Before welcoming new students to the classroom, a teacher must decide on the arrangement of the students' desks. There are many choices available for teachers, and the desk configuration selected will determine the way lessons are presented, how classroom behavior is managed and the way traffic flows. In a U-shaped configuration, desks all point to a central spot in the classroom with an opening in the front of the room, like a horseshoe.
For teachers instructing discussion-heavy classes like art, writing or literature, a U-shaped desk configuration can be ideal. The arrangement supports frequent whole-group conversations as students are all able to see each other and you at the same time. No one is able to hide in the back of the class and avoid participation, so even the most introverted students can be drawn in.
Since a U-shaped desk arrangement promotes eye contact and unobstructed passage for teachers, a U-shaped configuration can help improve classroom behavior. This arrangement helps the teacher keep an eye on everyone's actions and quickly reach and resolve conflicts or discipline problems. As with classroom discussions, students do not feel hidden in this configuration, and that may encourage them to improve their behavior.
In chemistry, art or other hands-on learning environments, a U-shaped desk configuration allows all students equal access to viewing demonstrations. Positioning the students so they can see the whiteboard and the front of the lab or workspace will allow the teacher to explain and demonstrate the day's lesson without interruptions for rearranging or moving around the classroom. Similarly, this configuration creates a natural stage for student performances and presentations throughout the school year.
The U-shaped desk arrangement may take up more space in the classroom, but it will give a classroom many options to manage traffic-flow. For the teacher, nothing is obstructing a walk into the U to collect papers or answer questions. When introducing students to the new seating configuration, you can establish the room as a one-way street where students must always walk up clockwise around the room. For young students, this may be important in preventing traffic jams and conflicts with students. The open portion of the U also provides space for students to move around during breaks.
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