Seating Charts

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33 thoughts on “Seating Charts”

  1. I’ve made changes, but I am not yet where I can imagine rows all facing the front. My room has, for years, been U-shaped. That creates a center stage which I often stand and act in, but which I can also invite students into. This year, I have largely maintained that shape, but for the first time in years, I have told students where they must sit. I have 195 students this year in 6 sections (an overload from the normal 5 sections). I need to learn many new names. A seating arrangement helps and it puts me a little more in charge than letting them sit where they want to.

    By contrast, my students who have me for the second year are a bit plussed that I am requiring them to sit in a particular place, but it has already solved some problems. They still have something to learn, and my D.E.A (daily engagement assessment) rules on the wall are IT.

    I just cannot imagine straight rows all facing forward. That’s my hang up. I just can’t. I need a circle. Or, hell, a semi-circle. I just can’t do the rows. But, I do honor what each teacher needs to do to deliver CI and to invoke deep trust with his/her students.

  2. I LOVE this community…. I need you to keep throwing out these “administrivia” things that really have a strong impact on classroom management…

    I do rows 4 rows facing front but do have a large “isle” down the middle… (two rows an isle and then two rows on the right.

    I do this so I can walk down the middle of the room and “teach to the eyes”

    I go even further though…. I put them in alphabetical order (all classes) from the first day – no discussion. This helps me in many ways. It sends a message that “They must be listening.” It also help when passing up papers – in alphabetical order…

    I get some push back from freshman towards the end of the year, more push back from level 2 all year and it is really a struggle in 3rd year. But I have insisted.
    Any thoughts on this??

    1. Re: suggestions. Maybe change up the seating chart every quarter/semester? When it comes to collecting papers, you could have another job (alphabetizer). Just a thought.

      I too have tended to favor Bob’s U-shaped desk arrangement, but have also happily had rows, and will likely go back to them this year. I have always resisted the type of arrangement that is supposed to “stimulate creative sharing of ideas,” but haven’t been able to put my finger on why. Thanks, Ben, for sharing your thoughts on why that doesn’t really work for what we are trying to do.

      I’m with Skip – keep up the posts on this kind of practical stuff. The stuff that no teacher-prep class ever deals with because you are just supposed to figure it out or know it intuitively. I actually heard a “mentor”, when asked about classroom management/discipline, tell a room full of teachers: “Well, if you can’t control a classroom, there’s nothing I can do for you.”. Huh?! Are we supposed to be born knowing this??

  3. About the alphabetizing: I started giving them numbers that they put on the paper in the upper right hand corner – big and circled. I can “alphabetize” faster by the number and I have the flexibility to change seating easily. Funny, I was just in my room today. It’s narrow and long. I have tried many things – pairs of two six rows across with space in between for me to circulate was a nightmare. I was constantly moving furniture. Other people who used my room were always annoyed by the “non-traditional” seating arrangements. Different seating arrangements were always my silent protest against the Catholic school rows. Today, I just couldn’t fight the floor plan anymore. We are now five rows of 7 seats each – my largest class is 26. Wish they would remove some desks, but they won’t. I won’t ask bc I am glad to be in one room – and so it goes. Another year begins!

  4. Hi Chill,

    So the first “A” kid puts a “1” on his paper and so on and so forth??
    I also like the idea of the “alphabetizer” job. Does that ever act as a “distraction” to the person iwth that job?

    1. Hi, Skip,
      Yes, I just assign a number A-Z, 1- to whatever. It’s amazing how much quicker it is than thinking about letters – maybe that’s just me. Their names are on the papers too, so anyone could easily do the alphabetizing job and it’s quicker with the numbers. The number goes with the student so changing seating is not a problem.

  5. I’m in the “U shape” crowd for sure, been doing it for 4 years now and can’t imagine any other way. I have at the most 28 in any given class, so I go 2 desks deep all the way around (except for the very back where a couple extra make it three deep) the classroom in the U shape, with the open end up front where I am (like Bob described I believe). This leaves a nice big alley down the middle (ok, not totally a U, more of Parenthesis with one end being closer to touching). And I can still get around the outside of it too. To each her own, but I also cannot see going back to the traditional ‘all facing up front in rows’.

    And I have ALWAYS done seating charts, I think it makes a HUGE difference. Go girl boy girl boy, or alphebetize, for the first couple days, then give them another one if needed after those first initial classes. That’s my method. Thanks for sharing all of yours!

