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Seating Plans

At a minimum, a seating plan helps with behaviour management by allowing you to use and learn student names from lesson one. A seating plan gives you control over the learning environment. If you are an NQT, you will most likely need to write your own seating plan. Try and see if you can find out what the previous class teachers' seating plan was - children are creatures of habit and will often want to sit in "their chair".

The physical setup of chairs, tables, and presentation in a classroom can significantly influence learning. Instructional communication theory suggests that seating arrangements can impact how the instructor communicates with students and how the students interact with one another, impacting engagement, motivation, and focus (McCorskey and McVetta, 1978).

Benefits of seating arrangements include:

  • Improved classroom management

  • Well-behaved students

  • Students’ individual needs catered for 

  • A classroom that reflects a teacher’s teaching style

  • Safe and accessible classroom environment

Before constructing a seating plan, you need to ensure that the desks and seats are in the arrangement that best suits your teaching style. There are two common arrangements for a classroom. The first is the traditional lecture style, the second is a more collaborative style with students grouped into pods.

Here are some key considerations:

  • Girl-boy-girl-boy seating plans are popular but if boys are surrounded by girls who are more able, they risk becoming more introverted and will achieve less. This is partly because during the secondary years girls are more vocal and have a wider range of language registers than boys

  • Mix up different ethnic groups. Often at the beginning of the year, especially when children are in year 7, like is drawn to like so in many classrooms there is one area where the big loud lads sit or an Asian girls' group or an all white table. It is your job to mix it up so they work together and learn from one another

  • The 'naughty table' or grouping together children who are inattentive or, setting a class into ability groups is not good practice. Many young people who have behaviour issues have been lumped together as the 'problem group' and it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as they feel labelled and judged from the beginning

  • If you are worried about where to seat a child, especially one with recognised mental health problems, ask them where they would feel most comfortable. This is not about allowing the child to take control. It is about working together so the child can access the learning

Flexibility is the key to successful seating plans. Many teachers will be constrained by the physical position of the furniture in a classroom but see if you can accommodate quiet purposeful individual work and easily move students around for small group exercises. Is everything geared to a front of the classroom approach, or is there a clear corner which can be used for role play or for a child who needs a time-out in a small space? There is no single recipe for success and many a teacher has had to change their seating plan during the year. This is where technology comes to the rescue. Once, teachers spent hours laboriously moving bits of paper round a grid, but as well as being time-consuming it was not possible to share the information with a wider group so the effort and results often went unrecognised.

Again Teacher Toolkit has some useful reading on the topic, with a second article on the topic too and there are many articles on TES about the topic

You will also need to highlight the key data about students on your seating plan. This will help you to see where your students can offer peer support to one another and it will also enable you to see which areas of your classroom may need more support and which would need less.

Further Reading

Gremmen, M.C., van den Berg, Y.H.M., Segers, al.Considerations for classroom seating arrangements and the role of teacher characteristics and beliefs.Soc Psychol Educ19,749–774 (2016)

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