Typical classrooms are set up with five or six rows all facing the front. The teacher's desk is at the front and so are the chalkboards or whiteboards. Storage cupboards and shelves are on the remaining walls. The aisles have enough space between them for the teacher to walk up to each student. This setup allows all the students to see the teacher and the chalkboard. It also makes it easy for the teacher to hand out papers because he or she can give papers to each student at the front of the row. Desks or tables work for this setup.
Arranging desks in a horseshoe allows students to face each other and see the teacher. The horseshoe shape is preferable to a circle because the teacher and student presenters can easily enter it and walk around to engage the other students. The horseshoe usually is open at the front so the teacher can easily reach the desk and chalkboard. This setup also works well for handing out papers. Desks work best for this setup.
A classroom that is split in half has half the desks facing right and the other half facing left. In this way, the students can see each other and the teacher or presenters can walk in the middle. This is useful for classes that are having debates or other interactive discussions. The teacher can choose to put his or her desk at the back of the classroom because the teacher will usually be more of a mediator in debate situations. This allows the teacher to sit in the back and allow the students to take more leadership roles. Desks and tables work for this setup.
Desk clusters are often seen when students are doing a lot of group work. The desks are arranged in small groups, quite often four facing one another. The setting looks like little islands around the room. Each group is able to communicate easily with each other and the teacher can move between the desks to guide the students. Some teachers might opt to have the desk clusters as a permanent arrangement or they might only use it when the students are working on group projects. This works well in special needs classrooms because the children find it less intimidating and communicate easily with each other. Tables work well for this setup but desks are common because many students can turn their desks to form the clusters.