    1. I have also been a U-er with a seating chart forever. I need everybody to be able to see me at all times.

      The extra thing I do, which has been very effective, is to have the kids (staying in exactly the same order) rotate five desks to the right every Monday. We call it the snake. They know how it moves, and they just do it. It means that EVERYONE ends up in the front row at least one time during the month and also, in the back row and on the sides. No one, however, has to suffer for very long. Every month to six weeks, I change the seating arrangement entirely.

    2. I love this conversation! I used to be able to do the U-thing… but my numbers are big and my room is not. This year I have turned 45 degrees. My room is close to rectangular. I have white boards on two adjacent walls, one of which has a screen i can use for the projector for my computer/documents. This is hard to explain but I have arranged the desks on a 45 degree angle so that all students can view both boards without turning. I have 30-38 students per period and the u shape I used in years past is hard to make work in my space with high numbers. The desks/rows all point to corner of the room between the two boards. The students can easily see both boards. There is room for me to meander, room to post up actors, room to have different places for stories, room for my handicapped student who has a special desk (and room for her wheelchair) etc. I also have 3 preps, so I it helps to have 2 walls available so I can post structures and such so that they are visible, accessible and do not need to be rewritten or reposted. The 45 degree angle thing is working for now. I wish I had thought of it last year. I liked U-shaped better, I am envious of those who may have fewer students or more square feet… but desperate times call for desperate measures.
      Hey it’s better than rows parallel to the walls!

  6. Important conversation for me. I”ve been struggling trying to figure out how to arrange my room. I did rows last year and got really bored with it. But….I get bored really easily as I have really bad inattentive-type ADHD.

    I’m not sure what to do. My class sizes get pretty big sometimes so it’s hard trying to figure out what arrangement to do. Sometimes I get lucky and have a class of like 20-23 but most of my classes are in the 28-34 range. I may try the 2 rows in a U-shape if it will fit. If not, I’m stuck with traditional rows.

    How about assigned seats? Who does assigned seats on day 1? Who does something else? I’ve always, on the first day, had the class roster posted with a number beside each kid’s name (going in alphabetical order). Each of my desks is numbered with a Sharpie. They come in, grab the Circling with Balls card, find their number and get in their seat and fill out the paper. On Day One.
    I do that because that’s what Harry Wong suggests (assigned seats on day one, at the very beginning), but I’ve noticed eye rolling almost every single time when students come in the first day and see they have assigned seats.

    1. Chris you just let them roll their eyes all they want. Unless you want them rolling over you later. The first thing many students do (consciously or unconsciously) upon entering each of their classrooms for the first time is to look for signs of weakness, which might include:

      1. a teacher who clearly needs to people please because they have fear in them, which kids can smell.
      2. desks where they can get with their friends in little sections of the room (which is why the discussion here about alphabetizing is so crucial – we must absolutely separate all potential groups or pairs as soon as we see one form).
      3. fake approval
      4. a tentative teacher with the rules and esp. the seating rules bc they are usually the first contact the kids have with the teacher.

      I would rather show my nice side later. I just want to make sure that they understand my rules first, and how we stay in French and how we talk about them (talking about them doesn’t mean becoming their best friend).

      When we are really nice from the first minutes, a few kids will be really nice back to us. Most kids’ being nice in that way is fine, but there are always a few who think it’s a friendship, which it is not, and those few kids will suddenly after a few days think that they are your friend and you will soon see a side of them emerge which you will certainly regret later.

      We are not nice guys, we are teachers.

      That’s just my own experience. We all have different experiences. But being all bright and wonderful in that first week is not necessarily the best thing. The best thing is to:

      1. establish the rules while teaching the language – I use the cards for that.
      2. personalize without falling all over yourself to get them to like you.
      3. enforce your seating chart, which hopefully resembles those described by some of the experts like chill and Bob above.

      The kids see so much tentative behavior on the part of teachers in all of their classes in that first week, and they are carefully, as John said here today, detecting bullshit. So don’t offer any. Keep it simple and straightfoward.

  7. It’s funny how drastically a seating arrangement can change a class. This year I am teaching my 5th period class in an English classroom with 5 rows facing the front. It blows and does not match my teaching style at all. I can’t tell the teacher that I hate his desk arrangement but I notice my 5th period kids harder to wrangle because I am not in the center of the action. I have to be around the perimeter. Tomorrow I am going to try a thing where the back two rows face the front and the front two rows face the back leaving me an isle in the middle.
    C’est le vie. Gotta be a team player when we have a department of 13 and only 10 of us have classrooms. I don’t have my posters, my rules, my pronoun chart. I never realized how much I rely on those things.

