Deskless does not mean no desks. It means no traditional, sitting in rows, facing forward, teacher talking at you, kind of classroom. Like this:
Just kidding, I wish.
As much as I love the idea of crazy classroom furniture I didn’t have the budget for it, so I had to get a little creative. Raising and lowering the legs on desks and tables is my go-to. I also have pillows, a couch, and rugs.
- I have three main purposes for my deskless classroomTeaching Kids to Make Good Choices- It is a big privilege to allow students to choose where they sit. They can choose to sit by their friends, or in their favorite spot, but after that we have to have a lot of conversations that sound like, “is that a good choice for you?” Some kids can handle sitting by their friends and still working, some kids can’t. Some kids can handle it only once in a while. I want my students to be self-aware. I want them to recognize when a choice becomes a bad choice. If I am constantly writing and rewriting seating charts to keep kids away from their friends (and then they end up sneaking around by each other anyways) they will never learn to choose well. This does not mean my classroom is a free for all. I have structures in place that allow my students to have choice within reason.
2. Helping kids figure out how they learn best– I want kids to feel at home in my classroom. Sitting in desks is less than homey. Personally, I like sitting criss cross on the floor. That’s how I learn best. Some kids like to lay down on the floor, some stand, some kneel. When I allow students to choose their sitting position, I find that they can listen and focus for longer than if they were in desks.
3. I want my classroom to be comfortable- I spend more time in my classroom than my kids do. I want it to be a cozy environment. I have a couch, rugs, and pillows. I never use my overhead lights. I have strings of lights on the ceiling and lamps throughout the room. Learning should be enjoyable and not feel like I am holding my students hostage in a prison of white walls and fluorescent lights.
Here are my top 5 most important things about having a deskless classroom.
- Choosing Spots- I make my students choose a new spot for every subject. This helps with fighting over spots becuase kids know if they don’t get their choice of spot (especially for fun spots like the couch) they will get it at some point in the near future.
- Name Tags- Students also have name tags to save their spots so they don’t get hijacked when they get up to get a pencil. These are just like name tags that would usually get taped to desks, but they are laminated and the kids hang onto them.
- Good Character- My students and I talk a ton about making good choices. That goes for both where they sit in the classroom and by whom they choose to sit. We also discuss self-awareness and I make sure kids think about how they are doing sitting in a particular spot and if they need to move themselves. This also goes with letting it go if they don’t get the spot they want.
- Supplies- The students keep their notebooks and folders in their cubbies above their backpack hooks, and all other supplies (markers, scissors, etc) are all shared and stored elsewhere in the room.
- Structure- Deskless classroom does not mean chaotic free-for-all. You must put structures into place so the kids understand the expectation of where to sit in a given situation. For example, there are spots in my classroom that would be good for working silently, but wouldn’t be appropriate for whole group instruction. Mine are astronomy themed since that is the biggest science unit I teach and my classroom is astronomy themed.
- Down to Earth (Where astronauts learn together)- This verbiage is for when I am teaching whole group. They have to be able to see me. Thankfully I have a microphone and sound system so they can hear me from wherever they are in the room.
- ISS (International Space Station) (Where astronauts learn in small groups)- This is for partner and small group work. They all must be on the same level, so it can’t be one kid in a chair and the rest on the floor, and facing each other.
- Black Hole (Where astronauts learn alone- this one is a bit of a stretch 😉 This is for independent silent work. Students can be anywhere in the room. They find all sorts of nooks and crannies to hide in. But they must be at least an armspan away from any other student. I also have offices (privacy boards) they can put up if they think that will help them focus.
- In Orbit- Our school does Positive Discipline and we have to sit in a circle on the floor to have class meetings. This won’t apply to a lot of other schools.
Here is my proposal from several years ago that I wrote and research I collected to convince my principal to let me get rid of my student desks.