To Group or Not to Group?

Now that we are done with our five days in the computer lab, it’s back to the classroom.  Some students noticed that the desks, which had been arranged in groups the first week of school, had been placed in rows for Back-to-School Night to accommodate all the parents who rotating in and out of the small space for their eight-minute class periods. 

We quickly moved the desks back into groups for our purposes, but I have to say, there’s a real place in my heart for rows.  I wrote a poem about school seating when I was monitoring Saturday School a few years ago.  You can read it here, and then I’d love to hear what you have to say about the subject of desks and seating charts at school.  What works for you, students?  Adult visitors, what are your memories of your preferred seating options at school?  Any particularly good or bad experiences associated with where you had to sit in a class?  Comments welcome!

Poem for My Eighth Grade Self

I like a sturdy desk,
One that doesn’t rock.
I want to be able to move in it, use it, solid and sure.

And I want it to be in a row.

Not at the front, where I might be seen.
Not at the back, where I might also be seen.

Put me in the middle, just left or right of center,


Desks in rows anchor me–
Keep me in a defined place–
Approachable, yet not.

My desk is my space,
Perfect for doing my perfect schoolwork,
Then perfect for reading after my
Perfect math quiz or my perfect history test,

An island for my personal thoughts and daydreams.

Is that why I hated science?

Maybe it wasn’t the safety goggles and the frog guts–
Maybe it was the tables,
The sharing of space with other kids.

Yes, science had tables that facilitated

All things I did not want.

Spanish had desks in rows, but it also had
role plays and fake names…


Give me my math desk instead,
With two pages of silent, independent work–

A math desk to offer

A math desk where I could sit
With homework complete, ten minutes left til the bell, and then

a leaning back
a slouching down
a private escape
into Anne of Green Gables

This entry was posted in Poetry, Teacher Notes and tagged by Mrs. Kriese. Bookmark the permalink.

About Mrs. Kriese

I am a seventh grade teacher in Austin, Texas, and a teacher consultant with the Central Texas Writing Project, an affiliate of the National Writing Project. I enjoy writing alongside my students, participating with them in the work we are doing as a community of readers and writers.

6 thoughts on “To Group or Not to Group?

  1. I think that both desks and grouped tables are a good idea. Although they are both great, I think being in a table group is better. I like sharing ideas with my table group! Also, I think that switching seats often is great as well.

  2. I like groups. When I was younger, all the classes had groups or tables for us to sit in. But whenever we had the TAKS or STAAR tests, the teachers would always rearrange the desks into rows for the day, so you couldn’t talk to anyone, or cheat. Now, whenever I see rows, I think of taking the standardized tests. I like groups because I get to say what I’m thinking, like if the teacher tells us to share our answer with our group. Also, I don’t feel like I’m on an island, all by myself, because I don’t like being alone.

  3. I like rows of desks, they make me feel older, more sophisticated. We have always been in groups in elementary school. Rows are great, everybody is facing the front so you can’t sneak as easily whereas in groups, nobody else except the one next to you can see practically. Rows help me concentrate, they seem more fun for some reason too. Groups make me feel like a baby and the person across from you usually stares at you, and that’s creepy. Rows feel professional. You can hardly cheat without getting caught too. I don’t like people to cheat off me. Its just bad and mean, because in rows you must lean across the aisle to cheat and the teacher would see.

  4. I think we should have groups in the classroom. I like to work as partners and I feel more like a classroom when we have groups of desks together.

  5. Personally, I like groups better than rows. I feel closer to my fellow classmates and. I also think that groups are better because if we sit in groups, then we can discuss better. Plus, though I am not one of these students, if a student is having trouble on a lesson or has a question, she or he can ask easily with not much chaos or sound. Group discussions in this class is going to be very often as it was last year, I can tell. If we sit in groups, these discussions can go on without interruptions and the teacher does not have to spend time separating students into groups for discussion. However, last year we had group discussions every Friday. My teacher simply moved the desks into a circle so every student can be seen engaged in conversation and discussion and we can communicate thoughts easier. If any teacher has time to do this, he or she can!

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