    I change seats every 2 weeks. Kids get territorial. The couch, as always, is first come-first serve.

  8. I have forty desks in my class (plus an “overflow” table in the back). No joke – last year I had 42 freshmen and 3 upper level kids in one class right after lunch – and this class tried pulling everything from day one…

    The seating chart question is one I’ve been thinking about for a while already and I am torn.

    I’ve done a sort of a U shape in the past, but since my room is long I have with two banks of twenty desks on each side facing each other. 5 rows, four seats deep. (So it’s a U with the bottom curve erased.) This gives me a nice big aisle down the center and makes the room “feel” bigger to me. It’s also a nice stage for stories. The main thing I have wanted to communicate with this seating chart is: “this class is about all of us, and we’re here to have a real conversation.” I have tried this same arrangement with the desks angled toward the front and this has worked better I think because the kids are more focused toward the front and away from their friend who is trying to distract them, but the diagonal rows always tend to get out-of-whack over the day and I need to do a lot of row straightening which is a pain.

    BUT… after having this arrangement for several years, and after watching how easily so many of my kids get distracted by one another, AND how I have to COMPETE for their attention CONSTANTLY… I’m really with Ben here and ready to just go to rows facing forward with a large aisle down the center. I know this would be a shock to my upper level kids, but they will get over it. I think I just need to try it and see what the dynamic is like. I can always go back to my old arrangement if I decide I don’t like the forward facing rows.

    I just don’t want the battle that I’ve had to make for their attention all over again – it is exhausting and compromises my ability to stay in the TL and even be NOTICED. And as much as I like the concept of the U, or in my case the semi-U, I just don’t think that ALL of my kids are mature enough to handle it. Some are for sure, but I’ve had enough experience at my school to know that enough of them are not. And the ones who are able to handle it will sit there looking at me with their pained faces as other kids are derailing the class saying silently to me: “Why did you do this to us? WHY?”

    I think if I try forward facing rows from the first day to “norm” the class, I’ll know if it will help prevent this competition for attention that I want so much to avoid. If it doesn’t seem to help – then the semi-U will return and the battle will continue…

  9. I do a U for the most part, but I switch it up periodically, to 2 rows facing front. IN one class I have this heinous conference table. It is a beast and it takes up like 1/3 of the space. For that space I often push the table against the wall and just put chairs in a semi-circle.

    I change seating charts about every 2 weeks. Sometimes I forget and it goes 3 or even 4 weeks, but someone will remind me to switch. Switching only happens on a Monday. I do the “chart” randomly after the first 2 weeks (alphabetical) by using the cards as place markers. I literally just scramble them like a deck of cards and “deal” them out. When issues arise, I separate the people involved, and /or switch the seating from U to rows (or vice-versa).

  10. I know I’m coming in late on this one, but . . .

    I also have a “U” configuration. What changed this past year is that I removed all of the desks and have only chairs in the room. I like this for several reasons. Among them:
    1. Students can’t put their heads down on their non-existent desks.
    2. Students have a harder time hiding cell phones without desks.
    3. There are fewer barriers between me and students.
    4. The room looks bigger.
    5. There is greater flexibility in spontaneous re-arrangement. A few times this year we simply put all of the desks in a big circle around the room for a reading day or class discussion day. For final exams I did inside/outside circles. This was so much easier than when I had desks.
    6. I give each part of the U a different identity (e.g. Deutschland, Schweiz, Österreich) and can give small group commands and attention during TPR or PQA for a change of pace. I can also have the entire section be performers if necessary. (In German 3 I had one section be the Hamburg City Council and another section be pirates when we were doing my pirate story. They merely stood up but didn’t have to go anywhere for their parts.)
    7. I have the central “stage” area available for acting; I can also wheel the cart with the projector on it into this area whenever I want to project something (e.g. German Soccer League, class-created story).

    An interesting problem that I ran into at the start of the year was that students are put into alphabetical order so often that they become friends with others in their part of the alphabet. I have some students who have up to three or four classes together, and they sit near each other all the time. (I had twin brothers last year who had exactly the same schedule. Talk about togetherness!) Instead I alphabetized by first name rather than last name. I like the idea of giving each student a number and numerizing rather than alphabetizing.

