Classroom Furniture: Does it impede or improve learning?

My first year teaching I remember spending the week before school setting up my new classroom. I hung pictures, organized my desk, and set up all of the desks and chairs into neat rows. I believed that putting students in rows facing the front of the room would make them easier to manage. I also believed that an effective classroom was a quiet classroom. Everyone was supposed to be quiet except for me.

Oh, how things have changed! As I prepare for next year and the launch of N.E.W. (Next Evolution in Work-based Learning) at my school, I’ve been preoccupied with concerns about the way traditional classroom furniture impedes learning. Most classrooms are not set up to encourage movement, collaboration, personalization, or creation. By stark contrast, classroom furniture is usually uniform following a one-size-fits-all mentality. Instead of selecting furniture suited to a particular subject area and/or learning objectives, it is ordered in mass for every classroom to save money.

However, furniture and the way it is arranged in a classroom sends a very clear message to students on the first day of school. If uniform desks are set up in rows facing a whiteboard (interactive or not), students know they can expect to listen to a teacher talk. If desks are set up in groups, then students know they will be working together, at least part of the time. But what if the furniture itself was wildly different from what students expect? What impact would that have on their perception of learning and their role as learners?

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When students walk into my classroom next year, I want them to stop and stare. I want the furniture to immediately send the message that our classroom space is inviting, flexible, student-centered, and unconventional. All of these are at the heart of N.E.W., the program I am piloting next year. The furniture that greets students on the first day of school can either reinforce these ideals or make them more challenging to achieve.

As my teaching partner in crime, Marika Neto, so eloquently put it, “Creating your own space for learning is the first step in creating.” I absolutely agree! So, we set out on a mission to check out different types of furniture and classroom designs. We visited local schools with flexible, moveable furniture. To our dismay, many of the rooms we visited with unconventional furniture were still set up in rows facing the front of the room. Instead of using the furniture to shift the focus from teacher to student, the furniture reinforced the traditional paradigm.

In an effort to see alternative furniture set up in strategic learning designs, we went to One Workplace in Oakland to check out their showroom. Each room was laid out with different types of furnitures produced by a variety of companies. As I walked through One Workplace, I felt myself getting excited the way I used to feel when I bought new school supplies as a student. I could imagine a totally different approach to furnishing a learning space to make it more comfortable and student-centered.
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Now that we have a vision of what is possible in terms of classroom design, Marika and I will take our proposal to the school board. Ultimately, I’d like our classrooms to become a “learning lab,” where other teachers on our campus, and in our district, can come and check out how alternative furniture can be used to improve learning, instead of impeding it. Then if our district decides to invest in flexible furniture to replace our aging desks and chairs, teachers will have a better sense of what they like and how they would use it in their classrooms to support and improve learning objectives.

I invite any educator, administrator, and/or district leader with experience refurnishing traditional classrooms with flexible furniture to share their experiences, tips and advice! I’d love to learn from others who have already taken these steps to change the layout of traditional classrooms. If you can link us to a picture of your classroom, I’d love to see it! If you have furniture you love (or don’t love), please post recommendations! Thank you in advance for sharing your experiences!

***Donate to my Donor’s Choose Project for Alternative Furniture***

 

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90 Responses to Classroom Furniture: Does it impede or improve learning?

  1. Janine Smtih says:

    I Love this article and completely agree with your philosophy. This year I have implemented this idea into my classroom and have found success with it and have noticed increased student engagement. I’ve had limitations with funding but have managed to transform as much as possible. I’ve incorporated a foot fidget at each desk using a bungee cord or Therabands, I have also implemented a desk bicycle and standing counters for kids who chose to stand. I turned my reading desk into a standing counter using bed risers and it has worked out tremendously. A co-worker has trimmed legs of tables to use as lower tables for those who want to sit on the floor. We’ve used bean bags and any other chairs from our local Goodwill that we could use as alternative seating. I really love the products from Steelcase but our county does not have the funding to give us to transform our classroom. Thanks for your awareness on this topic; our classrooms really need to be reflective of the students we teach!
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/101CG5aaghuJItUEncr94uy1wtEBa3Qjj4qAOFNeNgIo/edit?usp=sharing

    • Thank you for sharing your photos, Janine! I’m so impressed with your ingenuity, especially given your limited funds. It’s inspiring to see educators take on this transformation without much financial support.

