A note on desk arrangement

A note on desk arrangement

A note on desk arrangement

One big advantage of teaching public speaking classes is that the enrollment is often left smaller than other introductory classes in order to allow time for all of the speeches. If the facilities allow it, this allows for rearranging the desks out of the standard rows and into a horseshoe or U-shaped arrangement. Over the years I’ve noted several advantages to doing this:

  • It puts the focus clearly on the speaker.
  • It allows students to see faces rather than only the back of another student’s head. Students have told me this helps them with speech anxiety because they are not seeing faces for the first time when they stand to speak.
  • It puts each student within a few feet of access to the professor, which helps in reaching students with questions, etc. Students have also told me this makes doing homework or texting less tempting because they know others will see them.
  • It makes it easy to put together small groups quickly for in-class group activities.
  • Students have told me they make more friends in classes with this arrangement — it’s harder to be anonymous.

It is not always possible to make this arrangement because of fixed chairs or desks to large to move, but whenever possible it is worth a try. For years, I have asked students at the end of the semester how they think it affected the class and their responses were consistently positive.

If you are going to need the students to help move the desks because you do not have time to set up or tear down by yourself, I suggest starting on the very first day by giving the students instructions on how to do it and then helping them do it early in the class on the first day. Students were generally able to do this quickly and without instructions by the second week of class.

Graphic is courtesy of learningandteaching.info. Clicking on the graphic will take you to their page about desk arrangements.


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About teachingpublicspeaking

I believe public speaking can go from most dreaded class to favorite class. I'm a former public speaking college instructor who spent years seeking out activities, assignments and examples to make the class interactive as well as educational -- they are collected here. I welcome suggestions for additions.

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