You won’t know how valuable this idea is until you try.  After all, who wants to look at the back of the head of persons in front of them?

Moving desks not only facilitates teaching but also sends the message we intend to include students in the ownership of the class. It can also help to alleviate boredom and activate their brains. And, it provides novelty to stimulate thinking. Teaching them how to move the desks helps learning-disabled students, in particular, who need environmental predictability: When they participate in creating the changes, they can understand the “consistencies” of the different arrangements. I know of a teacher who has several different seating charts on her wall; she simply points to the one she wants her children to use, and they quickly rearrange the room.

Some teachers may hesitate to use this practice, afraid that students will not work well in groups or will waste time unless they are facing us. Yet, those students who have difficulty in groups may well be the same ones who feign paying attention when sitting and “listening.” As in introducing any procedure, however, we need to believe in it and then teach it until it is learned. If our intention is to involve students in what they do during class, we can be confident in our approach. And, when they are not in rows, how delightful for them to be able to look at each other instead of the backs of heads!

For more specific ideas about teaching see Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918.

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