    My infamous fifth period class had four girls that brought lots of chatter and drama to the class. Eventually I had each girl in a different corner of the room but had to be careful even then so that certain ones were not across from each other. This is where a traditional arrangement of rows might have been helpful since they would not have naturally been facing each other at all. During second semester I finally found an arrangement that brought less disruption than all of the others I had tried. That remained the arrangement for the rest of the year.

    I would like to get rid of a couple of cabinets on one side of the room and put in a set of cubby holes by the door for students to store their backpacks. First I have to clean out the cabinets, though. Maybe I can get into the room within the next couple of weeks and get that done. Then I’ll have to find a set of cubby holes.

    One other mistake I made with my fifth period class is that I used too much English while “norming” the class. I would stop and explain what was going on and what the policy was, but my class picked up the idea that we could simply take a “time out” and speak English. So this year, it has to be pure German from the very start, at least as far as aural input is concerned.

  11. I have to agree with Ben. Being completely ADD and a student in those creatively arranged desks focusing on the teacher was not going to happen. I think that not having the desks arranged in rows is just asking for kids to distract other kids.

    Also on a seperate note I keep my walls fairly bare with only what is necessary on them. My door is kept closed and my blinds are usually down. I have to do this to help me focus and to limit things I can ADD off of.

    1. When students come to class to learn the language, the only source of the language is us. It is therefore counter intuitive to think that they could learn from engaging visually with anyone else than us.

      Those four girls Robert described are an extreme case in point. The attentive teacher sees this pattern of interaction in students from the very beginning of the year and actively reacts with force and sits those kids as far away from each other as possible where they cannot make the least amount of casual eye or verbal contact. To do otherwise, to let those girls go to interact with each other, would be insane.

      Traditional rows for me provide a classroom discipline aid of the highest proportions. I’ll do it this year again no matter what. When I taught G/T kids and Theory of Knowledge, of course, since I was training kids in Socratic discussion and in learning to interact with each other intellectually and explore ideas using words, the U shape, circle or theatre in the round was perfect. We each do what is best for us in our own situations.

      1. Ben, you wrote: Those four girls Robert described are an extreme case in point. The attentive teacher sees this pattern of interaction in students from the very beginning of the year and actively reacts with force and sits those kids as far away from each other as possible where they cannot make the least amount of casual eye or verbal contact. To do otherwise, to let those girls go to interact with each other, would be insane.

        I have to admit that I was not as aggressive at first as I needed to be, but those four girls were separated long before the “final seating chart”. What I kept finding as I experimented with seating was that students who never interacted with each other suddenly became best friends as soon as I sat them together. There were so many chatters in the class that I could never get them all separated. The final chart was merely the most workable solution. Even then, I had to constantly monitor seating or students would move. More than once I had to tell them that these were seating assignments, not seating suggestions. One day I marked a student absent (one of the four girls) because she was not in her assigned seat. When the truancy appeared, she came to me to tell me she was in class. I said, “No you weren’t because when I took roll, you weren’t in your assigned seat” and refused to change the truancy. Of course I knew she was there because I had said about three times, “X isn’t here today” and gave her the opportunity to sit in her assigned seat. After that, she dutifully sat where I had assigned her. If I had yielded on that point, I would have had a fight every day over her seating assignment. Fortunately, she left school (has entered a special program) and will not be returning this year. BTW, part of what made this class difficult was that I could not count on the support of the parents of the worst offenders; they were more likely to come in and defend their child’s actions or throw up their hands and complain that they had no control, either.

        1. Robert you just described why teaching is so difficult. Learning to teach using CI is easy compared to these little battles which we all know are not that little.

          We need to be all over this thing this year as a group, and I would be very happy if the first month of the year was mostly a discussion here of situations like the one Robert describes above.

          THIS is the time of year for this work re: classroom discipline. Not later. We do it now. We all know how to start the year with whatever PQA activities and starting the year activities that work for us and that we have chosen, but we are going to need each other to read and comment on the discipline battles.

          NOW is the time to be aggressive and do the internal changes we need to up our game on discipline. It hurst internally emotionally to make these changes, to learn to stand up to student bullies, but the success of our year depends on this hard internal growth.

          So everybody write in often on what is going on in your classroom. Don’t be shy. We all suck at discipline a lot more than we like to let on. This is the safe place for honest discussion about what is hardest in our jobs, so let’s just do it.

          I suggest that we take skip for our model of openness and intellectual curiosity of what is going on in our classrooms. If we all had half as much courage to change what we do in our classrooms and discuss it openly with our colleagues, we would be in great shape for the coming year.

