Friday, 24 July 2015

Throwback Thursday - Tables vs desks

I am so loving all the great posts ideas that are being shared on Freebelicious' linky that I just had to jump in.  Here is the third blog post that I wrote.  It's on tables vs desks in the classroom.

                                             Go to the linky by clicking HERE.

The beauty of tables

#1  Neatness
The best thing I ever did in my classroom was switching from desks to tables. The Friday desk cleaning ritual was always my low point of the week, and there are always some kids who are natural hoarders and fill up the whole recycle bin all by themselves.  I would rather use the time for playing games, doing Science, Math, reading,...... Most of their supplies go into the blue Table Tote that each member of the group is responsible for keeping tidy.  Their notebooks and duo tangs are kept in bins near the tables.You can see these in the picture below.  They each also have a Book Box for Quiet Reading books, their Home Reading, and anything that needs to go home.  We check these during Home Time clean up each day to make sure they have all the papers they need to take with them.

#2 Efficiency
I have four tables that can seat six kids each.  I put a number sticker on the black part of the table in front of the chair (I'm wondering why you can't see one in the picture.  It should be in front of that empty chair.??).  I just have to say, "Number 3 get the Math duo tangs for your table (or hand out papers, or put the duo tangs away, etc.)".
Their duo tangs are colour (Canadian spelling not an error....) coded according to subject and I always ask them to "stack your duo tangs on your tables in a nice neat pile beside the tote tray, all facing the same way when you're done."  I'm sure they must get sick tired of hearing this, but by the end of the first couple of weeks most kids do it automatically.  No more shuffling around through desks to try to find the right notebook or duo tang. 
Also on the efficiency theme, students can be dismissed from whole class meetings, go to their book boxes, centers, or line up by table numbers which reduces confusion during transition times.

#3. Changing the seating plan
A third big benefit is that it is really easy to change the seating arrangement. The kids just pick up their chairs and take them to their new locations.  I label their chair backs with their names at the beginning of the year for easy identification by on-call teachers, other adults who work in the room, and me for the first few weeks when I'm still getting to know them.  It also helps me see very quickly in the morning who is late or away since the kids do an "at their desk" activity until morning announcements are over.
4.  Conservation
Kids use WAY less supplies since they are shared amongst a group.  I used to be passing out pencils and erasers constantly.  I even had a monthly program with a bunch of draws that kids earned entry slips for.  It was a tedious and costly endeavour.  And the careless kids didn't seem to improve much and got upset because they didn't earn many draw slips so had slim chances of winning.  It was  lose-lose situation.   Now they are much more mindful that the supplies belong to everyone - and if they forget they are quickly reminded.
 On the shelf behind you can see thelittle blue basket that the table's felts are kept in.  This is a big SCORE for me because since they share I only have to put out 4 boxes of felts for every 6 kids.  That's 8 boxes of felts that I don't have to purchase out of my limited classroom supply funds. If occasionally the colour they need isn't available there's another bin with felts left over from previous years that they can help themselves to. (this actually doesn't happen very often, and I can pretty much bet that they'll need either red of black).
Their notebooks and duo tangs also benefit from being put into bins in a "nice, neat pile" instead of being stuffed into desks where they often get crumpled and ripped.
There will always be kids who are naturally organized and others who are "gifted in different areas", and I'm not saying that the latter group become Tina Tidy and Norman Neat by sharing supplies, but it sure helps.

#5 If you don't have tables....
 A couple of years ago I switched up from grade one to grade two.  Alas! My tables were too small for the grade two's as the year progressed and I had to go back to using desks (at least they are the kind with removable trays).  I group the desks together and still treat them just as if they were tables.  The trays have a few things very few things in them because there is a place for them to put all their supplies and papers.
One of the disadvantages to having desk groupings instead of tables was that the desks would move apart and sometimes the tote trays would fall between them making a huge mess to clean up causing chaos and disruption.  Last year I took a sharpie and made circles where the four corner legs of each group should stay.  That helped some, but there was still considerable "drift" which had to be corrected at the end of each day.  Then I saw an excellent suggestion in Mrs. Terhune's blog for keeping the desks together as a unit.  She used zip ties around the legs of adjacent desks to hold them together!   Brilliant!  Here is a link to her awesome classroom organization post.

zip ties holding desks together


  1. Some great ideas, Debbie. I like the zip lock ties for desks and your buddy rotating system!

    Grade ONEderful
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  2. I much prefer tables over desks any day.

    Lovely Literacy and More