New Teachers

Seating Charts

I'm a new student teacher and a new NSTA member and I'm implementing a new seating chart at my student teaching assignment. The students are in 7th and 8th grade. My mentor teacher usually has the students draw numbers to assign them to numbered table groups. I'm wondering how experienced teachers handle seating charts. Do you group them based on ability? Do you let them choose their own seats? How does having a specific type of seating chart facilitate what happens in your classroom?

Jannah Fitch
Jannah Fitch
370 Activity Points

When creating a seating chart I think it is important to create heterogeneous groups with your students. If you put all of the high performing students at one table and the low performing students at another, they will know who you consider "smart" or "dumb". Using a random system can be beneficial. I would recommend using cards. Have each student draw a card and depending on the card, that is their group. But, switch up how the playing cards are used. You can organize groups by numbers, colors, hearts and diamonds, spades and clubs, it's up to you. This will also stop students from switching cards as they will not know how you organize the groups. I hope this helped you. Good luck!

Erin Williams
Erin Williams
955 Activity Points

Jannah- This is such a good topic of discussion, seating charts can be such a hard thing to do. I am currently a senior in college and have been fortunate enough to have many field experiences, where I have seen many different seating arrangements. My favorite seating arrangement chart is when the teacher had what she called "learning pods." In these pods, the students were in groups of four and at the end of there, desks was a storage unit for each subject where they would place their materials for that subject in. By doing this the students were much more organized and knew where everything is. How she picked who sat where was based on different abilities. Each group had a student with different abilities, which I love. This allows students to learn from each other and sit with people they might not usually sit with!

Kelsey Ettleman
Kelsey Ettleman
3719 Activity Points

I am in a 5th grade classroom at the moment. I personally choose my students seats. I chose their seats based on a variety of factors. I put the students who have trouble with their vision closer to the front. I also put students that I need to work with one-on-one near the front. I make sure that I put students next to students that they do not speak with to reduce unnecessary conversations. I rearrange them as needed throughout the school year. If I see that two students do not get along, I will move them apart. I will also move students if they are constantly talking.

Almira Bhojwani
Almira Bhojwani
230 Activity Points

Having them draw numbers does have the advantage of being random, and for many assignments that is ok, but sometimes you want to put them in groups where they can teach each other, and if you get a group where they are all lost, that doesn't always happen. So for some assignments, I will go through my list and mark the low and high people and try to make sure there is one of each in every group and fill in randomly with the people who are left. That way there is a leader in each group who can help with keeping the group on-task. Not every A-B student is a leader, and for those, I may put more than one in that group. It also depends on the group sizes because I do not always have students work in the same size group - depends on the assignment. But that can also be accomplished at at your tables (random or not). There are a couple other forums where this topic is discussed. You might try using the search box above this on the left and the term "groups" to see what else has been talked about.

Tina Harris
Tina Harris
65560 Activity Points

I really like the idea of having equally amount of "smarts" in a group. Having a leader is a great idea so they will have accountability on each other as students. I, as a soon to be teacher in learning, also have a curiosity in how I will do seating charts in my future classroom. I do know that I want my students to be comfortable where they are sitting, but I also want them to learn and not be distracted. I think a lot of seating arrangements of students talking to peers and not paying attention by having ground rules and squashing any "bad habits" right away. While making your classroom ground rules it would be important to include your students in the decision. This gives them the opportunity to have their input and also sets the classroom environment that, you as a teacher, want to include all your students.

Kelsey Katcher
Kelsey Katcher
3344 Activity Points

Hi Jannah, Welcome to the forums! I tend to use several different methods when picking my seating arrangements. None of these are random. I use them all for intentional purposes. I am only going to describe a few. The first day of school I put everyone in alphabetical order so I can more easily learn their names. Students stay in that seating arrangement until we are done with the lab safety review. The next seating chart method I use is a random draw. Once I have established students' ability level and strengths I may mix things up a bit depending on the project or assignment with which we are working. In the past, I have put students in groups by their particular talent. Every group has a good speaker, leader, meticulous recordkeeper...you get the idea. I have put students in groups so that they could teach each other. I change my seating arrangement after every unit. It keeps my students from getting too comfortable. Also, it forces students to work with people with whom they would not normally work. On that note, I think a seating arrangement is a small portion of good classroom management. A well managed classroom will promote a culture of learning and acceptance of others. I've attached a collection on classroom management that you might find helpful. What are others' ideas when it comes to seating arrangements? Chime in and give your advice to Jannah.


