I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, and heck I’m going to say it right now: Don’t underestimate the power of a well-planned seating arrangement.
I had allowed my students the privilege of sitting beside a person of their choice. I know when I do this, it probably won’t last the day. However, I let them know up front that they will keep their seats if I don’t have to speak to them for being chatty and off-task. Having to speak to them more than a couple of times shows me that they obviously won’t be able to work productively beside that person and they will have to move. So, fast-forward a few days into the seating arrangement (basically chosen by them). Some partnerships are working (as usual) and others are crashing and burning. There were a couple of pairings, in particular, that were poison for one another. So, one day at break-time, I made some quick seat changes and the difference in the noise level from before lunch to after, was measurable – especially for a Friday afternoon.
If you have never given much thought to your seating arrangement OR you need to give some more thought to it now, I’ve got a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind. This is not a complete list – just a few things to get you started.
Seating Arrangement Tips (in no particular order):
1. When you’re planning your arrangement, think about the space that you have and how you usually teach. Will they be taking notes? Can everyone see the board? Will you be asking them to work with a group every day?
2. Survey your room and see if there’s any furniture that could be placed elsewhere to free up floor space for desks. Your teacher desk, computer, shelves – are they all in the best spot giving you the most usable classroom space? (I hadn’t considered this one until just this past August. I had my furniture as it was when I inherited the room and I realized that the configuration wasn’t optimal for space and utility.)
3. Think about the different seating options that will fit/work in your room: Single rows, rows of pairs, rows of threes, small groups of 3 or 4, a horseshoe shape, a horseshoe shape with a few rows inside the horseshoe etc. Have a look around your school for inspiration of desk/table configurations that will work in your room.
4. Students with hearing or seeing issues should be placed close to the teacher if possible.
5. Are you going to seat by ability, pairing like students together or students with different abilities together? There are pros and cons to both – there can also be some mixing and matching here to try to reach the needs of your students.
6. Who is easily distracted? Try not to seat these students by the sharpener, the windows, door or other high traffic areas – IF possible. Try to seat these students beside students who tend to be more focused, to balance things out.
7. Students who tend to turn around in their seats need to sit at the back, if possible.
8. When you make changes to a seating plan, always move more than one person. If ONE person is being a problem and s/he comes in to class to find that s/he is the only one moved, s/he may feel targeted and could get defensive. However, if you have moved multiple people, you can say that a few pairings weren’t working out and so you had to make some changes.
9. Write each student’s name on a post-it (there are online options for doing this as well) and then move the post-its on your desk until you have students where you want them.
I’ve stopped at 9, hoping that you can help me to continue this list. What other tips or lessons learned about seating arrangements could you share?
If you are a middle school teacher, perhaps you have noticed that your students occasionally enjoy testing the boundaries (and your patience). Maybe I’m the only one – but I’m thinking not! With the end of the school year quickly approaching, students just want summer to be here (teachers too) and patience sometimes get thin.
It’s at these times, when I’m not at my wit’s end – but I’m close, that I usually revert to one of my tried and tested behavior management strategies. You don’t need any formal training, no forms are necessary, and it’s completely within YOUR control: Have a sense of humor.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times that I may want to scream – and would be perfectly within my rights to do so, based on their questionable behavior and poor decisions. My buttons have been pushed and my professionalism challenged. I’m sure I’m no different from any one of you. However, one of the behavior management strategies that has helped me to keep my sanity with some of my most challenging students, is to find something in the situation to laugh at.
Just to be clear – cursing -not funny. Fighting – definitely not funny. There are lots of other things, though, that my lovely middle-schoolers do and say that would drive me crazy if I let them. I’ve come to recognize these situations, and when I feel annoyed or challenged, sometimes I just laugh or make a joke to lighten the mood and defuse the situation before moving on with my lesson.
There have been times when students have complained, sulked, sooked or been rude that I felt like screaming, “Who do you think you are?” Of course, I can’t do that. And even if I did, who wants to spend their days yelling? Not me. It’s exhausting though, to constantly be nagging about behaviors, rules, poor decisions and what’s acceptable and what’s not – especially when you have particularly argumentative students who are looking for a battle to win.
