Not necessary, but…
I’ve been jumping into blended learning this year as a part of the FCPS Vanguard program and I’m leaning heavily into station rotations as a model for making my class “smaller”. This week I’ve turned my attention to my seating arrangement.
I must say that I appreciated one tweet a few years back with the caption “Seating doesn’t create a cooperative classroom, students do” and it had a picture of a classroom where the seats were in traditional rows, but the students were sitting in a group–some in seats, others on the floor. The students were clearly working in a group despite the seating arrangement and I admired that teacher for developing such a sense of group work in his/her students that I didn’t see the need for rearranging my desks that were also in rows (actually pairs, but essentially rows). I have been using VNPS. However, I have had the luxury of a teacher intern (student teacher) for the past three weeks and I’ve gotten a new perspective on my classroom and really want to try a new seating arrangement.
I moved the desks around and I’m now super excited for my students to arrive on Monday!
Early this year I went with the color-coding to quickly assign students to stations and rotate them through the stations.
After attending a workshop by Catlin Tucker, I realized that I need to focus more on my teacher-led station being conducive to, well, being led by a teacher. So I changed one station.
And it helped the flow of my class and I started to like the teacher-led station more. Then I realized “hey, I could use the seating to help the blended learning”.
It’s amazing how much more space I have and I like that the students are now already organized in groups. Before I had to put them into groups every time they got to the “groups” station, which took me away from the teacher-led station, which took time out of my class, which delayed their starting their work, etc.
Here are some pictures of my new classroom setup.
The brown table now is where students quickly pick up supplies and any papers based on their current station. The table was between me and the students at the front, but now there’s nothing in the way!
The teacher-led station is also around the projector rather than a random whiteboard, so I don’t have to go back to the 19th century and draw all of the graphs by hand.
The Question Wall
Another little addition around the room are a few “question walls” (sometimes called a “question parking lot”) for each station. This was suggested originally to me by my Vanguard Coach, Kent Wetzel, and later reinforced by Catlin Tucker’s workshop.
The idea is that I don’t want to divert my attention away from the teacher-led station (even if it’s student-centered, as I hope it most often is!). But I still need to do a “lap” to ensure students are focused and working around the room at the other stations. However, the danger is that students, who were perfectly independent a moment ago, suddenly become helpless and hopelessly stuck when a teacher walks by. But if I get bogged down in answering “proximity questions” as they’re called, I will never return to the teacher led station in a timely manner. So students write specific questions in that space and then I only address written questions on my lap around the room (which is done on my time, not at the insistence of a student). Students have other resources that they need to get better at using: their notes, their classmates, their brain.
 Yes, I shrunk the desks in the diagram, but there really is more space!
 Well, a 19th century that had whiteboards…