computers, classroom, climbing, etc.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The significance of furniture

I'm beginning to think that furniture is key, especially in a 1:1 classroom. The layout of my classroom is beginning to irritate me.

So, recently, I've moved from this:

To this:

This is perhaps the biggest eureka-moment of my teaching career (or is that "halleluya-moment"?).

First off, just look at how crowded the first classroom looks, and how much space there is in the second one. I get thirty desks in the classroom with enough space to dance in the middle. Most important is how easy it is to get to the pupils. Look at the first picture and imagine helping a pupil with her work. How do you get to the one in the middle? Or the ones sitting by the window? In the second classroom, the teacher can easily get to every pupil, stand beside them, see their work and help. The second classroom also makes a clear division between activities. When the pupils are working alone, they face away from each other. When the teacher wants their attention, they must turn away from their work. In the first classroom, a teacher standing at the front of the classroom has to compete with what the students have in front of them for attention. This typically requires closing computers every time the teacher wants to say something. In a class discussion, the pupils cannot see each other well, while in the second classroom, the pupils can easily see each other when they turn to the center of the room.
There are other advantages, as well. In the first classroom, the pupils at the back of the room often end up staring at 30 computer screens, and get frequently distracted. The second classroom makes it easy to arrange spontaneous group work by getting the outer circle to swivel. And so on. I'm just starting this, but it seems to work.
A couple of points.
1. You need to have swivel chairs.
Swivel chairs are probably a necessity in a 1:1 classroom, anyway, and a great thing in any classroom.

2. The pupils find this weird. They are used to a passive role, and this classroom expects them to be doing something school-related during all class time. Many of them have become comfortable
with their computers as an alternative to school and this set-up makes this more difficult. In one class this week when I did not have time to remodel the classroom, a pupil asked why, saying she liked my new lay-out. Variations are probably due to differences in motivation and to level of distraction, since the new lay-out provides for fewer distractions.
3. This is not a good lay-out for long talks from the teacher, particularly if they have to take notes from the board. On second thought, I'm not sure if this is a weakness, or a strength...


  1. Awesome. I want to try this, too!

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  3. I have been thinking about this things for a while, thanks for sharing!

  4. Really interesting! But, your last point is important, what if the pupils are to take notes? What do you do when the furniture is placed like this?

  5. The most important point is probably flexibility - having furniture that is easy to move around and bothering to do it.

    There is something more behind this, of course. Is sitting in rows listening to someone speak and taking notes an effective use of class time?

  6. You've done really great work here!
    I'm a norwegian student, and the teachers I have frequently end up fighting for everyones attention, or they'll get absorbed into what's on their computer screen. I to generate such a problem of course, as I oftenly end up doing something else during class. For example, for two of my class hours today, I ignored everyone in class (including the teacher) and spent the time doing something else. Of course, although the principal isn't too diffrent, what I was doing was reading The DaVincie-Code, not kid around on the internett. Unfortunaly, there are plenty of people who do kid around on the internett (or on games!) during class.
    There are a lot of things that are missed because of this.

  7. The Da Vinci Code? Hasn't everyone read that already?

    @Eva - what about stopping after speaking for two minutes or so and letting the pupils take notes then?

  8. @Eva - That's a good point, but I also agree with simon. There are several ways of doing this.

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