Let me give you a “for instance”. Not too long ago, there was a student who very rudely demanded to know why I had shut the window. He’d just come from Phys. Ed. and he was hot! I felt like yelling, “What did you just say to me?” Instead I said, (with a smile on my face – which is very important) “You’re not saying that I’m not allowed to close a window in my own classroom, when I’m cold, are you?”… He didn’t know what to say. He just looked at me, rudeness gone, and replied, “No?” The other kids started to laugh. I quickly exclaimed,”Didn’t think so!” and I patted him on the shoulder with a laugh, and moved on with my lesson.
Another example….the Grade 4 and 5 students got to go on a trip out of province. I knew when the tour bus was in the parking lot that morning to load the students, what I’d be met with in my classroom. Can you hear it? Any guesses?…. “Why do the Grade 4 and 5’s get to go? We never get to do anything fun!” I was ready for the poor attitude and general “sulkiness” and responded (with my arms crossed and a slight foot stomp for good measure) “I know! I don’t get to go either! It’s so unfair! I have to stay here and teach! They didn’t even ask me – I don’t get to do anything fun.” Perhaps a little sarcastic – but you do what you’ve got to do, to survive (and thrive) with the hand you’ve been dealt. The kids couldn’t argue with me, because I’d sided with them and basically repeated what they’d just said, although making light out of the situation. They had nothing to say, so I finished with…”Oh well, I guess we’ll ALL just have to get over it!” and I went on about the morning routine.
If I’d outright addressed the blatant rudeness and disrespect in either of these situations, I would have been met with a fight. I don’t need to argue with twelve-year olds, thank you very much. I just don’t have the time, nor the desire.
I think you catch my drift, with the whole – laugh it off tactic. It depends on the day, the student, the situation and my mood. I’ve simply decided, that I’d rather laugh than cry (or scream) when at all possible. Wouldn’t you?
So, the next time your students are frustrating the heck out of you, try to find a tiny bit of humor in the situation and laugh or make a joke. Especially in the beginning, it often stops them cold, because it’s unexpected. The situation is defused, and you’re able to move on and teach (until the next time, that is).
What behavior management strategy do you find most useful in your classroom?
This blog post was written in response to the 5 Star Blog Challenge at The Organized Classroom Blog. Check out her link-up to find more 5 Star Blogs!
I must admit, when I was completing my BEd just a few years ago, that I had never given much thought to seating arrangements. I remember reading about them and how they were a “classroom management strategy”. I didn’t realize until I got my own classroom 5…6 years ago – I’m beginning to lose track…is it still baby brain if the child is a year and a half? Now I’ve lost my place…What was I talking about? Oh yes, seating arrangements! I found out in my first year of teaching a grade 9 math class just how important seating arrangements are. Until then, I didn’t realize how much of my time would be spent trying to figure out the perfect spot for each student!
There’s so much to consider. First of all, Wendy has glasses and needs to sit up front. That’s a given. It gets more complicated though…So much more complicated. She had a fight 2 years ago with Simon, and now they hate each other’s guts. Their parents have asked that they not sit beside each other. Bill is always turned around in his seat – perhaps that means that he needs the back row? Jake drives me crazy – so he needs to be as far away as possible – back left corner. Then there are the chatty girls. Do I pair them up with the quiet boys to make them stop chatting – or will that lead to more distractions? Jay wants to sit up front, Pam wants to sit at the back. Al performs for the class and so he needs to be where the fewest people can see him – back right corner. It goes on and on – as you well know! Jen has ADHD and so she can’t go by the window or the door, but the center on the classroom has too many distraction as well – so…far left side. Amy needs to be up front as she’s falling behind. Derrick failed his hearing test and so he needs to be up front as well – not next to Curt though because Curt bullies Derrick…
Once you figure out where everyone will be – what arrangement will you choose? Rows? Pairs? Groups? A Horseshoe? There’s so much to consider! You’ll never please everyone, of course. I always give my students the chance to choose their seats in the very first week of school. As long as they’re quiet, they can stay with their friends. You can imagine how many students get to keep their spots!
So, I guess the moral of the story is: Don’t underestimate the power of a good seating arrangement. If you’re having classroom management issues – start by looking at where students are placed, who’s around them and how different configurations may work. Sometimes simply changing a pairing of students can make all the difference. I strongly believe that BEd program should have a course on strategic seating arrangements. They are mentioned in passing but a well thought out seating arrangement can make or break a class.
In addition, mix it up! Kids get bored with always being in the same spot. They also need to try working with different students – so vary where they are and who they work with.
All that being said…I’m off to change my own seating plan…Is it time to try a horseshoe with this group – or will they just make faces at each other? You never know until you try!