      I agree with your comment about Steelcase! They have some extremely innovative products. As a company, I appreciate that Steelcase is so focused on research. They are designing furniture to solve very specific problems.

      I’m not sure how much funding the board will be willing to commit to piloting a flex furniture space, but I am hopeful!

      Thank you again for your kind words and awesome photos! If I end up having to get creative due to lack of funding, they will be a great motivator!

      Take care.
      Catlin

    • Christine says:

      Thank you for the photos! What ate the black “coasters” used to make tables counter height? Thanks!

    • Amie Hannon says:

      I love the idea of raising the table to provide for the many kids who prefer to stand! I’ve never heard of bed risers…where do you get them & about how much do they cost?

      • Pam says:

        bed risers can be purchased at almost any Walmart store – depending on where you live they cost between $10-$20, but I don’t remember if they come in packs of 2 or 4.

        • Alissa Oginsky says:

          I loved the bed risers under the table when I saw them. Great idea! Not to mention, I could use it for my desk, too! 🙂

  2. Merry says:

    Thank you for inspiring me with this new ideas about classroom arrangement. It’s a pity that with55 students in each class we only provide fixed tables, five rows.

  3. Nicole Beardsley says:

    Catlin,

    This is a very timely article! I am part of a newly-formed district committee on classroom redesign, and our first meeting is next week. I’m really interested in creating more flexible learning spaces in my classroom. (have you heard of/read “From the Campfire to the Holodeck” by David Thornburg?). I polled my 6th grade students to gauge interest, and the response was overwhelming in favor of something drastically different. They are interested in choice and options more than anything.

    So far I wrote a Donors Choose for a class set of yoga balls. We put sand in them to help eliminate rolling (and the temptation to throw/bounce them). I’d really love a few stand-up desk options in the room, as well as more of a comfortable Starbucks-y type area. More than anything I want to ditch the individual desks and opt for more of a collaborative table set up, sort of like what you’ve shown here.

    Our district business office is super finicky about furniture; a couple of years ago, their emphasis was on uniform classrooms in order to make furniture swaps more easy from site to site. I already had to submit four pages of research to support my yoga ball initiative. Did you encounter any pushback in your redesign idea? Any tips on how to approach/persevere through it?

    Thanks for posting this. Keep the updates coming!

    • Hi Nicole,

      So far my district seems cautiously interested 😉 I think there is an appetite to experiment here and be progressive, which should help my case. I also think it’s important to open our classrooms up to visitors and document the impact that these changes have on student engagement and learning, so we can make a larger case for these types of furniture re-designs. It sounds like you already poll your students, which is a great way to see how they are responding to the change in furniture and classroom design.

      I’ll definitely blog about the outcome of the board meeting! I’ll either need to go back to the drawing table and get creative or I’ll get to move forward with the furniture redesign.

      Catlin

  4. Natalia says:

    Thank you bringing up this “elephant of the classroom arrangement” status quo that lives in most of the classrooms that I’ve been to. I strongly believe that the space that we create communicates a lot about us as teachers and as individuals as well as what we expect from our students. It should vary by subject as we have vastly different goals, practices, and tasks that are carried out inside that room.

    I teach foreign language and the problem for me always was the lack of space in the classroom to do interactive speaking tasks – furniture was always on the way. It doesn’t matter how I arranged it, it never felt natural: desks in the way of the conversation or me trying to listen in on students’ or them trying to find their next partner. So at the beginning of this year, encouraged by some of my blogging/twitting colleagues in the field, I wrote up an email to my principal asking if I can remove all desks and get chairs instead. I took a deep breath and hit send. Later that day, she stopped by my classroom, we chatted, and she easily agreed to support my experiment. I got folding chairs that can be put away or arranged in any way I want: big circle for class discussion or interaction and movement, tightly together to watch a video or interact with instructor, in small groups with any number of people around table or without them for stations or cooperative group tasks. (I kept several larger tables that sit next to the wall until we need them.)