Classroom Management in the Middle School Collection
(7 items)
Creating a Fair Classroom Environment
     -Journal Article
Editor’s Roundtable: Classroom management à la Goldilocks
     -Journal Article
Managing Inquiry-Based Classrooms
     -Journal Article

Ruth Lehmann Hutson
Ruth Hutson
58810 Activity Points

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas on how you manage seating arrangements. I will be sure to check out some of the resources you posted. I am a student teacher and I am about to graduate, any resources helps!

Olga Ortiz
Olga Ortiz
1715 Activity Points

Hello! I too, am a soon-to-be teacher, and really appreciated some of the methods you mentioned here. I too, believe seating charts should rarely just be "random." It's important to survey the dynamics and learning levels of the students on your classroom, and go from there. I enjoyed how, even your first seating chart is intentional. Putting them in al[alphabetical order will ensure that you aren't "favoring" anything in particular. It also ensures that the students will interact with new people. I also enjoyed how you mentioned making groups "equal" with different levels present in each group.

Yes, seating arrangements are just a small portion of classroom management. SO much goes into making sure you have a cohesive classroom environment. Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas! I will definitely keep all of these factors in mind when preparing my first classroom!

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Bethany Piotter
6145 Activity Points

I really enjoyed reading the various methods you use in your classroom to seat your students. I like the idea of having an assigned seat the first days of school to ease anxiety; what I had not though about is how doing this could also help you learn student names.

Taylor Walden
Taylor Walden
540 Activity Points

Ruth-- I love your seating arrangement ideas! I think the best arrangements are when the students think they random, but they are very much intentional. I like that you mentioned changing your seeing arrangement often. Like you said, it is a great way for everyone to get to work together and for no one to get too comfortable. The classroom management ideas that you added are also very helpful and I will look at them as I am currently a preservice teacher.

Jillian Haberichter
Jillian Haberichter
3038 Activity Points

Hello Jillian, Thank you for your reply. I wanted to share something new that I have been doing in my physics class in terms of seating charts and group work this year. We use a modeling physics approach so every three to four days we finish our lab activity and discussion/lecture, which is then followed by a quiz. After each quiz, I let one student from the previous lab group pick their lab group for the next lesson. This year lab groups generally contain three students. Caveats for group choice include you may not pick only your friends and you cannot have the same people that were in the previous group. It has worked splendidly because students realize that they can work with anyone for a couple of days (especially if I insist). Also, no one ends up feeling left out because everyone gets to be the leader at some point. My physics class contains primarily seniors so they are mature enough to handle this responsibility. It has been so successful that I am going to try it with my chemistry class, which is primarily juniors with a few sophomores. We will see how it works with the chemistry class and I will report back. Has anyone else tried something similar? How did it work with your students?

Ruth Lehmann Hutson
Ruth Hutson
58810 Activity Points

I agree that seating arrangements are a big part of classroom management. You have to make sure that the students are able to learn and succeed in whatever seat they are in. I like your idea of changing the seating arrangement after every unit. This allows students to work with other people and not get too comfortable, like you mentioned. I really like how you said you like to arrange the seating based on talents, allowing each group to have a good speaker, leader, record keeper, etc. Great ideas, I will have to use these in my classroom! Thanks!

