Thursday, December 6, 2012

Table Groups!

While seating students in table groups is far from a new idea, it's new in my classroom.  I have been struggling with the best way to seat students given that my classroom furniture consists of only right-handed desk/chair combos.  It's not practical to seat students side-by-side with these desks.  Putting them in groups of 3 is possible in a T shape but this set up ends up taking up more floor space than I am willing to give, even in my large classroom because I need 9 groups to accommodate all of my kids.  
Virco 9000 Series Student Desk w/ Bookrack (set of 2)
Unfortunately, this style of desk isn't as flexible as single desks with separate chairs and doesn't lend itself to seating students in groups. 

I'm taking a graduate class on Kagan's Cooperative Learning Strategies.  I was already very familiar with the structures but some of the rationale on team building is new to me.  I've been enjoying the class and I came home from it last weekend inspired to change my classroom set up.  I ran through a mental inventory of what is in my classroom and I realized that I had 5 trapezoid tables that could each seat two students.  I decided to use one trapezoid table plus two of the old desks per group.  I managed to get one more table from a coworker who had extras so I had enough to make 6 groups.  Students can get in and out easily and can work together.  The best part is that my classroom now feels huge!  There is a lot of space to move around. 
Here's a table group in my redesigned classroom!

Changing my classroom set-up felt like an impossible dream until I got creative and decided to let go of some things I thought I needed (separate tables for pull out groups).  The first day of the new set up (Tuesday) was rough as my students are just not used to sitting around a table and not talking constantly.  We're working on understanding when we talk to each other and when we work alone.  Wednesday and today were nearly perfect with my lower group of students.  My advanced groups are having a harder time containing themselves but I have confidence we'll model correct behavior and have everyone in line before Christmas break.  A few students have surprised me already at how well they're working together; I listened to some awesome coaching by a few pairs when we worked on volume problems using Rally Coach.  For those of you familiar with structures, we've done Rally Coach, Showdown, Quiz Quiz Trade, Takeoff/Touchdown, Timed Pair Share, Rally Table, and more just this week. 

Have you come up with a creative solution to a near-impossible problem?  Let me know about it.  I'd love to be inspired by your great idea!

Mathematically yours,
Miss B