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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Desk Olympics

Sometimes~ it feels like a no-win situation.

You position the students desks facing each other~ in cooperative learning style~ and their eyes are on each other~ instead of you.

You face the desks toward you~ and it may discourage discussion and create the feeling of being an institution.

I think teachers~ in general~ struggle with the best way to arrange the desks in their classroom.

That is~ until you learn about Desk Olympics.

The concept involves training your students to quickly reposition desks or tables based on the learning activity. For instance~ if you want the class to work in cooperative groups~ they attach the desks in one~ synchronized movement~ with minimum time and energy.

Oh~ I know what youre thinking: That will never work with my kids. That sounds like a disaster.

I am here to tell you it can~ and I have seen it work. A colleague of mine has her students practice Desk Olympics by timing them. She has them set a goal and record it on a white board. They then try to beat that goal each time they move the desks. I watched her class move the desks~ with minimal noise~ in 32 seconds flat.

The reality there is no one magic desk formation that will solve all your problems. Different arrangements serve different needs. Think about it: when you go to the movies~ all the seats are positioned facing forward. When you go to a restaurant~ the tables are spread out~ facing different directions~ to promote conversation among families and groups. It would be pretty strange if a restaurant positioned all its tables in one direction.

My pet peeve has always been students not making eye contact~ which makes clustering tables together very frustrating. I always feel like the kids are paying more attention to each other rather than focusing on me or the overhead screen.

Desk Olympics is the solution to that problem. You can simply train your students~ in record time~ to switch the furniture to meet the needs of the lesson.

What are you waiting for? Practice Desk Olympics with your class today. On your mark~ get set~ go!

(To share your thoughts or comments on this topic~ go to http://community.educationworld.comcontent/desk-olympics?gid=NTEyMQ==)