Desks vs. Tables

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by kellzy, May 2, 2017.

  1. kellzy

    kellzy Comrade

    Aug 22, 2013
    Likes Received:

    May 2, 2017

    I've always had desks, but with everything I'm learning in my graduate courses, I think tables might be more conducive to the learning environment I want to set up next year, as well as giving me more space. My principal is a bit of a, "Your wish is my command" type, so if I want them, he'll dig them up for me. So my question to you:
    Do you prefer desks or tables? And more importantly, why?
  3. miss-m

    miss-m Groupie

    Oct 25, 2014
    Likes Received:

    May 2, 2017

    I had both this year so I'll give you pros and cons of each.
    Desk Pros:
    - Students have everything they need right in front of them
    - Easy to rearrange students if a group/area gets too chatty
    - You can make SO MANY DIFFERENT GROUPS of desks! It's awesome.
    - Easy to separate for testing situations
    Desk Cons:
    - Messy. Desks. Are. The. Worst.
    - They move around whether you want them to or not.
    - If they're not all the same height, you get pinched fingers.
    - They do take up a considerable amount of space (though this can be minimized with the right arrangement)

    Table Pros:
    - No messy desks
    - Instant groups for projects or partners
    - Depending on the type of table, they may take up less space than desks.
    - They don't move as much from students leaning on them.

    Table Cons:
    - There may be a lot more time spent transitioning, depending on where student supplies are kept.
    - No way to separate students easily
    - If kids are facing each other, they WILL talk. It doesn't matter who's at their table; they could hate the other people at their table and STILL TALK just because they're there.
    - Not as many options for grouping and arrangements.
    - It's harder (in my opinion) to move kids around like you can with desks.

    I'm still undecided on which I prefer; but I also have 26 students and they're incredibly talkative, so even when I had them almost completely separated in desks they found ways to talk to each other across the room. Having tables has majorly cut down on cases of, "I can't find _______!" because they HAVE to put things away in folders before it all goes in their cubbies.
    I really think a combination of desks and tables would be better. Tables are great if you do a lot of group work; but it also depends on the kid. I have a few kids who end up doing all their work on the floor under the table (which is fine until they lay down and fall asleep). I also have kids who CANNOT stay in their own space on the table and would do much better with a desk.
  4. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

    Feb 7, 2011
    Likes Received:

    May 2, 2017

    I've had desks and tables, too. I have tables right now. I can't decide which I prefer. I agree with everything miss-m said, but I'd like to add another table con - storing the stuff that would normally be in their desks takes a lot of space. I have 32 kids and no cubbies (no way would there be room for that many cubbies in my room, anyway!). I'm using book boxes this year which works ok, but they take tons of room on my shelves and they are always so messy. At least when desks are messy it's not as obvious because they're not out in plain view! I also have another shelf where their math textbooks are stored. I just find it tough to store everything, and my kids only have one textbook. It would be even worse if they had more.
    Obadiah likes this.
  5. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

    Jul 27, 2015
    Likes Received:

    May 3, 2017

    Oh, boy! Will this be a fun post to reply to!

    Because the desks at the Christian school were the old fashioned large, bulky, with chairs attached kind, group work was only possible on the floor, and much floor space was taken up by the desks. I got permission to try tables. Well, the only tables and chairs available were adult size. I tried various arrangements, and found a lengthwise arrangement worked best, small width facing the front of the room. When new desks became available, however, I reverted back to them. These were easier to manipulate into groups as needed--I set them up "traditionally", all facing the front of the room, then the students moved them as needed into groups, but even then I still sometimes used the floor.

    When I was student teaching, this was my first exposure to desks facing in various directions. I noticed that the students who needed to turn to see the front of the room (in that class this was where most of the direct teaching occurred) these were the students who were slower at achieving the objectives. In my classroom, I've found it best to have all chairs facing the area of direct instruction when possible. My direct instruction could be from any side of the room, and I'd have the students turn their chairs as needed; sometimes I had them sit on the opposite end of their desk to face the back of the room if writing space was required. For group work, students moved their desks together. When not in group work, I've found desks not touching allow for sufficient personal space among students and prevents finger pinching from desks; I always remind students to be cautious of their fingers when moving desks and with elementary they tend to be very cautious after such a warning.

    My main problem with desks would be the pencil boxes. Now, when I was a kid, they were cigar box size and some kids even used cigar boxes. They were made of thick cardboard and had quiet lids, but they held everything. Today's boxes==YIPES!==they take up much of the desk and leave little room for anything else! Messy desks are always a problem. I've (very lately) come to a solution of giving time to clean desks each morning and allow students, in a fun way, to get housecleaning "advice" from their classmates in this endeavor. It also helps to allow the students to assist the teacher in keeping things tidy, and I'll eye them from time to time straightening up papers in my tray or making sure books are nice and neat in shelves. In other words, "neat and tidy" becomes the classroom objective. A good theme song to use, to the tune of Are You Sleeping is
    Neat and tidy, neat and tidy,
    That's the way, that's the way
    We will keep our classroom, we will keep our classroom
    Everyday, everyday.

