Desk Dividers

Desk Dividers refer to any separation tools used to define a quieter, more private area for a student’s workspace (e.g., setting up file folders or tri-folding a piece of large poster board to serve as a partition in between desks or on a tabletop). Desk Dividers are moveable and can be used to help students focus on independent tasks, reduce the risk of student’s copying the work of others, and provide a calming, structured workspace for students that are easily distracted. Desk Dividers can be provided to students as needed (e.g., teacher’s discretion or requested from students), or can be provided to all students during rigorous academic tasks.

Implementation Tips

Evaluating Student Needs
Use daily observations to evaluate student work behaviors. Provide dividers to students that have difficulty remaining on task (e.g., lack of focus, chatty, anxious about others finishing before them), or provide all students Desk Dividers to give all students a designated workspace and create uniformity.
Setting Up Desk Dividers
Prop open file folders (e.g., [[ | two side-by-side to create a wide U-shape ]]) or fold a large piece of poster board into thirds to serve as a partition between desks or on a table top, similar to this [[ | example ]].
Introducing Desk Dividers
Explain the expectations of having a Desk Divider to students by highlighting how the partition will help them focus (e.g., assists in blocking outside distractions, creates a private space for working) and tell students that they should try to avoid moving or shifting them.
Securing Desk Dividers
Ensure that Desk Dividers are secure and stable to minimize distractions if a student accidentally moves it, such as folding the bottom edge of dividers in order to create an elongated base for stability, or taping/stapling edges of file folders together to avoid them from separating.
Motivational Input
Allow students to customize their Desk Dividers to build student confidence (e.g., write encouraging words/phrases/inspirational quotes, illustrate calming scenes, include academic strategy cards and references). Remember to remove references from the divider when conducting an assessment task.
Applying Desk Dividers
Apply this strategy during assessments or independent work, or keep dividers up at all times using [[ | half-height dividers ]] to offer students privacy without isolating them (e.g., students can work cooperatively when needed and have the ability to focus on independent tasks since the divider height is limited).
Widen Desk Dividers to “surround” a partnership or small group of students, instead of a single space for one student, to minimize distractions and promote each partnership/group to engage in separate conversations from their adjacent peers.
Optimizing Classroom Space
Increase desk space by allowing students to hang assignments, reference charts (e.g., a checklist, cursive upper and lowercase letter formations, multiplication chart), and supplies (e.g., pencil bag, scissors) on Desk Dividers, similar to this [[ | sample ]]. Make sure the divider stands securely with added weight.


Reducing Distractions
While observing students during independent reading, a teacher notices that students in the class are often distracted or off-task (e.g., looking around the classroom, begin chatting, spending time reorganizing book piles that became mixed with a neighboring peer). In order to support students in remaining on-task, the teacher places Desk Dividers between students at each table to create designated partitions and explains, “This tool will help you keep your materials separated and it will give each of you a personalized space to focus and enjoy your books.” Once independent reading is finished, the dividers are removed so students can discuss what they read.
Supporting Productive Partnership Discussions
While planning a math review lesson on efficient solving strategies, a teacher decides to incorporate partner work. In order to minimize distractions, reduce noise levels, and guide successful interactions during the discussion segment, the teacher prepares widened Desk Dividers to “surround” each partnership (e.g., attaching 3-4 file folders together and propping them up to create a barrier). Before the activity begins, the teacher introduces the Desk Dividers and explains that each divider will have guiding questions and discussion sentence starters attached. Once the activity begins, partnerships use the materials provided to conduct their discussions with minimal redirection.