Open Thinkering


Classroom organization and its relation to pedagogy

I reorganized my classroom today. It went from this:

gliffy_did = “1377788”; embedGliffy();

to this:

gliffy_did = “1377745”; embedGliffy();

The reason? It’s temporary as I needed a cinema-like arrangement of chairs and tables for two lessons; my Year 11s are making copious notes on a rather important video on Vietnam for their coursework. The reaction of the students and, more tellingly, colleagues, said it all.

They were flabbergasted that I would countenance such an arrangement. And I suppose I can see why. Although I’m not a fan of the phrases ‘sage on stage’ as opposed to being the ‘guide on the side’ it does capture an important aspect of my pedagogical style and approach.

I think that one’s classroom organization both reflects and dictates the interactions we have with students. I felt somehow today that the students looked younger and behaved more immaturely when in rows as opposed to ‘islands’ or groups. Perhaps that was just because I allowed them to sit next to who they liked for just these lessons. I don’t know. I can’t help but feel, however, that I was more of a ‘control-freak’ and the dynamics of the classroom were fundamentally different because of the change in layout.

Perhaps changing your classroom round and mixing things up a bit is worth a try? I know I’m definitely going back to ‘islands’ ASAP! 😀

5 thoughts on “Classroom organization and its relation to pedagogy

  1. Different styles and purposes respond to different set ups. I prefer to make use of multiple set ups. I try to arrange the rows in blocks that can become groups and the groups in blocks that can become rows. I don’t let kids sit where ever they want though, because for me that has never worked out well. This way, my students can move in and out of the different set ups easily, and I try to move them in and out of frequently enough that they are comfortable with the couple of different scenarios I like to use. The key is to make the shift from one to the other a predictable and well used system that they can buy into. I don’t have the system exactly the way I want it because… well… it’s always a work in progress, isn’t it?

    Right now my students are doing debates and they are up there being the little sages this whole week. Next week they’ll probably be in literature circle groups. Both work for me.

  2. Sage on the stage? Looks to me like you’re at the furthest possible point from the stage! You’re in the back row of the movie theatre. We’ll have to come up with a new cliche for you. Hack at the back? Jack at the back?

  3. Y’know, every time I try to arrange my room in islands, all I get are complaints about how hard it is to get into the middle desk because of the desks we have. (Chairs attached to desk w/a big bar across one side.) So rows it is.

  4. As an mfl teacher, I wrote a paper years ago on the links between MFL methodology and desk arrangements (sad, I know).
    My favourite has always been and will continue to be the horseshoe – infinitely adaptable!
    You can even train the students to swing desks around to join with others and create instant groups.
    With an island in the middle mixed pairs are a lot easier and don’t involve moving around.
    Having said that, overall size of classroom is an issue and BSF seems to be driving us into smaller and smaller spaces…

  5. Thanks for all the comments! 😀

    @audrey: I suppose it depends how long you have each class for each week and whether there’s a gap inbetween lessons. Most of my classes I have but once per week for 50 minutes. There’s no gap inbetween lessons so realistically this is only ever 40-45 minutes. 🙁

    @Karyn: Hack at the back indeed… 😉

    @Penelope: I get the ‘rows work best’ argument from lots of teachers at the schools I’ve taught in. I think it’s probably best from a behaviour management point of view – I certainly had them arranged that way at my previous school! – but not from a collaborative learning point of view. Perhaps you could ask for new desks?!

    @SF: Not sad at all – in fact I’d quite like to read that paper! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *