Saturday, October 17, 2015

Going Deskless

After reading a few reflections and posts from other TPRS teachers about going deskless, I really wanted to try it.  At the end of my first year teaching MS Spanish, the students had some big test to take.  All the desks from my classroom had to be moved to another classroom, and that just seemed too good of an opportunity to let slip by.  

The students (mostly) loved it, I loved it, and I resolved to convince my administrators that it would work.  Luckily, I have a great deal of support to try new things, so I started the new year with nothing but chairs and hope.

Also, some very thoughtful planning and reasoning.

Here's how I do it and what I've learned:

Policies that Support the Deskless Classroom
  • My largest class is 16 kids.  That makes it MUCH easier.
  • We started a no backpack policy this year.  
  • I use interactive (ish) notebooks rather than binders.
Furniture and other things that help
  • For writing, which we don't do a ton of, I have small whiteboards and a few clipboards.
  • There is one round table for those who really need it when we do independent work.
  • Spike tape.  It's high quality cloth tape that costs a small fortune, but is worth every penny.  Theatre professionals use it and it can be found in most theatrical stage supply shops.  Spike tape comes in several colors, comes up easily, will not leave a mark on the floor, and is practically indestructible. It works on carpet, tile, wood, laminate, etc.  (I've even used it on 100 year old church rectory floors- no problem!)  I put mine down in late August.  Every single piece is still down!!!
Spike Tape Markings-"spikes"
Managing it all
  • Instead of creating several seating charts to reflect the different configurations, I printed up a set of these fantastic character cards (Thanks, Martina!) for seating and taped them to the backs of each chair.  Part of my beginning of class ritual is to greet each student with a handshake and a smile, so handing out these cards is easy.  Random seating EVERY DAY!  Where it breaks down somewhat is when I have 16 seats and only 8 kids, but I'm probably going to assign seats for that class for a variety of reasons anyway.  One class job is to collect the cards daily.
  • Tape on the floor to indicate the configuration, and a matching sign.  One student gets to move the sign as we move chairs.  Who knew that flipping a sign was so motivating? 
  •  I use azul, morado, círculo, and semi-círculo to indicate verbally what the chairs should do.  (Blue, purple, circle, semi-circle).  I think this week I am going to teach them herradura- horseshoe instead of semi-circle.
  • Practice.
What does it actually look like?
So, my classroom is laid out very oddly.  It's not a huge room and I share it with a part-time teacher.  There is a large whiteboard and two bulletin boards on one wall, a wall of windows, another whiteboard that is used by the other teacher at the "back" of the room, and a smartboard/projector that is located at a 90 degree angle to the whiteboard, or "front" of the room, across from the windows.  Since I use the smartboard daily (though really only as a very expensive projector), there are two main focal points of the room- the smartboard and the whiteboard.  At the beginning of class, students need to see the smartboard.  At the start of the year, I knew I wanted a formal chair set up for assessments facing the smartboard, a theatre-style set up for story telling facing the whiteboard, and a more conversational circle for whatever else I wanted to do.  Last week I realized that the formal set-up didn't feel the way I wanted it to feel, so I got to work with more tape and arrows on the floor and created a horseshoe shape that allows me access to about half the whiteboard, but has the students focused on the smartboard BUT ALSO on each other.   Why did it take me so long to figure that out? I blame the wrist surgery + painkillers that kept me out of the classroom for the first three weeks of school.  Right?  
Horseshoe Formation

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