    Tables: If I would go back to tables, and had all my choices, I would choose ones with adjustable height, lightweight, with lightweight chairs that smoothly glide across carpet. Tables in which students can easily reach to near the center, at least when standing, provide opportunity for each student to kinesthetically demonstrate or rehearse ideas with the group. An indentation for the teacher to sit in might also be ideal depending on the arrangement of the students around the table, student arrangement being the higher priority. For direct instruction with a group, I'm of two opinions. A tear shaped table with a teacher indentation provides closer access to student work, but the old fashioned rectangular table with the teacher at the far end provides the best opportunity for the students to see what the teacher might be displaying in a chart or laptop (with the screen rotated).

    Then again, in elementary, the floor is sometimes still the best area. I've found a superb use of study carrels; with students on the floor, the walls of the carrel can be used as a Velcro type display for activities where students apply Velcroed cards to the wall.
  6. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

    Aug 25, 2011
    Likes Received:

    May 3, 2017

    I have always had tables, so I've never experienced the joy of desks from a teaching perspective. I've seen them used in other classrooms before though and the type that my schools have used, I have not been a fan of. They're the rather cheap (quality, not price) slate-ish type ones with a bar running down one side of the chair. I hated these when I was a student because:
    1. You could only get out one side of it.
    2. If you had to make a group, you'd have to put yourself over the bar which was annoying.
    3. You couldn't push your chair back or forward to adjust your distance from the desk, so I was usually sitting on the edge of the seat which meant my back had no support.
    4. The desk area always seemed to small for everything, and stuff would constantly fall off my desk when trying to get my materials out.
    5. I've probably gotten caught and tripped on all of the bars and metal on those desks more than once in my life.

    My classroom this year only had those desks. I teach science and I need to do labs. That means large clear flat surfaces are necessary. I could put desks together, but all of the other issues would arise that I mentioned, and they were all at different heights and many of them had sloping surfaces which glassware and items would roll off of easily. My admin didn't have any options for me and no money, and I was on my own to provide for myself, so I went to the district warehouse and found a bunch of actually nice looking tables. The only problem is that they were at all different heights from about 1 foot to 3 feet off the ground. Way too short for HSers, and many of the legs were stuck at different heights.

    So I spent probably the better part of a week purchasing PVC pipe and engineering a stable solution that would make all of my desks the exact same height, and tall enough for students to fit under, while not losing any integrity of the table structure. It was a lot of cutting, (my hands got bruised from all the cutting of pipe) measuring, and pain dealing with the stripped screws in the tables, but I was happy with the results.

    Then they didn't have chairs to give me, so I stole them from the lunch room.

    That's how much I hate the individual desks.
  7. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

    Jun 18, 2016
    Likes Received:

    May 3, 2017

    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
  8. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

    Oct 21, 2007
    Likes Received:

    May 3, 2017

    For kindergarten, I like tables. For anything above kinder, I prefer desks.
  9. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

    Aug 8, 2005
    Likes Received:

    May 3, 2017

    I am the only teacher in my school with tables (yay!). I have them because that is what was in the room when I moved into it. I love them almost all of the time, although it is a bit more of a struggle this year because my large class dictates that I need to have 4 students at most tables (3 would be ideal). I am able to vary the arrangement quite a bit. The students have lockers down the hall and each has a magazine file to hold their notebooks, etc. I use textbooks only as a resource, so these are stored on shelves and pulled out only when they are needed. My students almost always work collaboratively, and having tables makes it easy for them to work with a variety of people easily. If I ever have to move classrooms, I'll have to fight with the teacher moving in about taking the tables with me.
  10. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

    Apr 23, 2010
    Likes Received:

    May 3, 2017

    I'm a desk person. Tables are so limiting. I have to deal with tables this year. One kid got a desk because the closeness of table groups were too much for him.
  11. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

    Aug 4, 2009
    Likes Received:

    May 4, 2017

    Tables because LEVELED SURFACES. However, I guess it truly depends on the amount of space in the room.
  12. Mrs Teacher

    Mrs Teacher Rookie

    Jan 29, 2012
    Likes Received:

    May 5, 2017

    I'd vote desks because you can arrange them to mimic tables. With tables you are stuck with limited options.

    The trick is to buy some really durable zip-ties from a place like Home Depot or Lowes and tie them together. You can't use just one though, even if they're durable. Use like 2 or 3 per leg you're connecting and they'll hold really well. Then when you change your mind, just cut them! The only downside is if the little groove between desks bothers the kids too much or interferes.... or if the design of the desks prevent the ability to line them up.

    Another option is to not zip tie them if you plan to move them frequently. I often had kids rearrange desks depending on the situation (into groups for a science exploration, back to normal for a whole group lesson, scattered into pre-determined spots for testing, etc.) so I stopped doing the zip ties because we'd slide desks around pretty frequently. This was for 5th grade and they were very capable.

    Also, desks allow for storage and who doesn't need storage? Messy desks are a challenge, but kids need to be taught how to keep their desks clean. Worse case scenario, you barely put anything in the desks as if it were just a table.

Share This Page

Members Online Now

Total: 237 (members: 1, guests: 221, robots: 15)