I do a lot of group work in my classroom so instead of desks we have a variety of large tables, four of them to be exact. There are lots of ways we arrange them depending on what we are going to do in the class.
However, when it is time to take a test, especially a factual one, it gets a little tricky because at large tables it is easy to be tempted to look at someone else’s paper. I give the students file folders that they can open up and use as a kind of temporary study carrel. It’s pretty effective.
Yesterday we took our World War I test and as the first students finished their tests, they began to gather the unneeded folders and spontaneously began to build a tower to the ceiling. While a few students were still finishing their tests, another group went to the back of the room to play “Ninja.” I urged them all to build the tower and to “ninja” as silently as was humanly possible so the others could focus on their tests.
And then I stood in the corner of the room looking over this amazing classroom landscape — silent and graceful tai chi ninja moves here, tower of no babel there, and a few scattered but concentrating test-takers. This wordless three-ring circus. This fluid and engaged adolescent choreography. An inspiring sight to behold.