Emily Heckroth
Emily Heckroth
3967 Activity Points

I really enjoyed reading what you had to say about seating charts, and I never realized how many different options to design a seating chart there really was. As a student pursuing a degree in education, I really found this beneficial. Of course, putting them in alphabetical order makes the most sense for probably the first couple days or week, as like you said, it allows for a great chance to better put names and faces together. I also really liked how you said you change out where your students sit after every unit, I think that is a very important tool that teachers sometimes overlook. It allows the students a chance to work with some of their other classmates and it prevents them from being too comfortable with certain ones. I think the most important information I will take from your post and use in my future classroom is the way you seat together students based off of talents - how every group has a leader, speaker, writer, and so on. I never even thought about doing it that way, you always just hear of putting your higher level students with your lower level students and then some of the other students in the mix, too. So I enjoyed hearing that and cannot wait to implement someday in my very own classroom. Thanks for some great tips!

Tayler Maiers
Tayler Maiers
4510 Activity Points

Thank you both for your replies, Ruth and Tina. I really like the idea of considering students'leadership ability and their talents as well as their academic strengths. I'm also intrigued by the idea of changing seating charts for every unit. Somewhere, possibly my own high school experiences, I got the impression that teachers only changed seating charts when something wasn't working or if a classroom was out of control. I'm seeing how mixing up seating charts can be more positive and proactive. I'll search for groups and see what other information I can find. And thanks Ruth for the resource collection. I've been struggling with management in general as well.

Jannah Fitch
Jannah Fitch
370 Activity Points

Thank you for the replies and resources. I am sure they will prove helpful.

Christian Chapman
Christian Chapman
555 Activity Points

Hi Jannah - I also use seating charts very actively at Middle School level and change my seating charts every unit to give students a new perspective on their learning environment. This also encourages students to meet and interact with other students. Our 8th grade science units are approx. 4 weeks long, so about 4 seating chart changes per semester - Students seem to look forward to the changes and ask prior to the next unit, when they will get their new seating chart. Another important consideration in seating charts is IEP mandated priority seating accommodations for students with learning disabilities or physical disabilities. This is my first consideration when designing a seating chart. In addition, if you can it is also helpful to change the physical arrangement of the desk/table placement occasionally. Again, students seem to appreciate the rearrangements of the space and some even suggest creative desk arrangements. The one caveat in making changes is to consider carefully your students who do not adjust well to changes (OCD, EBD, etc.). I generally talk with these students and their classroom aides [u]before[/u] making any seating change or desk rearrangement so they are prepared and comfortable with the changes. If the student wants to "stay put in the same place", you can creatively rotate the rest of the arrangement around their fixed point. Students start their class day at their assigned seats for quick attendance and any short direct instruction. Then we often "rearrange" into work groups for labs or projects. Of course, seating charts are especially helpful to substitute teachers. Finally, seating charts can also be used artfully to help you manage individual student behavioral issues, by creative placement of their seat (prevention) or as a Logical consequence of repeated disruptions of the teaching/learning environment. I also teach high school science, and use a teacher designed seating chart at beginning of terms to learn names and accommodate IEP considerations. However, I soon let these young adults choose their seats and only rearrange if behavioral/learning issues require adjustments. These student seating choices are recorded on a seating chart for substitutes. Enjoy your student teaching experience! Dorothy

Dorothy Ginnett
Dorothy Ginnett
27595 Activity Points

Hi Jannah- I used to start alphabetically, sometimes with the end of the alphabet in the front (they would be really grateful for the reversal). I needed to seat them alphabetically so that I could learn their names. I have a name learning disability, induced by Stanford's teacher training program- described in my book. After the first test, I'd put weakest students in front, A students in back. Research into sound fields supports the need for weaker students to be up front. It also makes you more likely to have eye contact with them. Seating charts are a way of conveying expectations- and control of the situation. Dana Dunnan www.chalkdustmemories.com

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Dana Dunnan
Dana Dunnan
280 Activity Points

Hi Dana, I really like this method I think. I struggle with learning my students names (especially first AND last), so I think this method is one I could start with while I am initially learning who my students are. The thought of ability seating is one that I enjoy, and also am worried about attempting to implement. While it is true that your struggling students should be in closer proximity to the teacher up front, I am concerned about the students who were proficient in the previous topic being moved to the back. However, it is definitely something I am up for trying! Thanks!

