No Desks? No Problem!
By Antony Stark
Oak Hall Middle School Spanish teacher, Elizabeth Arroyo, has introduced a new classroom style to her Spanish classes, called the “deskless classroom”. Arroyo has removed all desks and tables from the classroom, and replaced it only with chairs. While the deskless classroom concept is new at Oak Hall, it has been taking classrooms by storm all over the world, with a whole group of teachers online to back up this theory.
The idea came from a group on Facebook called the “Comprehensive Input in the Deskless World Language Classroom” group. Members from this group were at a workshop Arroyo attended this past summer in Orlando, and spoke about the benefits of the deskless classroom, and how captivating and interesting it was to the students.
In early August, Arroyo started the year with desks and tables. It wasn’t until the second week of school; she asked her students if they liked the idea of removing desks and working on clipboards. All of her students agreed to the new idea, but it took a while for them to adapt to their new environment. Even though the students had never experienced a classroom set up in this manner, they are quickly adjusting. “Of course we all had to get used to it … papers fell and it was kind of hard to take tests without peeking at the person next to you, but they all got used to it a week later and that’s when they became more engaged and interactive in the class,” Arroyo explained. “Most students here have never done anything like this before, and when students are put into a new environment, especially in the classroom, they tend to pay more attention to what’s going on around them,” she continued. Overall, no major problems arose using the new classroom method.
A phrase that is used by other language teachers to describe the deskless classroom is, “removing barriers and engaging learners”. After a week into using this new method, Arroyo found her classroom to be exactly as the aforementioned phrase described it. The students were more engaged than ever, answering questions on the board and being able to play games on the floor. “All of the students feel a sense of community … by seating them next to each other they all can work as a group and get things done faster, more efficiently, and they learn the material better because they are excited to work with their friends,” Arroyo said.
Another plus to removing the desks, is that the students could no longer use phones or do other things under the desks that could be a distraction. Now, everyone is facing forward and she can see everything the students do. Another plus to having no desks is not worrying about cleaning the tables or having to push chairs under the tables. Arroyo realizes the cleanup process is more efficient because nothing is hidden under tables and chairs, like papers and pencils the students leave behind. Even though Arroyo has no plans on going back to desks or tables in her classroom, she would like to have a more comfortable seating arrangement for her students in the future.