I am very lucky because when we moved to our new site in 2007 each teacher was given the opportunity to choose the furniture they would like to have in their new classroom. I chose trestle tables (which came with a bonus trolley) and stools. I have always loved the flexibility of trestle tables as they fold flat when not being used and are so portable either in the classroom or when transported around the school. 6 students can sit at them comfortably and when pushed up with one end against the wall, it creates an illusion of an open & spacious room. I chose stools rather than chairs because they are more practical for the range of student sizes and ages (5 to 13 years) I teach each day. My very first classroom at the old site contained a mish mash of tables and chairs of all heights and varieties which in itself spoke volumes about the value of the Indonesian Language program! I was very relieved to be able to leave that cruddy furniture behind! Yet, the very first thing I did when I initially made the decision to attempt TPRS methodology, was to fold up my tables and stack them at the back of the room!! For that lesson I put the stools in a circle which in retrospect was valuable because as soon as students walked into my room, they knew something critical had shifted and it wasn’t just the tables and stools! Students loved too, the privilege of sitting on stools while listening to me; previously they’d sat on the floor and then moved to the tables to complete set tasks. However I soon found that the stools did not work. For all students, the stools weren’t particularly stable, so after a while, I stacked them too at the back of the room and expected students to sit on the floor once again, except for students doing jobs; they could sit on chairs at the back of the room in kelas satu (first class). My room stayed like this for a whole term and then during the last holiday break, I read about the value of brainbreaks to help students cope with sitting still for large blocks of time. I remembered too sitting in conferences for hours on end and being uncomfortable and imagined that sitting on the floor would be even more uncomfortable. I then also began to realise that it was difficult to dictate student seating when they are sitting freely on the floor. So during that holiday break, I carted all my stools up to the shed and swapped them for upper primary chairs. I firstly set out the chairs in 2 rows in a semi circle facing the white board (kelas dua) and a narrow aisle running up the middle, with kelas satu still along the back wall. The area in front of kelas dua has become ekonomi! I chose the word ekonomi because it is a cognate. Later I want to investigate the frequency of the word ‘lantai’ (floor) to determine the usefulness of it in the classroom. Then last weekend I watched a Ben Slavic youtube video and loved the way that the classroom was set up. So I gave it a go last week! While I think the above works well when students need to focus on the white board or smart board, the setup below would be great for story asking. I asked the students at the end of their lesson for their opinions on the new seating arrangement and overall it got a big thumbs up. I think they too, like me, enjoy a change now and then! Students also commented that if my room is going to be set up like an airplane, then kelas satu should be at the front of the room. I really like that suggestion and will incorporate it when I next use the first chair formation. It makes sense that kelas satu have the prime position!! It will also make it considerably easier for the students to do their jobs.
If you are interested in reading more about this, then I highly recommend Grant Boulanger’s post on his deskless classroom experience.