Courtney Johannssen
Courtney Johannssen
710 Activity Points

I group based on 2 factors: ability and behavior. I find that many students have other students that they should never sit next to! This is my first criterion when developing a seating chart. The ability levels are the second.

Steve Kirsche
Stephen Kirsche
8995 Activity Points

Whatever you do, DO NOT let them chose their own seats. I learned that much in my classroom management class in my teaching credential program. Seating charts should be us to help classroom management and keep talkers separate and to help with student focus and attention. The ability grouping can be arranged during a reading time or a group work time but not necessarily durning class seating.

Caroline Dillon
Caroline Dillon
315 Activity Points

Also, if you have any English Learners make sure you place them next to someone they feel comfortable with or someone who speaks their native language. It is important for these students to feel comfortable in the classroom and have someone close to them that they can talk to!

Corrie Armstrong
Corrie Armstrong
490 Activity Points

I am currently at student teacher in a first grade classroom. Initially, my teacher allowed students to choose their seat. After the second week of school and becoming for familiar with the students, she began making changes. Students are seated in clustered groups, and they are distributed evenly according to academic levels. Students who are often off-task were placed closer to the board and closer to the teacher's view. She said she did not want these students to be "hidden" at the back of the class were they were more likely to be off-task.

Janeth Rebolloso
Janeth Rebolloso
1780 Activity Points

I do not allow them to choose their seats, because of course they will choose to sit with their friends, which can be a huge distraction.

Sarah Sanchez
Sarah Sanchez
1555 Activity Points

I'm finishing up my last semester of student teaching and what my cooperative teacher did this year was allowed her students to pick their own seats. Once things started to not work well or the students got off task, she warned them by saying "until this doesn't work, we'll have assigned seats". So far, it's the second month of school and we haven't had to do assigned seats. I think it also depends on the class and grade level.

Shelby Robinson
Shelby Robinson
1840 Activity Points

I am in college to be a teacher and we have had this conversation many times in multiple education classes. Personally, depending on the age and just the group of students, I think that just letting them choose their own seats tends to work just fine. However, if you have a more difficult group, or if you just want to have assigned seats, then I definitely think they should not be assigned randomly. I think that the best way to do this would be to look at what students do and do not work well together, and from there, do it based on abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. This way, the students can learn from each other and help each other and it creates a sort of give and take between the students. With seating charts, of course you will also have to consider students with special needs, like attention span issues, eye sight issues, etc. Seating charts will always start off as a trial and error thing, so try one arrangement and if something about it doesn't work, change that part of it, and just keep adjusting until you find something that works.

Michelle Mattern
Michelle Mattern
1775 Activity Points

It varies depending on your students get to know them first.

Jessica Orozco
Jessica Orozco
1140 Activity Points

thank you all for the resources, these will be a lot of help!

Carina Hernandez
Carina Hernandez
1845 Activity Points

http://712educators.about.com/od/discipline/f/Should-I-Use-A-Seating-Chart-In-My-Classroom.htm The like I have posted above does a great job at giving different perspectives of seating charts it tells you the pros and cons. I would personally allow my students to choose their seat at the beginning of the year but if their seating becomes problematic or they are distracted then I will have to move students.

Leslie Gonzalez
Leslie Gonzalez
2250 Activity Points

It is important to find the best way it can be beneficial for you and the students. Have to make sure it works well for classroom management and also getting to know the students throughout the year and see if there needs to be some adjustments that have to be made.

Jorge Ramos
jorge ramos
2140 Activity Points

I have seen a seating chart used in the classroom during lectures, and then the students will be placed in different groups during experiments. This allows for effective classroom management, and for students to better interact with each other in groups.

Lisa Jackson
Lisa Jackson
1615 Activity Points

I really think it depends on the grade and the students in the class. I am a students teacher in a kindergarten class. we do not have a seating chart for students. we have tables and they are able to sit where every they wish. We do have them in assigned center groups and they have to sit with them during centers. But theses get switched around as students become to comfortable with one another. We also assign seats when they are in Writers Workshop. At that point we also assess the students behavior that day and pair them up with students that will talk less. for science lessons and experiments we are usually in a whole group setting on the floor. Like I said earlier it really depends on the students you have in the class and what you feel comfortable with.

