Sunday, January 19, 2014

Reading Tables: Horseshoe or Kidney?

Perhaps, you might remember a while back my excitement about getting a new guided reading table.  I wrote about it here and here.  I was delighted to get my new guided reading table.  It was bight yellow and kidney shaped.  It was close to perfect!  The only thing I wasn't loving was the color.  I started out loving the bright yellow, but as it turns out it shows every little pencil mark, finger print, and even ink from paper. But all in all, I did love it.


Then, I taught summer school.

While teaching summer school, I had the opportunity to work at a horseshoe table.  It seems my love for the kidney table was sorely misplaced!  As it turns out, my true love is the horseshoe table! So much so, that I set out on a quest to get myself one.

Okay, obviously I'm being a little silly about it all with you, but I really did decide that the horseshoe table was a much better option for me. I approached my admin about getting a new table totally expecting to be told to forget it.  After all, it wasn't that long ago that I received the yellow, kidney table.  Instead, I was told if I could find another teacher in need of a guided reading table, I could order the horseshoe and pass on my kidney table when it came.  I was all over that offer! Thankfully, I found a teacher in need, and we were able to swap.  Here's my new table.

Notice it isn't yellow!  I learned that lesson.  Instead, I chose a bright blue that would hide marks.  
So, why the switch?  It wasn't for the color, but for the shape.  I found the horseshoe to be much more conducive to my guided reading groups than the kidney shape.  Here's a picture of the two tables from above.

Using both, here's what I found, the good and the bad of each:
  • The kidney table is very wide at the center.  I found that the child sitting across from me was just too far away.  Now, I should mention that I'm short and that just made the span seem even larger.  I often had difficulty seeing what the child was writing without actually standing up and looming over.  In the horseshoe, every child was close to me.  I could unobtrusively monitor and/or assess all the students' work with no problem. 
  • The width of the kidney table definitely makes it better for demonstrating something or showing a book.  There is room to lay it out in front of the teacher while still giving the students room for their materials.  With the horseshoe, I find that I hold demo things up if I want everyone to see them.  There is enough room to have a book or papers in front of you, it's not that small.  But, it definitely doesn't give the teacher as much room as the kidney table does.  
  • In line with the last bullet point, I do still have plenty of room for materials at the horseshoe table.  Generally, I can fit more kids at the horseshoe than the kidney table.  I usually meet with five friends at the table.  At the kidney, that was the whole table.  With the horseshoe, we still have room.  In fact, the last seat to my right is never used.  That allows me to organize materials I need on that portion of the table. I used to have my table in an area where I had shelves behind me for materials, but when I had to reorganize my room in November for the new reading program, my guided reading table is now sort of free floating.  So, having that extra space at the end of the table works for me.
  • If I have student working on completely different things, it works better at the horseshoe.  I can have a student complete missed work or finish an assignment in the seat over to my far left while I work with three other friends on the other side of the table.  At the kidney table, there wasn't enough space for that kind of separation.
  • A minor con of the horseshoe is that the U shape where the teacher sits is deep and can put you in the way.  If I am working with a full table of students and want them to have a real conversation about something we are working on, I have to be sure to pull my chair back so that the child seated at the ends can see each other.
There are actually so many different shaped tables you can choose from.

A lot depends on the age of the children.  I know our lower elementary teachers generally have horseshoe tables and some flower tables, while our upper elementary teachers generally use kidney shaped tables. You also need to take into account how it works for the teacher.  For me, the kidney table just wasn't a favorite.  All of our classrooms also have an extra rectangular or trapezoid table in them. When I push-in to other classrooms for guided reading, those are the tables I generally use. However, when I am working in my classroom, I am happy to have my horseshoe table to work at!

Do you have a type of table you prefer?

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By the way, I am well aware that I posted on January 1st about posting more regularly and them promptly disappeared for 19 days.  I actually have posts ready to go but totally forgot to schedule their posting.  Blogging fail!  Sorry about that. The good news is that there are posts already written and ready to be published. 


  1. Thanks for your advice.....I am deciding between kidney and horseshoe.
    Now I definitely want a horse shoe table!

    1. Hi Anon, sorry it took me a bit to get back to you. Hope the horseshoe table is working out for you!

  2. I use a small rectangle with the student desks (more like table and chair) bumped up next to it to extend the rectangle. Works for us, but that horseshoe is awfully pretty! =D

    1. Theresa, I am often at a rectangular table when I push in to other classes. In my classroom, I also have a rectangle table pushed up against some desks. It is where my Read 180 kids generally sit because it is set up in front of my Pro Board. Somehow, we make it work no matter what table we are at!

  3. Thanks for this post. I am trying to decide between ordering a kindey or horseshoe table. Your post was helpful

    1. Glad the post was helpful, Sherrie. Enjoy your new table!

  4. Hello,
    Can you tell me where your purchased the blue horseshoe table?

  5. I'm interested in knowing where you purchased the horseshoe table.


  6. I'm also interested in where you purchased your horseshoe table.

  7. Love, love, love my
    Horse shoe table!