11 Desk Arrangements for your Best Classroom Yet

I’ve done a lot of experimenting with desk arrangements over the years.  I’ve definitely found my favorite.  Keep reading, I’ll tell you about it.  I’ve also discovered that it’s smart to pick a few arrangements that you like and teach your students how to quickly move between the positions when the activity requires it.  I like to have a whole group lesson position, a group work position, and a testing position.


11 Desk Arrangements for your Best Classroom YetThe Double Horseshoe

Pros – All students are facing toward the front

Cons – It’s hard to get to the students in the back row


11 Desk Arrangements for your Best Classroom Yet

Three Columns

Pros – Saves space in your classroom, sharing materials is easy

Cons – Some students have to turn to face the front

11 Desk Arrangements for Your Best Classroom YetSmall Groups

Pros – Saves space in your classroom, sharing materials is easy

Cons – Some students have their backs to the front

11 Desk Arrangements for your Best Classroom Yet

The Modified Horseshoe

Pros – Everyone faces toward the front, a little easier to get to all the kids than with the traditional horseshoe

Cons – Takes up a lot of space, hard to share materials

11 Desk Arrangements for your Best Classroom Yet

The Butterfly

Pros – Everyone faces toward the front, it’s easy to get near all students

Cons – Takes up a lot of space, hard to share materials

11 Desk Arrangements for your Best Classroom Yet

The Hybrid (My favorite!)

Pros – Everyone faces toward the front, easy to get to all students

Cons – Hmm, I got nothin’.  This arrangement is pretty good.

11 Desk Arrangements for your Best Classroom Yet


Pros – Easy to separate students that don’t work well together, everyone faces the front

Cons – Takes up a lot of space

11 Desk Arrangements for your Best Classroom Yet

One by One

Pros – Discourages talking, everyone faces the front, great for testing

Cons – Takes up a lot of space, not good for group work

11 Desk Arrangements for your Best Classroom Yet


Pros – Everyone faces the front

Cons – Takes up a lot of space

11 Desk Arrangements for your Best Classroom Yet


Pros – Great for discussions and sharing

Cons – Some students do not face the front, difficult to get to all students

11 Desk Arrangements for your Best Classroom Yet

Around the Edges

Pros – Leaves space in the middle for activities, easy to share materials

Cons – Some students do not face the front

Which arrangement works the best in your classroom?  Which arrangements am I missing?

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Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun is a former teacher with 8 years of experience in the classroom and a master's degree in early childhood education. She designs engaging, organized classroom resources for 1st-3rd grade teachers.


  1. Hi Hannah! Thanks for sharing all the great classroom arrangements! My favorite has always been a modified horseshoe arrangement similar to yours.

  2. Hi Hannah, thanks for sharing. The hybrid n butterfly are the favourites in my classroom. Looking forward for more. …. Geetha Mahalingam

  3. Hello Hannah, I¨ve never imagine there were all the classroom arrangements you have share,. thankyou, I alway use the horseshoe, the One by One and circle. thanks from Durango, Mexico

  4. I use a miniature version of the horseshoe. I actually have 6 horseshoes with a 3 drawer rolling cart in the middle for each classes supplies in their drawer. Love it! Everything they need is right there when they need it.

  5. This year I had me 3rd graders choose whether they wanted to be in a row or a group. Surprisingly, it was about half and half! So the hybrid worked really well for me.

    They also had to explain why they made their choice. Most kids gave great reasons….I focus better in a row, I like/don’t like working with others, facing the front helps me pay attention. Will definitely be doing this again in the future!

  6. I use tables. Four students per table in two columns. So basically two long tables made from three tables each and one middle aisle. It’s so easy to walk up the center aisle and see everyone’s work. Frees up so much space on the room and I can teach and walk and observe very quickly and easily. For additional students I put a fifth student on the end of a table.

    • That sounds like a great design! One year I had tables that held 6 kids each(4 tables in all) and my only issue was that it was hard to separate kids that were a bad combination.

  7. I do love all of the arrangements! Can’t wait to try them. I was, though, a bit confused. Is there any way you could could the students’ chairs and the front of the classroom?