    This experience has been so liberating – I can actually arrange my class in the way that suits my daily lesson goals and tasks. And when the next class rolls in, it can easily be rearranged. It took the kids some time to get used to it but they enjoy the openness of the classroom and the ease of human contact. That’s what my class is about. You can talk all you want, just do it in French!

    P.S. Just recently, carpeting was installed (major bonus points from many kids:) and there’s a plan in the works to furnish the classroom with more modern, foldable, movable chairs and tables for next year. My lesson from this – you never know until you try!

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Natalia!

      Yes, the bulky traditional furniture in so many classrooms is definitely the elephant in the room. For those who make decisions about how money is spent, furniture seems to be seen as a luxury instead of a critical element of shifting the focus in a classroom from student to teacher.

      Your folding chair experiment sounds awesome! I love that you can quickly rearrange your space to make it work for the activity you are doing in that moment. Good luck getting some foldable and movable table and chairs for next year!

      Catlin

  5. Hi Catlin, following the link you’ll find an old post from my (deserted) blog, in which you will find many pictures related to the topic of class furniture and its relationship with pedagogy.
    Unfortunately, at present I am working full time as school principal and I am teaching no more in that nice environment…

    http://silviamazzoni.edublogs.org/2013/07/31/desks-matter-the-importance-of-classroom-setting-2/

    Greatings from Italy

    • Thank you for sharing, Silvia! I love your different descriptions of the desk set ups! I will definitely use these with kids to signal the layout for different configurations.

      Catlin

  6. Very kind of you Catlin! Thank you.
    I enrolled to attend a workshop with you in Boston next July (BLC16), but I was told you are no more to come…so sorry we will not meet…

    Maybe next time…!

    Silvia

    • That’s disappointing! I’m sorry I will miss meeting you too.

      I hope you have a wonderful time at BLC in July. Maybe our paths will cross at a future event!

      Take care.
      Catlin

  7. Susan Fraser in “Authentic Childhood” poses some questions to consider in creating a learning environment:
    -How well does the room reflect the values we have identified as important to us?
    -What overall messages will the room convey to children, parents and other visitors to the classroom?
    -How will the environment mirror an image of the child that is rich, powerful and competent?
    -How well does the arrangement of the room reflect our respect for children, families and the community?

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  9. Emily says:

    We’re working on innovating our classroom furniture, as well, and while there are a lot of things we don’t like about our “innovation room,” we LOVE our desks! They’re rolling units from Steelcase, and because they move around so easily, we’re able to fluidly move in and out of various groups, rows, circles, etc. Something else we love about the room is that there are six white boards around the room, which students use to record their group work. While this is a very low-tech move, it has hugely increased our ability to easily see what’s happening during group work without hovering over students. You can see some photos of the furniture and room here: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B01IpEwoKV1RT0FJUUJOS1RKdWc&usp=sharing

    Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

    • Thank you for sharing pictures, Emily! I love the idea of whiteboards so students can brainstorm, record ideas, plan, etc.

      It sounds like Steelcase is a favorite for lots of schools!

      Catlin

    • Lori says:

      Emily– your desks are awesome– where did you order those… And we’re they really expensive.. Would love to try these out!!!!

  10. Oscar says:

    A very inspiring post. It has spawned one of own in Spanish http://mimochilatrespuntocero.blogspot.com.es/2016/04/la-organizacion-del-espacio-y-la.html
    Congratulations for your bright ideas. I will surely follow you from the other side of the world.

  11. Anne Locke Ridgway says:

    What is the first piece of furniture that you are sitting on? Where did it come from? As an ELA teacher, that is the perfect piece of furniture! Very cool.

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  13. Sarah says:

    Its not my room — but in my building there is a 5th grade teacher who has arranged stadium-seating type risers in a semi circle around the Smart-Board (with standing desks directly behind for those who wish to stand). I really love how it creates this Socratic discussion area and has developed a strong student centered learning focus in the room.
    The work desks are in groups of 4 around the room to facilitate other work.

