Kidney Activity Tables vs. Horseshoe Activity Tables

Does your classroom function well for your daily needs? Setting aside a bit of space for small group learning is a design choice that can help your room better serve you and improve interactions with your students. Perhaps the simplest way to carve out this space is by adding a table that is well-suited for small groups, like a kidney– or horseshoe-shaped table. To ensure you choose the right table for your classroom, consider the factors below, along with a few tips from other teachers.

Teacher at kidney-shaped activity table with students

Kidney Activity Table – Source

Take a few minutes to assess the type of physical space you have available. Kidney tables tend to be wider (up to 72″ from side to side), but are relatively shallow from front to back. If you have a wide, shallow space available, a kidney-shaped table is likely a good choice.

On the other hand, horseshoe tables are deeper, but narrow in comparison to a kidney table. If you have a narrow, deep space, a horseshoe table will be a more efficient fit. Remember to measure the space available and compare it with the dimensions we list with every table on our site.

What sort of interactions do you hope to have with students in your small group space? Both a kidney table and horseshoe table allow the instructor to sit relatively close to students, but they function more differently than you might expect. If students will need space to have materials spread out in front of them, a kidney table offers much more tabletop space than a horseshoe table. However, if having each student at the table within arms’ reach of the instructor is a priority, the horseshoe table is the way to go.

What Teachers Have to Say
Blogger Nancy, at Teaching My Friends, offers a very thorough review of her experiences with both kidney-shaped and horseshoe-shaped tables. She ultimately prefers a horseshoe, but offers lots of insights on what works best in different situations.


Horseshoe-shaped activity table in a classroom

Horseshoe Activity Table – Source

This discussion thread from a teachers’ forum lists many of pros and cons of each shape. The original poster is unsure whether an activity table will be the right height for her students, but luckily most activity tables are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide range of ages. If you are looking for tables for elementary, middle or high school classrooms, shop for tables here. If you need tables for a preschool or early learning classroom, we have a big selection that is perfectly sized for your little learners – shop here.

Smart Classroom Tip
If your room size is especially limited, adding extra school chairs at a small group table may take up precious space. As an alternative, during group sessions students can sit on backless stools instead (click here to check out an affordable option). When you’re not using your small group table, the stools fit nicely under the table, leaving a clear, open walkway for you and your students.

Add your voice to the discussion. Share your experiences with kidney- and horseshoe-shaped tables in the comments below.