Making the Switch: From Student Desks to Tables!


Are you thinking of making the big change from student desks to tables? I have done it BOTH ways, with primary and upper elementary kids.  Honestly, I love my tables and prefer them over desks, hands down.  HOWEVER, when it comes to tables you have to have a serious plan on how to get organized.  Students have so MUCH STUFF.  SO much.  So, so much.  I think you get the picture.:)

So, this is how I organized everything in my second grade classroom!


I liked the flexibility desks gave when rearranging the room.  However, we did more with tables than I would I have originally thought.  It just took a little creative thinking!


This  picture shows the most simple set up.  I had 5 separate tables around the room.  Each table held 4-5 students. I did not have any student sit on the end with the chairs.  The board was on that side of the room and  I didn't want any kids to have their backs to the board if possible.




This was a different set up.  Two tables were put together lengthwise at the front of the room and two other tables were behind the long table.  We also had a few students scattered around the room in desks because they either preferred to be alone (true story) or um, well, it was in their best interest to be at a desk.  Sad, but true.  With this arrangement kids DID have their back to the board. However, we did all of our instruction on the whole group carpet (you can see it in the back by the whiteboard) OR in the front of the room (out of the frame) by the Promethean board.

So where did my kids keep their "stuff?"  Lots of places!


This was not a cheap solution, but it was a good one. At the beginning of the year, I bought one of set for each table. It cost about $100.  Ouch.  However, they DID hold up all year.  I didn't use them again because that is the year I left to be at home with my girls.  However, I could have easily used them another year, if not more. I looked at it as an investment to make my life easier and it worked!

Each student had a school box for their personal set of pencils, scissors, crayons, etc. We wrote names on the boxes with a sharpie.

I was a little crazy.  I went ahead and bought a class set of pocket folders from Wal-Mart during the big back to school sale.  I think they were about 10 cents each or so?   I wanted to color code the subjects.  This made it SO much easier for my kids to find their things.

Then, I got crazier.  I assigned each subject a color.  For example, math was red. All the math folders were red.  The folders belonged in the top drawer on the right side.  The kids knew where the folders were located because the  label on the outside of the drawer, on the right side, was red.  See the little owl label below?  My kids all got this and were able to keep their materials organized.




This is the middle drawer.  It held our writing folders and science/ social studies folders.  In the writing, folder we kept our writer's notebooks.  Under the yellow folders are our Words Their Way workbooks.


In the bottom drawer, I had white boards for each person in the group.  It made it easier to ask kids to come to the carpet with the white boards to practice.  Kids didn't swarm to one area to get the boards, they were already at their finger tips!  On top of the white boards I had a shoe box size container.  


Inside the show box was the super cheap washcloths from Wal-Mart.  I think a pack of 20 was $5 or so? Kids used these as erasers.  Then, inside of a Rubbermaid lunch container was dry erase markers. Notice all of the the markers were black.  They were cheap and kids didn't fuss over them! LOL!

Like these labels?




So that is what was inside of the drawers.  I am sure you are wondering, what about the text books!??!


Truthfully, in second grade there are not as many text books.  There are workbooks, which we fit in the drawers.  


These were our science and social studies text books.  We did use these occasionally, so I kept a class set out. They pretty much all fit on a small bookshelf. The health books, which we never used, were stored on top of the cabinets.  We never used them, to be honest, so why waste the space?

Not a perfect solution, but it did work for us.


Other supplies were treated as community supplies.  Kids DID have their personal supplies in the school boxes, if they wanted to keep special pens or pencils. This is how I stored many of the extra supplies kids brought in.


The black caddies contained supplies we used all the time.  I even put a handwriting chart in there for students (you can see the paper hanging out).  At the end of the day, a student collected the pencils and sharpened them while we waited for buses.

I got the caddies during the back to school season at Wal-Mart.  They are shower caddies for college students and were only $1!


I also bought a ton of pencil boxes during the back to school season at Wal-Mart when they are super cheap- 50 cents or a dollar, I think! I made small boxes of supplies so students could carry the supplies to the table. I had 4-5 boxes of each kind of supply so that every table could have their own box of  scissors and not fight over it. Over the years, I had collected the supplies, such as scissors and highlighters, so it wasn't as expensive to complete a class set.

The boxes were kept in my writing center, so kids also used the supplies during writing workshop.


I never liked my kids to keep their book for reading in their desks.  The books always got crumpled and torn.  I kept this shelf with book boxes to store the books they were reading.

They even stored library books in there!  It made it easy to find their books, that was sure!


Do your students have desks or tables? How do you get organized?

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6 comments

  1. What would you do if you only had round tables? I only have round tables and it is a pain to organize the kids stuff. I do have individual book boxes. Other than that I don't know what to do. Can you help? Thanks!

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    1. Hi! I teach 1st grade and have used tables almost exclusively my whole career. I use chair pockets where they keep their folders and workbooks. You can buy them(expensive) or make your own (~$30 for a class). Each child has a pencil box with their own supplies that is kept on the table. I don't have enough space for the drawers so this has worked great for me. Hope that gave you some ideas. :)

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    2. Sorry this is so late! You could use the chair pockets as Kim suggested. I have never used them, but know others love them. you could always use the drawers, and just place them around the room so that students would have to walk away from the tables to get them. Honestly though, I like the chair pocket idea for round tables.... I bet it would be just as expensive as the drawers.

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  2. I am dreading my move from desks to tables this year (new school)-thanks for posting some ideas!
    Stephanie
    Applelight Moments By Stephanie

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  3. I am changing from desks to tables this year. (New furniture!! Our principal is so flexible.) Because I have a combined Gr. 1/2 class and do a lot of developmental groupings and Daily 5, I am not assigning seats. The seating will be fluid throughout the day depending on what we are doing at the time (and I will have more seating than students). I am planning on having their personal items in their pencil box and book bins on the shelves, and all of the workbooks, folders, etc. in baskets on the shelves as well. I considered the chair pockets, but we need to stack the chairs at the end of every day, and didn't think it would work. With only 14 students, I'm hoping that will work for us. Do you see any glaring holes in my plan?

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