Kiren Ahmed
Kiren Ahmed
4840 Activity Points

Personally i think seating charts are great if you modify them every few weeks. I had a teacher that would change our seating arrangement every week. It became a part of our weekly schedule. On friday's she would take a few minutes before the end of the period to assign the student their new seats. It was great i never got bored of where i was sitting and i also got a chance to work with new students who is it wasn't for my teacher i may not have ever worked with them because they were necessary part of my core group of friends. I also learned how to work with student whom i didn't necessary care to work with for whatever the reason. I think seating charts are great if you use them wisely.

Victoria Robayna
Victoria Robayna
600 Activity Points

At that age, I personally think that random would be best. Students are all smart in their own ways and a lot of the times we limit them by putting them in seats that we think are "best" for them. You would be surprised to see what students could get out of sitting somewhere they had the "choice" of picking and it not necessarily being next to a friend.

Allison Oharriz
Allison Oharriz
610 Activity Points

As a student teacher as well, I have been wondering the same thing. From personal experience with my mentor teacher, she uses a combination of free choice with specific ground rules. If a student has a specific 504 or IEP, we obviously accommodate their need accordingly to start off. Next, we go by those special students who tend to think they are at lunch on their own time rather than a science class. We have individual tables grouped into 4-5 students so we put those certain students each at their own table and then throw in some friends to help with motivation in the classroom and students of other abilities, talents and learning levels mixed up throughout the groups of tables. There is always going to be an issue that might arise with talking or students not getting along, which is no problem since you have equally distributed the students at each group, so you TYPICALLY just switch those similar students around.

Darcey Bodziony
Darcey Bodziony
945 Activity Points

As a student teacher who will be going into the classroom next semester, I have never given much thought to seating charts--so this is all really helpful! For some of the more experienced teachers: how do you handle classroom management and flexible seating? I know establishing routines and procedures is a must.

Katie Irvine
Katie Irvine
645 Activity Points

I teach third grade so I can only give an elementary perspective. I have always with the exception of one time assigned seating spots to my students. I always start the school year in desk pods usually four to five to a pod depending on how many students I have. This year I have 18. There have been years when I had to make quick adjustments because certain kids just can't sit together. I like the beginning of the year to go as smoothly as possible with setting expectations and instilling good habits. I do keep students who need more help or direction closer to the front but I mixed them up with other students so they don't feel singled out. I never seat students by learning ability. When I was in elementary school I did have a teacher who did this and I always felt bad for the lower kids because we all knew they were the lower kids. Unless we are doing state testing, I never put my students in the traditional rows. This is my least favorite way to set up a classroom. The one time I let my students pick their spots was when I taught 4th grade. Overall they were a good class so I decided to try it out. It ended up with boys sitting with boys and girls sitting with girls. They promised me they would behave so I wouldn't change their spots. They were good for about 3 days and then I could see they couldn't handle it. Once I had them back in assigned seating they were back to their old selves. Don't be afraid to move kids if needed.

Brenda Velasco
Brenda Velasco
2280 Activity Points

I like that idea too!

Madelyn Blankenship
Madelyn Blankenship
1678 Activity Points

I love all the different ideas!  In one of my methods courses we use the card as well and it works great.  I love how with cards you can change it up overtime as you mentioned!

Rachael Niehus
Rachael Niehus
3935 Activity Points

I believe a seating chart is the foundation as to whether the students learn in the classroom. If they are placed with students whom are their "friends" and are consistently socializing, then they will more likely not be paying attention during the lesson. If a student is placed in a group that is either more advanced or behind than they are, then that gap could take effect them in the long run. I believe it's important to get to know your students before placing them in a seating chart.

Daina Castillo
Daina Castillo
220 Activity Points

I love all of the various ways to assign seats in this forum! I think that allowing them to choose seats can help them build friendships, but I also think it is necessary to assign seats accordingly so that students can scaffold one another.

Chanel Bristol
Chanel Bristol
240 Activity Points

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