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How ‘row’ can you go?

October 10th| Nathan Pow

How ‘row’ can you go?

I would like to start my first blog introducing myself. My name is Nathan and I am a teacher in Carlisle. I teach year 2 in an infant school and have done so for the past 3 years. Prior to teaching year 2 I have also taught year 1 and year 3.

On Wednesday 2nd September 2020 I welcomed 30 year 2 children into my classroom. As the children walked past me I had to dig deep in my mind to remember their names. No transition and no ‘meet the teacher’ didn’t allow me to get to know my new class before September. I bet most reading this will have had the same experience!

As my new 30 hand-sanitised children walked into school, they were met with a classroom like they had never observed before. Instead of the table grouping and vast amount of continuous provision areas usually provided in my classroom, they were met with 8 rows of tables. I could tell in the some of the children’s faces that “this was not the classroom I was expecting!”– My school required all children to be sitting in rows, facing the front due to the continuous risk of the virus spreading.

Before Lockdown

Before lockdown I was very pleased and proud of my classroom. It was an evolving space. My school loves continuous provision and provides a high emphasis on the opportunities it provides children. I left my appraisal in September 2019 with one of my targets being- ‘to develop continuous provision for a year 2 classroom- taking into consideration the views and interests of the children’ (This wasn’t the exact wording of my target, but who can really remember the wording of their targets anyway?!)

A couple of years ago I decided to remove my ‘carpet area’ in my classroom. There were two contributing factors to the decision; a few children were unable to sit on the carpet for medical reasons, we adopted maths mastery into the school and I wanted to have children using their tables and equipment straight away at the beginning of the lesson. This led me to remove my carpet area and I have not looked back since! (There were some staff and parents that initially didn’t agree with getting rid of my carpet area, but I soon won them over with my reasoning!)

Anyway back to the point of this blog post- As you can tell I’m a bit of a talker!!

After Lockdown

The children stepped into the classroom and began finding their names on their newly arranged classroom and taking their seats I stopped and looked at my classroom- I hated it! I felt like my nurturing, happy space had been transformed into an exam hall.

As I began taking the register small glimmers of hope of the rows began to show- I could instantly see if all children were present, all eyes were forced to the front, children were not able to distract each other. Could this be better than I first imagined?

Am I a row convert?

The first week the rows started to become more appealing. I was able to move around the classroom and see each child’s work very easily. I would walk the same route around the classroom again and again- my Apple Watch love the number of steps tracked! No child got missed and each child got verbal feedback on their work. I was starting to like these rows in class. Am I going to be converted?

As the weeks passed the rows became easier to teach from– I missed the group work element, as children could only easily work with their ‘talk partner’. Providing interventions and teacher/ teaching assistant lead activities became almost impossible- as children couldn’t be around a table and leading a group was much harder. I did (and do) however love that I can see all children listening much easier than if they were around a group.

During lessons when children were independently working, I would take half the class to provide verbal feedback and instant marking with, whilst my teaching assistant would take the other. We would swap daily, ensuring that we both were able to work with all children throughout the week.

I am still required to continue having my class in rows, but I am developing my teaching, resources and work to allow for the rows to be used as best as possible.

Will I continue rows when I am no longer required to?

Pros
– Children are all facing the front.
– There feels more space in the classroom.
– It is easier to see if all children are in, or if a child is in the toilets.
– It allows for easier reading of work.

Cons
-Group work is difficult to do.
– My classroom doesn’t feel as welcoming as I would like.
– The rows don’t allow for as much interaction between pupils as I ‘normally’ would have
– Interventions and small group discussions can’t happen.

After the considerations, I don’t feel like in my year 2 classroom rows are what the children need. So when I am allowed I will be moving my tables back straight away. Until then I will continue to use the rows as best as possible.

Do you have any great ways rows can be used? Do you think rows are more suited to KS1 or KS2?

View all posts by: Nathan Pow
Categories: Classroom Environment

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