Tips for Choosing a Classroom Seating Arrangement
Your seating arrangement can have a huge impact on how your students learn and behave. Many ways of arranging desks are possible, but before you start moving things around, you should first have an idea of what you want to accomplish and what the strengths and weaknesses of each arrangement are.
Regardless of the seating arrangement you use, first make sure that you have enough room to move around and teach. You must also make sure that students are not put into any positions where they would have to climb over furniture or desks to get to the door. This is especially important for safety reasons.
The seating arrangement you choose will depend on a number of factors.
1. Do you do a lot of cooperativing learning or group work?
2. Do you encourage group discussion?
3. Where is the chalkboard?
4. Are there windows in your room?
5. What is the he maturity level of your students?
Once you have an idea of what a typical day will look like in your class, you can start playing around with different seating arrangements.
Three Common Seating Arrangements
1. Traditional or Military Style Seating
The traditional classroom arrangement, with desks in straight rows, is recommended if you are a new teacher, if you are starting a new school year, or if most of your lessons revolve around your lecture or information on a chalkboard or overhead projector.
This type of seating arrangement focuses the students attention on you while limiting opportunities for distraction. Drawbacks to this method include limited opportunity for group work and it reduces interaction and discussion among the students.
2. Group or Pod Seating
If you do a lot of group work or cooperative learning, you may want to set up a group or pod seating arrangement. This arrangement gives the clear message that it is okay to talk with other students and group members. Students are encouraged to involve each other in their learning, to help each other out, to discuss lessons, and to work as a team. This type of seating arrangement can be great for group projects, group discussions, or team related games and activities.
Downsides to using this arrangement include more opportunities for cheating as students are seated so close to each other. Students will also be more inclined to talk or pass notes when it is not permitted for them to do so.
3. Discussion Style Seating
If you want to establish a sense of democracy in your classroom, you may go with a discussion style seating arrangement. In this arrangement, each student faces every other student. You are letting them know that they are expected to voice their opinions and have an active role in their own learning. Many experienced teachers use this desk arrangement with classes that are outspoken or talkative (but not disruptive). Instead of fighting to keep everyone quiet, you can direct the talkative nature of the class into relevant discussion.
Like with group seating, drawbacks to this configurations are that it can be distracting because students are facing each other instead of the teacher. For this arrangement to be successful, your students must have a certain level of maturity and be able to take instruction and direction.
Mix it up
There is no one seating arrangement that always works. What worked last week might not work this week. To keep your students on their toes, you may want to frequently change the environment by rearranging furniture, updating pictures on your walls, and changing the look in your classroom. One week you could arrange the desks in a traditional format. Another week you might create small groups. Another week, you might arrange tasks in circles. Try to create classroom environments that are best suited to the lesson you are teaching that day.