Sunday, October 11, 2015

Reflections of a Deskless Classroom

http://www.1000ventures.com/design_elements/selfmade/creativity_totb_3steps.jpg
Image from here

The above graphic is so me when it comes to my classroom.  
I left my comfort zone.  
I challenged assumptions.
I stepped out of my shoes.
How?  

For two weeks now, my classroom has been a deskless classroom.
Yes, that’s right, DESKLESS!!! :-) I had *most of* the student desks and chairs removed from my room!

One month ago yesterday, I  submitted a proposal to my principal about going deskless.  First, I provided a definition of a deskless classroom.  I  explained why I wanted to go deskless.  Then I informed her that I would need some things to replace the desks and chairs.  In order to get those items, I would create a project on Donors Choose with the items I needed .  I said that I would love her permission to go on this journey.  She thought the idea was fantastic and gave me the thumbs up!!  I am so lucky that she supported me and believed in my idea!

That afternoon, I submitted my project to the Donors Choose website.  It was approved three days later, and funded four days after that!!!  

One week later, on a Thursday, my new floor seating and cubby unit arrived! I showed my students everything that came in and explained what would be happening.  They were very excited!  That following Monday, we began our new deskless adventure!

There were some quirks to work out at the beginning, as one would expect.  But we’ve been working through and learning from them.  In fact, I’m seeing so many more benefits than I originally thought!   In my proposal, I stated the following: “Teachers reported that their students were more focused and that they loved the different seating options!”  My students are definitely more focused and more relaxed! I have to tell you what else I’ve been noticing!


Organization:
This deskless classroom arrangement is teaching my students some organization skills! They keep their unfinished work and supplies in their cubbies.  They put their take home folders in a magazine holder on top of the cubby unit.  Their writing journals are in another magazine holder next to the cubby unit. They have their handwriting packets in a basket in our writing corner. They know where the pencils are kept and where they can find additional supplies.  They have done a great job of adjusting to not having all of their items in one spot!

Personal Space:
I still have three student desks and two reading tables in my room.  My students are free to sit there OR on the floor with my soft seating.  (I have soft puzzle pieces and sit upons for them to sit on.)  My rule is that they can sit wherever they want as long as they can work quietly and / or pay attention to me.  I also tell my students that if they are sitting near someone who they might talk to OR if that person might talk to them, they should make the good choice of finding another spot around the room.  My students spread out all over my room.  They definitely have enough space to work and are making great choices about who they are sitting near!

Patience:
Patience didn’t even pop up into my mind when I was thinking of the benefits of this deskless classroom but it is definitely a benefit!!  I have my cubby unit in one area of my room, my sit upons in another area, the puzzle pieces in another area, and the clipboards next to the puzzle pieces.  I certainly can’t have 20 students running to each place trying to get what they need at the same time!  

To help with this issue, I put duct tape down in front of each of those spots.  The students line up behind the duct tape line. Since I have two piles of puzzle pieces, two students at a time are able to get a puzzle piece.  They need to wait their turn to get their puzzle piece.  To get items from their cubby, again, two students at a time can retrieve their things.  For the sit upons and clipboards, one student can go at a time.  The duct tape has helped cut down on the chaos.  Students are waiting their turns without me having to tell them.  They are actually reminding each other!

Side note:  When my students get their floor seating, I tell them they must take from the top - not from the middle or the bottom.  They understand that “They get what they get and they won’t get upset!”

Respect / Behavior / Following Directions:
My students seem to have a higher level of respect for me and our rules.  They did a good job of following directions and rules before we went deskless, but that seems to have gone to higher levels now.  I can't explain why, but they are so incredibly well behaved.  They do what I ask of them without complaining.  They are listening to all of the adults they encounter in the building - even subs they might have not have met before.  They are just AWESOME!  I'm so proud of my students. :-)

Responsibility and Cleanliness:
I had to put these two items together.  My classroom is much cleaner - and I’m not talking about the job building service has done.  (Although I must say, they LOVE my deskless classroom as it makes clean up time a BREEZE!!!)  

My students are taking a lot more responsibility in taking care of our room and the things in our room.  Greeting my students at the front door is a mat that I purchased from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  I didn’t even give my students warning that I would be buying one.  I just put it down there on the first day.  Without my saying a word, they started wiping their feet on it before entering the room!  They’ve done it every single day.  Sometimes, the kids will wipe their feet for 30 seconds, just because they feel like it and want to keep the room clean!  Sometimes I have to tell them that they can stop! :-)

My students are now much more aware of trash on the floor. They love cleaning up so much, that several times throughout the day, they all ask me if they can take the broom and sweep the floor!  If one student has it, five kids will go up to them and ask if they can have a turn!  It’s VERY cute! :-)

They also love to clean our floor seating.  Luckily, the puzzle piece and sit upons are easy to wipe down!  This makes cleaning fun!  We wipe them down once a week, sometimes twice, and on rare occasions, three times a week. (I did the same thing when I had desks.)

If we're doing a messy art project with paint, liquid glue, pastels, etc...I put tablecloths on the floor for those who aren't sitting at a table. 

Breakfast:
My school offers free breakfast in the morning.  Any of my students who eat breakfast sit at one of the tables or desks.  I wipe down those areas before they arrive in the morning and again once they are done eating. 

Focus and Posture:
I’ve let my students know, that when they are working independently, they can sit / lie wherever / however they want, as long as they are quietly getting their work done.  The amount of space combined with with them working where they want to has definitely cut down on the noise level in my room.  Plus, my students are MUCH more focused on their work!  This is leading to them working more efficiently. 

When I’m up at the front of the room teaching a mini lesson or giving directions, they must sit up and face me.  This has really helped with their posture!  I am amazed at how well they are sitting up straight and tall!  When I thought about it though, I realized that this is because they don’t have a desk to lean forward on or a chair to lean back in.  It’s fantastic to watch this transformation!

Family:
Due to the amount of space we now have, this arrangement has helped us become more of a family.  Everyday after lunch, my students come in, grab something to sit on, and sit in a circle with me.  We take a few minutes to do some deep breathing and stretching.  

Once we’re relaxed, we have sharing time, but this is not your typical show and tell.  I’m allowing my students to talk.  They talk about things that happened during lunch and recess.  They talk about how those things made them feel.  We work out problems that may have occurred.  We figure out ways to handle situations that might happen another day.  Everyone LOVES sharing! Even my shy and quiet students love sharing!  If I let them, they would probably share for 20 minutes.  For that reason, I limit sharing time to five minutes.   

After sharing time, my students turn to the person next to them and say nice things to each other.  After 30 seconds, I have them find someone else to say something nice to.  My students all wanted to say something nice to me! (Aww, so sweet!!!)  After a few days of that though, I told them that while I loved that they all wanted to say nice things to me, they needed to talk to their classmates.  

My students absolutely LOVE our after lunch routine!  There was one time I wanted them to finish up their project from the morning and had completely forgotten about our routine.  My students kept on reminding me about it all afternoon until we finally did it! :-)

Now:
My students have more room to work.  
My students have more room for our brain breaks.  
My students have a relaxing spot in which to learn.
My students are learning skills that aren’t found in textbooks or curriculum guides.  

I am so glad that I left my comfort zone, challenged assumptions, and stepped out of my shoes.  I can see how my students are benefiting from it and *even though I said this already,* I am so proud of them! :-)

Here are a few more pictures from our deskless classroom!!!






Before I sign off, I must give a HUGE shout out to Greg at the Kindergarten Smorgasboard, for he inspired ME to go deskless!  Thank you so much Greg! You are amazing!
Hope you all have a super day! :-)
~Stacey~

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