  14. Ruth says:

    I think this is a great idea. Students need to be and feel “free”. I hope that more schools will adopt this change. I was a substitute teacher for many years and always allowed students to stand while working. We took frequent breaks and played games and puzzles. I know this is almost impossible in the regular classroom , but we can continued to hope and encourage this change

  15. Rachel says:

    This article showed up on my Facebook newsfeed. How fitting as I work for a manufacturer who specializes in educational furnishings. Our furniture has many shapes, sizes, power options, fun finishes,etc. Please check out Bretford.com. I’m one of the in-house interior designers who can help producd drawings and color renderings of your space. It’s so much fun to create different layouts based on the teacher as every need and want is different. This is what gets my creative juices flowing! We work with dealers who sell our product across the country and our design services are free.

    I hope you’ll take a look at Bretford. Good luck finding the furniture that makes your students go “WOW”

  16. KeriAnn says:

    Yes, classroom designs should be conducive to interactive learning. Instead, it seems that Deans and staff, that aren’t actually utilizing the rooms make these decisions (spending exorbitant amounts of money). Input should be received directly from the students and instructors, not just based upon those in charge and what they deem appropriate – since they seem to be disconnected from the learning process.

    • I totally agree, KeriAnn! It doesn’t make sense to invest that kind of money if the people writing the checks are not asking their stakeholders for input. I also think it is so important for teachers to see this type of furniture in action, so they don’t set it up like traditional furniture.

      Catlin

  17. Lauren Ritter says:

    I have a very non-traditional classroom setup. Below is a link to my blog, which includes pictures. It is a very far fetched idea, but is has proven so beneficial for my kiddos. They express to me how much easier it is for them to learn in this comfortable environment. That was my goal all along.

    http://mrsritterteaches.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-best-part-of-teaching-is-that-it.html?m=1

  18. Cynthia Ruiz says:

    Hi Caitlin!
    I greatly enjoyed this post and got even more ideas for my classroom next year!
    I have seen a tremendous difference in my room this year compared to the last twelve.
    Having a flexible classroom space is one of the best things I have ever done as a teacher, both for my students and myself.

    Here’s a link to my experience:
    https://themsruiz.wordpress.com/2015/11/21/how-and-why-i-redesigned-my-classroom/

    Cheers!

    • Thanks for sharing your link, Cynthia!

      It’s great to hear that your furniture redesign has had such a positive impact. I have to imagine that kids are so much more comfortable in that space.

      Catlin

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  21. Niklas Läckström says:

    Nicely put. I am sort of on a mission for a better learning environment myself. I keep telling adults that the school has changed, it is not like when they went to school. But why would the believe me? After all, most of them would find their old desk and chair still in use, sometimes even in the same spot as when they went to that school ages ago. At the same time we are cutting fundings in our schools, when we build we build smaller and so on.

    So i thought why not start thinking a bit different, find a new path. We seem to have travelled to the end of the old one and it cant take us any further. I also want to get away from all standardized solutions… Well at least until i start getting those standardized students…

    I want to create a flexible learning environment wher you can work in different positions (lie down, sit, stand…), i want it to be flexible so that we easily can shift from having adults to grade 1, from working alone to groups to gathering for some reason. I want the possibility to create open space, to be honest, i want it all at once. But I dont want every student to have the same at once! I want limited places for every position so that they have to alternate places during lessons. I want them to move!

    I made a video to enlighten my fellow headmaster about how me and a fellow headmaster was thinking about this. To be honest, the videoquality is crap (did it withan ancient phone….) and the english version lack the spoken explenations due to my lazyness, still it might be an example of what i mean. We currently work in temporary barracks (they are supposed to start building our new school next month) and experiment with different furniture. The classroom where this is filmed is for grade 1-2 while the students in the film are from grade 6.
    https://youtu.be/MBqcKIw4eY0

    • Thank you for sharing your video, Niklas!

      I agree. Kids are standardized, all subjects don’t require the same things, and learning is evolving, so we need to rethink how we set up learning spaces. Stepping away from a standardized approach takes time and money, which is why these changes are slow coming.

      I like the way the room allows students to sit, stand, and meet. I have not seen a mini-stadium riser like that before. It’s an interesting addition!

      I wish you luck in your shift to a better learning environment! It’s important for educators to articulate why these changes are important to build momentum for change.

      Catlin

  22. Rachel Peters says:

    Our school is in the process of designing/building a new building geared toward 21st Century teaching and learning, and we are working with One Workplace also to select new furniture. I love the phrase “learning lab”, especially since I am a science teacher!

