Question Detail

How should I distribute my students in the room?

Jul 23, 2013 10:05pm

I've been thinking of the best way to help all the students during the class, what leads me to think the way they are seated. I tried to browse the best option, but I still have many doubts.Is the best option to sit a fast learner with somebody a little bit slow? maybe the student with problems would improve but what about the fast learner? are they improving? I'm pretty confused... :(

  • Class Culture / Collaboration / Differentiation / New Teachers / Planning


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    • Jul 28, 2013 11:13am

      The details you cited will take care of itself once you differentiate your instruction. How I would decide on providing a seating arrangement for student depends on many factors:
      1) If you know your students well enough, and if you know that they have some special needs like people who are visually impaired or are hearing impaired may need to be seated in a place most accessible to their needs. This does not necessarily mean being seated near the front even though it will fall on that idea.
      2) The kind of activities you have planned. Does the activity require students to take a test individually (so you may want them seated in rows)? Or do you want students doing an activity that have them working in teams? Some teachers I know have the desks and/or tables arranged in a "U". Do you think that the classroom(s) you will be teaching in or have taught in would have enough space for these arrangements? And for each of those arrangements, can they hear and/or see you?
      3) In general, to help you decide, you might need to consider the best way you can deliver your instruction so that they are more receptive without interruption. This may mean looking for problem areas in the room where the acoustics may be bad or if there's anything that stands in the way of your students visions, etc...

      What are you doing with them on the 1st day back to school and this may help you decide in how you will want the desks arranged in your room? Is that arrangement just for the 1st day back or for the whole year? This is just my idea that helps me guide how to decide the seating arrangement and address preferential seating. It's going to change.

      • Jul 28, 2013 3:17pm

        I really believe your answer to that is going to change almost daily. Depending on the activity of the day, my seat arrangement may change almost every time the students walk in the door. To help lessen the confusion with that method, I number my desks much like I number my students. Each student who walks in the door knows to find the desk with his or he student number on it.
        Some days I want an arrangement that keeps students focused on the "big screen" during the first part of class. So rows or even half rows may work best then. Sometimes I want coupled work, and then I get more concerned about the issue of pairing students. Other days, I want groups of four or maybe groups that rotate membership throughout the class period. Whatever is planned, the kids know where they belong when they walk in and find their numbers. I teach high school, so I number each class that walks in the door with 1-30 (approximately) student numbers. It helps with a lot more transitional elements other than just assigning seats, but it does have its place with that little necessity, too.

        • Jul 28, 2013 7:36pm

          One important aspect of Universal Design for Learning and providing students with choice whenever possible. That being said, your seating could be very flexible. For example, if students are working in collaborative groups, you could give them the option of moving their desks into groups, sitting on the floor in the corner, or just moving their chairs to the side of the room. If students are engaged, and the work is getting done, they sometimes like to change their seats and I encourage that. The Common Core also focuses on speaking the listening skills in all subjects so when you set up your room, you want it to be conducive to collaboration. I guess the main point is that seating is flexible. If you try something, you can always change the seats and try something else. It really comes down to are students' needs being met and are students learning? I find that when I trust students to make decisions for themselves, they are able to choose seats that work for them.


          • Aug 10, 2013 6:05pm

            I generally seat them alphabetically for the first week until I know all of their names; then I begin to rearrange the classes depending on the needs of the specific lessons.

            I agree with the suggestions here, but wanted add that research on the brain tells us that new units should bring new seating. The old adage of always study in the same place appears to be incorrect based on research over the last several years. New seating at every unit helps solidify openings and closings--which all help lead to better learning.

            And, more important than seating is to make sure your students are doing several different tasks each period. (reading, speaking, acting, writing) 20 minute sessions with a change following that length mean maximum outcomes for most of us.

            • Jul 27, 2013 5:18pm

              Hi Tamara, I agree with Lily that there is no easy answer and it can be hard to find the right balance. If you switch it up often enough, then random seating can work well too. It will both save you time and worry because if you end up with an arrangement that is too chatty or where kids are not working well together then it won't be long before you switch again.