Take a second and think back to your years as a student.
Whether you’re thinking of nursery or university, socialization was a huge part of your learning journey. You learned from your peers’ diverse perspectives, teaching you different problem-solving methods or how to take a step back from your own ideas to see the big picture.
Collaborative learning is essential for building skills. As much as everyone may have disliked the hassle of group projects, they teach how to rely on people and how to be reliable ourselves. There’s a different sense of responsibility when other people depend on you for their grades. Not only that, the diverse perspectives of your teammates presented new ideas and encouraged your own.
So how can you build a cooperative learning environment in your classroom? There are plenty of elements that make a space collaborative, but the most essential is the desks. Do you prefer big tables or smaller desks you can separate for independent work? Do you encourage creativity with dry-erase surfaces or keep it neat with a laminate finish?
We’ve broken down the pros and cons of each to help you decide!
Desks are classic, practically a staple for any classroom. They provide individual learning spaces but are also easy to move, so you can shuffle them into groups. You can arrange them into lines, squares, rectangles, practically any shape, making them incredibly versatile. Plus, most of them have some sort of storage, keeping classroom supplies neat for each student.
But desks are traditionally boring. Nothing screams the monotony of stuffy education better than an industrial desk. They also aren’t very flexible, with heavy frames that don’t adjust the height. Even worse is when the seats are attached, leaving no wiggle room for fidgety students.
Our Recommendation: The Stand2Learn Desk
This desk modernizes the original school desk with a sleek standing model. Standing desks have proven to increase spinal health and posture and are perfect for energetic students who need to bounce around a bit. The adjustable legs make it easy to find the right height, plus it has a convenient hook for school bags to keep the floor tidy. The dry-erase finish is great for collaborative learning. It's available as a single or double desk, giving you the best of both worlds.
We naturally have a positive association with tables: they’re a place for gathering together and socializing, which makes them ideal for collaborative learning.
You can group students together based on skill level or personality; if a student is struggling with a concept, they can turn to the student next to them for help, encouraging peer support. There’s much more flexibility to your design because there are so many tables varieties and you can choose the type of seating. You don’t have to worry about gaps, like with desks, and you’ll need fewer tables, making it a more economical choice. Plus, most table legs adjust, so you can choose the perfect height.
There is less versatility with tables because of their size. You can’t separate students individually without monopolizing an entire table and they can be heavy to move around. Depending on your space and the shape of the table, you can be limited to where to position the table in the room. They also don’t have storage options, which means you’ll need alternative storage for student supplies.
Our Recommendation: Berries Adjustable Tables
Choosing the right table really depends on your space and needs, which is why the Berries Adjustable Tables are a perfect choice. Choose a Maple or Blue/Grey finish in Round, Trapezoid, Four Leaf, Octagon or Rectangle in different sizes to fit your needs. All the tables feature antirust glides that reduce noise and prevent snags. The legs adjust in 2.5cm (1”) increments with a secure locking system to prevent any buckling. Plus, they’re Greenguard Gold Certified with a 5-year warranty!
Dry-Erase vs Laminate Finish
Once you’ve chosen between desks or tables, there’s the option for dry-erase surfaces. These are fantastic for collaborative learning because they spark creativity. It’s super inclusive and kids can hash out their ideas right on the table surface. You will have to make clear parameters about which surfaces they can draw on and with which writing tools, to prevent kids from using non-erasable markers or drawing on a regular table. While you can’t draw on a normal table or desk surfaces (or you shouldn’t at least), they are neater. Dry-erase can leave a bit of a residue and be difficult to clean, and, depending on which markers you use, transfer onto other supplies and clothing.
Our Recommendation: Marker Board Tables
The high-quality dry-erase surface comes with a 10-year warranty, making it a reliable choice. They're available as Rectangles, Squares or Round in different sizes, making them a versatile choice for your classroom. The legs adjust to fit your needs and the simple design will match any room's aesthetic.
Here’s the thing: there is no wrong answer!
You could choose any of these options and build an amazing collaborative space for you and your kids. It all depends on what you need and what will suit your room. No matter what you choose, you’re encouraging creativity and teamwork in your kids, which is never a bad thing.