    I wanted to share with you pictures of my classroom that I designed for this year in the interim.

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxGyEyUbMZlLRHBOWVFDdHY4bXc

    As a result of not having enough science classrooms, I ended up teaching this year in a social studies classroom. Moreover, two of my classes were geared toward PBL, so I needed something that was conducive to lab work (i.e. lab stations), collaboration, and mimicked a working environment.

    I designed the whiteboard tables as an overlay for six regular student desks. The students can easily remove the tops and move the desks into rows, partners, fishbowl, etc. The total cost of each table was less than $20/table and my awesome maintenance staff made them in less than a day. The students say that this is their favorite feature of my classroom and it has completely transformed the way I teach. I also repurposed some Ikea furniture for a lounge area where students can meet informally. I also use this space for workshops/small group instruction. I have a bar height table, but I have found that very few students use this space except for overflow when I am running workshops. I was a bit surprised by this, since I personally prefer to work at tall tables. The last feature of my room that I love is the teacher table at the front. I had my maintenance staff install casters and a whiteboard surface similar to what the students have. I love being able to move it around wherever I need it. My least favorite part of the room? The fixed teacher desk in the corner. It seems so archaic now!

    • I love the whiteboard tables, Rachel! It’s so fun that you can write names or brief instructions. The kids can brainstorm and take pictures of their work. Such a cool idea! If I have to figure out how to make our current furniture work for a year, that is an idea I will definitely be stealing 😉

      Thank you for sharing these images of your space!

      Catlin

  23. Rachel Peters says:

    I forgot to mention that half-way through the year I got swivel chairs. This is another feature the students say are a “must-have.” It makes it so much easier to get their attention focused toward you, wherever you are in the room.

  24. Louiza says:

    I completely agree and have had to fight tooth and nail to have a engaging space. Just using colour is a problem for some. I teach autistic children and the perception was plain but my students loved the lime green chairs I insisted on and I have used group tables for collaboration for past 3 years and only now is it a recommendation for all classrooms. I’m still battling individuality though there are still experts that want all classrooms uniform believing that each room should look exactly the same. I continually push the boundaries to express my classroom for the individual needs of my students not others. Frustrated …. Great article wish more could be so open minded

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  26. Hi Caitlin,

    I also revamped my classroom last year to a deskless room! It has been the most amazing experience. The students stay more engaged, my ADD kids can have movement and still learn, collaboration is flawless, and when we need large spaces we move everything to the side of the room and have a huge space!

    I do suggest sending parents information about your new classroom and why you are doing it. I had 1 parent get upset and send me multiple emails (even one from her psychologist), that my classroom environment would harm her child and would not be conducive to learning. She did stop once she saw that it does actually work! I made a quick video on Adobe Voice and sent out to parents, also citing the studies that have shown improvement in children.

    My kids call our school their home, and our classroom is their living room. I also suggest having lapdesks available. I was able to create our environment for under $200 through stuff from home, Craigslist, and friends needing to get ride of stuff.

  27. Susan Maynor says:

    Hi, Catlin!

    I’m so excited for your new endeavor next year! If you remember (we met last year at the Alive15 conference in Watsonville), I shared with you a bit about my school, EPiC Elementary — PBL, personalized, flexible learning environments. Last summer, we had the opportunity to write our story as an iBook, and there is a whole section on our FLE. On page 13, there is a photo slideshow, highlighting some of our spaces.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/epic-elementary/id1060160538?mt=11

    Those pictures are just a snapshot. As we have continued to grow, each learning studio has created its own style to include counter-height tables, coffee tables, rugs, comfy chairs and soft lighting. I will try and snap some pics and send them to you.

    I am looking forward to reading your journey as it unfolds!

    Susan Maynor

    • Hi Susan!

      Yes, I remember meeting you at Alive15! Thank you for sharing the link to your iBook. I’ll check it out! I’d love any other pics you have that you can share.

