As the new academic year begins to take shape and we all bed in with new classes, new students, changing topics, it’s worth spending some time thinking about classroom organization and in particular the use of seating plans. It is sometimes argued that seating plans are most useful in challenging poor behavior, allowing the teacher to identify potential issues and manage these through careful grouping and spacing. This has significant value. However what these arguments often miss are the educational benefits that come with careful organization of teaching spaces for specific activities. What follows are some possible benefits of developing your own approach to seating plans
By ability/prior attainment
This is a simple and effective way to organise your classroom. Students with broadly similar prior attainment are seated together in groups no of more than four.
- Supports progress as students discuss, develop and critique one another’s ideas, embedding reflection and peer review.
- Allows the teacher to use easily targeted questioning techniques to probe understanding.
- Supports differentiation thorough locating students of similar attainment together making the distribution of support or stretch and challenge materials or tasks far easier.
- Gives the teacher easy access to students who need additional support.
- Variation 1
- For some activities you may want to consider organising students in mixed ability groupings. In doing this it is vital to ensure a fair distribution of students, ensuring that no single group are either far too strong or require too much scaffolding and support.
- Provides opportunities for students to work with peers who they may rarely work with, promotes group cohesion.
- Allows you to assign specific roles to individuals, encouraging them to reflect on their own contribution and that of others.
- Reduces potential labeling, fosters a sense of cooperation.
- Promotes self-esteem
- Variation 2
- Sometimes we may group student by learning preference or style. CATS data can be powerful in indicating specific learning dispositions, consider seating groups according to their CATS profile which indicate their Verbal, Non-Verbal, Quantitative and Spatial Ability scores.
- Allows students to become ambassadors for a specific learning preference.
- Support differentiated resources and task setting.
- Gives students access to and experience of working with others of different strengths and weaknesses.
Even if you only organize your class in one fixed way creating a seating plan, especially with a new class or new students, allows you to clearly and simply identify those students who may require additional literacy support, differentiated materials or tasks or who regularly need stretch activities. This can ease the provision of in class differentiation, through questioning, different activities and teacher support.
I attach a very simple seating plan template, in V1 the class is sat according to progress towards their target grade, in V2 according to learning style and roles are assigned to each. I would be keen to see other examples