I can easily switch it around every day.
Here is my supply corner. I love having the kid desks to hold supplies because I can have things on top and inside.
Here are the students’ cubbies where they keep everything that would have gone in their desks.
This is my library. I was excited to get rid of the desks so I could have room to make the library a U shape. You can also see my math board. On it I have a clock that I printed from Super Teacher Worksheets. You have to subscribe to the website, but it is TOTALLY worth it.
This is my teacher corner. I tried to make it as minimally invasive as possible. There is no way I could get rid of my teacher desk 😉