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Day 13 – Classroom Arrangement

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PHYSICS & GEOMETRY

Nothing new in either class today; just followed Day 12’s stuff with the other half of my students. So I wanted to take a chance to write about my classroom layout. I was chosen to be the teacher who is in the lab full-time and I wanted to talk about the implications of that.

First of all, I love how the arrangement of lab tables and stools easily lends itself to group work. I can’t express how great it is to not have to hear the screeching of metal desks across tile floors every time I let students work in groups.  Although, the octagonal design of the tables with the faucets on either side is somewhat awkward, because it really only allows two students to really sit ‘comfortably’ at each station. Also, the location of the drawers on the desk is really awkward too; not sure what the incentive was to put those there.

Next, I love how the grouping allows me to grade less. I played the whole Lecture-Worksheet-Homework-Test-Repeat game last year and realized how useless it really is. When grades are attached to every assignment, students start gaming the system and their grade shifts from true assessment towards a ‘following instructions’ coefficient. I’d love to, one day, switch entirely to standards-based grading, but being a new teacher I’ve got too much other stuff that I am trying to get use to this year.

However, there are some cons to the classroom set up like this. Primarily that the stools are a pain in the butt, literally. I can’t even set in those for more than about ten minutes before I have to stand up, so I know the students can’t enjoy it.

Before I state the second con, let me first admit that I am definitely not a proponent of the indoctrination of students that usually occurs when they are placed in long vertical rows facing the board. But for me, it is almost impossible to get students to settle down for the few times that we have to actually do individual work. Since we don’t use all of the tables in my class I can sometimes achieve this by spreading them out in smaller groups across every table, but that introduces another battle of having to introduce students to a new seating arrangement each class. I suppose the teachers who have honed their classroom management skills more could do this, but admittedly that is my weakness. I am having trouble, at this point in my career, finding the best way of balancing the unfortunate necessary amount of direct instruction in the modeling curriculum with the much preferred collaborative aspect.

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