No more desks, no more rows

Ever since I embraced the Flipped Classroom the need for student desks in perfect rows seemed unimportant. I used to like have desks in my class because it made giving daily quizzes and tests easier so I did not have to be concerned with cheating. Over my short 5 year career I have played with grouping desks in pairs and groups but always found it a pain when I needed to give my students summative assessments…..things have changed!

I no longer give students typical tests and quizzes like I used to. I use Moodle to conduct my formative assessment quizzes and my summative assessment tests. I let students write quizzes when and where they want. They can write them alone, in pairs, at home, at school, wherever they have an internet connection. The quizzes are only so students have an idea of what they know and don’t know, formative assessment. When the class writes their Unit tests they also use Moodle. I pull in the reigns a little bit here….Students have to write their test alone at school. They cannot ask for assistance, similar to most tests. In addition, each one of my Moodle tests are different. I have created a large database of questions that are controlled by difficulty and learning outcome. As a result I can give a class a set of tests that a very similar in difficulty but are different for each student.

Long story short, desks aren’t nearly as important anymore……So, now what?

Last June I attended the Flipped Classroom conference hosted by the great Aaron Sams (@chemicalsams)  and Jonathan Bergmann (@jonbergmann). I learned a great deal and have embraced the Flipped Classroom full heartedly. During the conference they mentioned (tongue and cheek) that one of the most important things to successfully running a Flipped Classroom was to have a couch! We all laughed, but the Flipped Classroom does change the way the classroom physically needs to be.

Students no longer need to be in rows for assessments and also no longer need to face the front of the class for lengthy lectures….So I asked myself what would be the best configuration of a classroom and what type of furniture would you need….?

I had a student the other day tell me that she loved my class. She said she struggled a great deal with math but felt more comfortable here than in any other class and enjoyed it. Kind of Strange…… I took this as a compliment, but why? My good looks and personality? The fact I have a number of lightsabers in the room? No, she said that I allowed students to work where they wanted in the class, with who they wanted, and that I gave them flexibility they didn’t get in other classes at our school. She also liked the layout of the class. This year I added a couch (free!) and a coffee table. I also put all the desks in groups of 4 or 5, not too radical here. This got me thinking why stop here……….

So, since then I have added two more couches (both free) and that got me really thinking. What is the point of having desks at all? I want a classroom that is comfortable, conducive to learning, and fun…….I want students to not feel the need to run for the hills as soon as the bell rings….So here is my long term plan

  • Get rid of the desks and replace with tables, better for collaboration and group work
  • Create computer stations in one part of the classroom where students can watch videos and complete quizzes via Moodle, although they are welcome to use the computers wherever
  • Add a couple more couches, perhaps a rocking chair, bean bag chairs……too much…who knows!?!?!?
  •  I love whiteboarding, see @kellyoshea if you interested. I am considering painting some tables in whiteboard paint(, perhaps even some rectangles on the floor where students could work
  • I would like a couple high tables where you stand at to work or have stools
  •  As for the walls, they are covered with cheesy math jokes and Blue Jays stuff, this isn’t changing!

I never knew I would get this pumped about interior design, let alone interior design of a classroom. I tried scouring the internet looking for information on classroom design and was surprised to see very little.

My question for those of you who made it to the end of this would be…. what do you think? What have you done with your class? Any suggestions for me?


About flippingmath

Math Teacher, Flipper, Blue Jays Fan
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16 Responses to No more desks, no more rows

  1. Love the idea graham! I love how the flip class idea has evolved

  2. Love this idea 🙂 I’ve gone away from rows as well, but haven’t ventured into the “fun” furniture yet. I’d love to see pics/vid of your classroom if you ever get the chance 🙂

  3. I like your thinking. I have been working on some similar ideas but haven’t figured out how to “pay for it” yet. I’d like to just set doors on sawhorses and use them for workspace (got that idea from Google).

    • flippingmath says:

      I was fortunate enough to get 3 free couches, and they were all very nice. I am just planning on keeping my eyes open and hope for the best. I really like the idea of doors on a sawhorse, not bad!

      As an aside, I attended your Moodle session at Woodland Park and it completely changed my teaching this year. I love what it brings to my Flipped Classroom and it has helped my students immensely! Thanks.

  4. @jsprfox says:

    Great post, its almost like you were describing how my classroom setup has evolved since I started flipping my instruction. In my classroom, I have tables pushed together to make some bigger work areas for students, and was thinking about the couch idea myself. Its funny isn’t it how these seemingly simple this translate into such a rewarding environment? Back in December I got rid of my teacher desk and swivel chair. Now we all share the demonstration table at the front of the room (I teach science), and it has the tissues, pencil sharpener etc. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from my students saying that they feel more at home without the teacher desk. Turns out that some students view the teachers desk as a private space where they are not welcomed. Not having a desk also forces me to be up and about with the students at all times. Keep up the thoughtful work, I’ll be looking forward to hear how it’s going.

    • flippingmath says:

      I love the idea of getting rid of the teacher desk. I read this somewhere else too! Although I love my teacher fortress. But I think that my students also see it as my fortress! I think for next year its worth a try. Thanks.

  5. I love idea paint!! If i had my way my entire classroom walls would be covered! Why not?! they “Paint” them a boring neutral colour all the time – why not make them useful?

    • Merknet says:

      I too love the idea paint idea. When my room was renovated and painted “urine” yellow with blonde wood cabinets, I chose to come in one weekend and paint it a nice ocean blue on my own time with my own paint. Well, when I returned on Mon. To set up for the upcoming school year, as organizational systems thinking would have it, my Supt. reprimanded me, put a letter in my file and forced me to have to pay to have it reprinted, $1800. He would not even let me do it myself. Now it is back to stark yellow on yellow, bleached with sunlight, screaming institutional. It is amazing how out of touch things can get. Well, if that got me written up, I am proud to be that “bad teacher”. Thankfully, as we all have experienced he is gone, and we always remain. So, idea paint is certainly an upcoming concept. Of course I will check first. And mwhen e next round of painting is due, I will push for some color.

    • flippingmath says:

      No doubt hey! Do you specifically use the brad idea paint? I am wondering what the best type is to purchase? Anybody know?

  6. Robert Nolan says:

    I noticed that you use Moodle. I am attempting to flip my Econ/Govt classes next year and used Moodle some in the last semester this school year. I was curious where you got the training for Moodle and how do you use it? I slowly catching on to technology but have alot to learn.
    Also, do you know any Social Studies teachers who are flipping? Thanks and excellent blog and will guide me in planning for next year.

    • flippingmath says:

      Hi Robert,

      I didn’t really get any training. Just played around with it, got on the Moodle message boards and asked some questions there. I use Moodle primarily for Quizzes. It has allowed me to add Mastery learning to my practice. I create quizzes that are used for formative assessment, the big benefit is that I can generate unique quizzes for each of my students that are controlled for similar difficulty. The feedback from students has been extreamly positive, students even enjoy doing quizzes now because they learn what they know and what they don’t know!

      I have seen some people flipping socials on #flipclass, I would start there if I were you. I don’t know anyone off hand though.

      I hope to be posting some more Moodle instructional videos to my youtube account in the coming months. Thanks for the kind words. Best of luck and let me know if I can help in any other way!


  7. Pingback: More like a Starbucks… | flippingmath

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