      Thank you!
      Catlin

  28. Sean Baum says:

    Love the passion and drive to improve your students environment in a positive way. I have the pleasure of working for a company that has dedicate their entire business model to creating high impact learning environments to improve teaching and learning in schools across California. You should check us out. http://www.contrax.com

  29. Hi Catlin,
    A school I am working with in Vietnam forwarded your blog to me and I have had a great read.
    Firstly, congratulations on taking some significant steps to make your space student centric! It can be a tough road especially with minimal financial support from your school/district. I hope you get this very soon!
    I work for Furnware who are a New Zealand based designer and manufacture innovative furniture for schools. We spend all our time assisting/consulting/partnering with schools to help them make the transition from structured spaces to spaces where modern pedagogy can thrive. All schools are different, so each required individual consultation. After setting up their Australian arm I am now based in Singapore heading up our SE Asian office. So many great things are happening in this space (pun intended).

    after being involved in several hundred schools through this process and have learned a thing or two, so if I can be of any assistance as you go through your design process, please don’t hesitate to call on me. Happy to Skype or connect over email.

    There is plenty of content to initially share with you:
    http://mrkempnz.com/2015/01/1503.html
    http://furnware.com.sg/videos
    http://furnware.com.sg/case-studies

    Also feel free to look through my Twitter profile for more stories and images.

    Keep going and keep taking risks!

    Best regards – Grant

  30. Abby G says:

    Thank you so much for sharing? What grade do you teach? Do you think this type of furniture could work for first grade?

    • Hi Abby,

      I teach 9th and 10th grade, but I absolutely believe alternative furniture could be used with 1st grade (any grade really). I cannot imagine how challenging it is for little ones to enter school and be expected to sit in chairs at desks most of the day. They need to move and explore. Using nontraditional furniture and creating different spaces within the classroom seems a more natural fit for younger kids.

      Catlin

  31. I love the idea of raising the table to provide for the many kids who prefer to stand! I’ve never heard of bed risers…where do you get them & about how much do they cost?

  32. Gareth says:

    Hi Catlin, thanks for a brilliant article. We are building a new centre for creative learning – a multi purpose collaborative and cross curricular modern learning space. I am researching different furniture options and would appreciate any additional input – many thanks!

  33. Sarah Murphy says:

    The idea of the floating stations/work tables is really interesting, and not something I had seen before! Do you find that you’re able to transition easily with this set up between direct instruction and independent learning? (I teach 7th grade, and there’s quite a few days where you have to introduce/teach a skill before you can let them work on it) I really want to try this though!

  34. Jen Wildasin says:

    Hello All,

    I love the idea of having choice in where students do their work and the message that having a uniform looking classroom sends to the students. Next year I will definitely set up my classroom differently and look for resources within the community to to this. Thanks for the great ideas!

  35. Tom says:

    Until I read this blog post I had never thought of the way that my students perceive my classroom set up. By arranging my desks into tables of 4 I suppose that I am trying to encourage collaboration, and I hope that is how my students feel when they walk into the room. I remember my first year of teaching I was told, “You need to have the students facing the front, otherwise they’ll never pay attention.” This definitely falls in line with your line about a quiet classroom being an effective classroom. As I walk up and down the halls of my middle school, I believe most of my colleagues still believe that quiet is effective. Nearly every classroom is organized into rows facing the front, and it makes me wonder what message we are sending to our students.

  36. Jason Pearson says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Our principal has challenged us to create a plan for a dream classroom with the opportunity to receive grant money to help achieve it.

    I’m curious to know more about the wooden “C” desk in the above picture. I have searched the internet high and low looking for this, and I cannot find it anywhere. I was contemplating building a handful of them, but I want to find the cost of simply buying them first.

    Thanks so much!

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  38. I am a Teacher Technology Coach in the Avon-Maitland District School Board, north of Stratford, Ontario. As a tech coach, I work to support transformative practices in our K-8 classrooms. We currently have 4500 iPads in a 1:1 program in grades 7-10. The final piece in my own transformative puzzle has been my agile learning environment. It is truly exciting to witness the changes in the way we think, share and learn. I JUST blogged about it. If you’d like to read my thoughts, paste this link into your browser. Thanks! http://tinyurl.com/jk82e5p

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  40. Catlin,

    I love this article and agree wholeheartedly! I, too, have moved from desks in rows to desks in 4 or 6 desk pods to three student work tables, and have found that each time I move away from “traditional” seating, my creativity, and the creativity of my students, expands. My co-teacher and I have explored newer, more innovative desks/pod seating- usually on wheels and/or connectable in some way- but have found that the pricing is prohibitive. We have been researching grants, but they are often not targeted for districts with certain demographic profiles.