  8. Love these! My go to set up is a double v, but it does take up a lot of space. I have a smart board at the back of the room and white board at the front. I use both so ended up with rows facing the center. This way they can look left or right depending on where I was teaching from. Not ideal, but made it work.

  9. Last year after some experimentation we used a hybrid of clusters and individual seats. In the small group clusters two pairs faced each other with a fifth person at the back of each group facing front. Voila, nobody had to face backwards. Two milk crates zip tied together went to the front of the cluster between the first two desks to store the group’s materials. Then a few students that did not do well in a cluster had individual seats facing the center along one side of the room.

  10. My favorite is a modified Around the Edges. I have the two side groups split up into smaller groups of 4-6 with a small (about another desk width) space between the groups. Then I turn the back group so all three main chunks of desks are parallel. This way every one is able to face the front and I have 5 groups of 4-6 with plenty of floor space! This year, I have the same arrangement, but I am utilizing flexible seating. The two groups on the left have their desks lowered to the floor with cushions, the back group are on risers in order to convert them into standing desks, and the groups on the right have yoga balls! I also have couches, bean bag chairs, and a pub table around the room as other options. School starts Wednesday, so we’ll see how it goes!

  11. Wondering how I can get the hybrid to work in a high school class. Do not want the students too close to each other.

    • Hi Tameka,
      That is tricky, especially if you have the desks where the table top is connected to the arm of the desk. I have always trained my students in how to get into “testing position” which is all desks separated. That way you can use other configurations but still have an option for when you don’t want them too close together.

  12. I will be having 33 kids this year. Yikes! I noticed most of these arrangements are for 26-28 students. Any suggestions for a bigger group?

    • Hi there,
      33, sheesh! Hang in there. When I have had more students I just made the rows or table groups longer. The more that you can do groups of desks rather than individual desks, the more space you’ll save. It might work to do the three long table groups with that many students. Have a great year!


  13. Thank you for all of these amazing ideas! I actually created a PowerPoint (citing this blogpost of course) with all of the information to share at a PLC meeting. As a third-year teacher I am still looking for that golden arrangement that works all the time–but there simply isn’t one. I find myself using a few of these throughout the year. Thank you Hannah for sharing. If you want the PowerPoint just let me know!

    • Hi Laura,
      You’re welcome! It’s interesting how different groups of students, different times of the year, and different activities call for a change in desk arrangement. I definitely have my favorites but it is kind of an ongoing experiment. Best of luck to you this school year!


  14. I typically prefer small groups, but after 8 days of school, it is clear that this arrangement is not going to work for my new 3rd graders. My whiteboard/doc camera is not centered (on the right side of one of my walls), so that poses a challenge. Even after teaching for 20 years, I needed some ideas and inspiration. I definitely found it here!! Thank you for so many suggestions.

    • Hi Lisa,
      I’m glad you found some ideas. It’s so crazy how something that has worked before can be the wrong answer for a new group of kids. That’s one of the many challenges of teaching, as you know 🙂
      Best of luck to you this year!


  15. I have done the horseshoe but instead of connecting the two sides I leave a space between the sides and can easily move between the back and front.

  16. Hannah,
    Great desk arrangements! I have tables and love students sitting with one another for group work.
    I think I found the hybrid’s con: Everyone is in groups except for the students in the back row. That seems unfair. How would you choose those kids? Students who need to be by themselves wouldn’t even be in this setup, right? They would probably be parked close to the teacher or in a corner, depending on their needs.
    I have seven tables this year so I really had to think how to have everyone in groups. It is working for now, but it takes up a lot of space.

    • Hey Cecelia!
      When I used the hybrid I had the rows in the front rather than the back. The students I placed there were the ones that did better with fewer distractions or ones that I wanted to check in with more frequently. The one or two kids that needed to be by themselves were typically in ones of those rows for the lesson and then I’d have them push their desk all the way to the front wall or to the side for independent work. When I wanted to do group work I had those two small rows push their desks together in a cluster or just have kids move their chairs so they were looking at eachother across the desks.

      Nice to hear from you. I hope you’re having a great year!


  17. It’s so hard to do ANYTHING with 30 desks (and 34 students in one hour)! I’m always tripping over someone or something! I currently have 6 small group tables of 5. Angling the tables has helped… I just feel so closed in all the time! I’ll have to try something new!

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