    2. I fully understand where you’re coming from. I’ve got some major ADD as well. I am more easily distracted by it snowing outside than my students.

      Thanks for sharing the idea for keeping blinds closed I”m going to do that. One of the benefits of having ADD is that I’m much more understanding of students who have it. I fully understand how easy it is to get distracted and not focus. In fact, for me the only thing keeping me from maintaining 90% TL use in the class is my ADD. I’m constantly, all of a sudden just telling random stories about when I was living in Argentina, or something. Tuesday I have an appointment with a psychiatrist to look into medication. I’ve been with my doctor and two different psychologist, getting evaluated, and now that it’s official…..the diagnosis (even though I’ve suspected having ADD for years), I can get some help.

      It should hopefully help me in staying in the TL

  12. Step #1: This classroom is a home. It really helps to think of your classroom as your home, and your students as your children. It is feels like we have more power to “defend our right” to a safe home than defend our right to run our classrooms. We DO have the right to create a safe environment, with clear rules and consequences. From moment one, this room is a home… a home for honesty, courtesy, clarity, thinking, caring and becoming better human beings.

    Step #2: If it doesn’t help us to be honest, courteous, clear, thinking,caring, better human beings it will not be tolerated.

    Step #3: The teacher makes the on-the-spot decisions about what will be tolerated and what will not. Discussions about the teacher’s decision will be honored, but scheduled.

    ANY STUDENT BEYOND KINDERGARTEN is aware that these are the rules.

    I know that common practice is to negotiate rules with students, but it isn’t necessary. They know what the important ones are.

    What they DON’T know is if you will enforce them, and if you do, how soon, how often or how well.

    They also don’t know how much self-control will be expected of them.

    That is what they will be asking you this fall:

    How much self-control do I need and in what areas?
    How will the teacher react if I do not exhibit self-control?

    My answer: You (the student) need enough self-control to keep this a home for honesty, courtesy, clarity, thinking, caring and becoming better human beings.

    If your lack of self-control threatens that home, I (the teacher) will remind you of ways to regain your self-control.

    If that fails to work, you will be leaving the room until you have regained your self-control. That may take the form of some personal space outside of the room or a visit to an adult in the building that will help you to regain your self-control.

    If a student claims to not have any self-control, I reserve the right to use Robert’s response: “Bummer”

    You would never allow many of the behaviors that we often “overlook” in the classroom into your home. Make your classroom home.

    with love,

  13. If you have a day one seating chart, you can write the names of the students on Post Its and put them on their assigned desks. It’s a way from keeping them going directly to the back wall – the cinder block kids. With 35 desks and a class of 16, I can guarantee that some will be immediately drawn to the back wall! Plus it gives them something to do as everyone is coming in.

    1. Another stupid question

      The only chair idea really appeals to me. With no desks how do the kids write? I was thinking I could put a clipboard under each chair before the school year started??


      1. I have small white boards. One of my class jobs is to hand out and collect the white boards when we need them, either for writing on the boards or as a support for other writing. Many students choose to write using notebooks to support the paper.

  14. I thought of something else….

    Maine is a one-to-one laptop state. Each student has a MacBook. I am required to use it…. Laptops with no desks could be a problem, right?

    I really like the idea of no desks…:(

    thanks again

  15. I am going to try chairs only this year. My idea is to get those plastic tables, keep them propped agains the wall, and then break them out once a week for writing time. It will be a good brain break, no?

  16. That should work, jen. Chairs is an idea whose time has come. If we are doing 90%+ CI in the form of listening and reading, then desks are really quite obsolete, and we perpetuate a kind of stupidity when we allow them in our rooms. We can figure out a way to write for the 10% of the time when they are doing that. We’re adults, we can make those decisions.

    I got observed during a conversation class years ago in South Carolina, before I did TPRS/CI. It was in the first week of my first year there (Myrtle Beach High School) and the principal, seeing my class seated in chairs in a circle trying to communicate in French with me, called me down after class and lectured me about how the kids “need something to press down on!” He was quite upset.

    I still remember that phrase. This guy was a former tailback on a college football team, very strong and tried to overpower me with this idea. I just told him I wouldn’t be doing desks when we did our conversation classes, that we would sit in a circle in chairs. He didn’t like it. To his credit I think he recanted his position, but only that spring when those kids got most of the top ten scores in the state on the National French Exam.

  17. You came in second place. I wonder how much of this has to do with the need for kids to have a place to hide from being fully human in our classes. We use desks to restrain them – they use them to hide.

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