    Any thoughts on overcoming the cost issue?

    • Hi Brian,

      I am running into the cost barrier myself. I’m trying to use existing furniture in more creative layouts and designs, but that has only gotten me so far. I have written a Donors Choose Project for some moveable pieces and plan to continue pursuing options like that to do as much of the fundraising as I can. It’s just time-consuming to add that to everything I am already trying to do.

      Do you have a shop class on campus? I wonder if you could partner with those students to design and build some moveable pieces. That is something I am also going to explore.

      Good luck!

      Catlin

      • Thanks! Good luck to you, too. Are you running into any difficulties with using the Donors Choose as a means of getting funding. We’ve found that asking the public directly to fund a project (I was thinking of using GoFundMe) isn’t allowed because our school receives taxpayer funding. Is that a concern for you where you are?

        • Hi Brian,

          I have not had any problems using Donors Choose, though projects can take months to get funded. I have never explored using GoFundMe. I’d have to ask about that at my school site.

          Catlin

  41. Mary Catherine Keating says:

    As a teacher that is going to a 1:1 program next year learning space has me thinking. I want to get rid of my desks and look to table with wheels. I loved the idea of white board tables. I am getting rid of my filing cabinet this year to make more room in my classroom, and I am moving the bookcases and the teacher desk to give the students access to the white board.
    Last year I brought in a yoga ball for my students to use and found that many of my students wanted to use this. I am planning on buying a few more to replace some of my chairs and give me more space.
    I know I have to keep the desks for state testing, but I wish I had tables with wheels and now that I see them more comfortable chairs. I think just having these few items would make my room more student friendly.
    One thing I did not see people mention is how to you gain room and movement with backpacks. Our students do not use there lockers so I lose so much room and movement because of this. I would be happy if anyone could offer any suggestions.

    • Great question, Mary!

      Readers: Does anyone have suggestions or tips for how to handle the backpack clutter? I’ve heard people use hooks and cubbies, but I don’t have experience with either. Hopefully, some experienced folks can offer suggestions.

      Catlin

    • Michael Cieslak says:

      Would it be possible to designate an area in your classroom for backpacks? This might help with people potentially tripping over them.

  42. Pingback: DIY Furniture Project |

  43. M. Morgan says:

    My classroom is the traditional library. I would love our shelves to be shorter and on wheels so we could move them around. There are times when we need a large classroom space and because of the shelves we have to split up. Tables should also be more functional, such as being able to move, raise them and even fold them up to get out of the way. Our library is full every day and is very much a teaching library, making better use of our space would be wonderful.

    • Michael Cieslak says:

      I certainly agree that tables that can be set up in multiple configurations would be helpful. I wonder if you could inquire with the district warehouse?

  44. M.G. says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if teachers could choose their classroom furniture like they can select their school supplies? The furniture in a classroom can be both a help and a hindrance to learning, as can the classroom itself. A larger space would facilitate collaborative learning and help teachers find the space to designate learning centers. Teachers, however, are flexible, innovative, and resourceful. I am always amazed at how my colleagues find ways to meet the needs of their students. In my dreams, though, schools would be designed with the input of students and teachers.

    • Absolutely! I’d love to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach to furniture purchases. It doesn’t take into account the different needs of different classes.

      Catlin

  45. Skyler Verloop says:

    I LOVE this article and have never though about this before. I have to say your classroom looks amazing. I unfortunately do not have carpet which makes thing a bit harder, but I think it would send a great message if there was a couple couches and some tables, a few traditional desks and a room that is just different. I never though of how students will picture a class based off the way they see the chairs and desks set up. In a technology driven class like mine, students do not need a traditional desk. They can lay on the floor and get the work done they need to do. This would also push teachers to get on board with technology and changing their class room. I would love to see more pictures of your room and also feedback on how the year went. Thanks for sharing!

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