It’s the first day of school and your students are just arriving to class. Some aren’t quite sure they’re in the right place, some confidently stride into the room like they’ve been there all along. You can hear squeals of delight from girls who found our their besties are going to be in the same class.
Other kids don’t seem to know anyone and many are just milling around the room, checking out the bulletin board, the posters, the animals and the specimens. If you’re been teaching for a while, this is a familiar scene.
Inevitably, a student will ask: “Where do we sit?”
I like to have an answer ready, and a plan in place for that first day. Not only does it alleviate new student anxiety, but it also can help bring order to an otherwise high-energy, chaotic day.
I have developed several strategies for the seating chart and use them each according to the type of class I am teaching that hour. I also have a limited design for my class, due to my furniture being lab tables
You can find some very interesting ideas on pinterest for classroom furniture layouts and room designs.
1. Overhead Projector Seating Chart
In this strategy, I use the overhead projector with a premade seating chart and students must find where they sit according to the chart. There is some milling around, and often some confusion about the chart, but this gives them something to do for the first few minutes of class.
This is a good strategy for freshman, who are often very nervous, and are suddenly mixed in with other students from other schools that they don’t know. A set seating chart at the beginning forces them to integrate with students from other schools. They won’t get to automatically sit next to their old friends and cliques.
2. Cards on Desks
This strategy requires some set-up beforehand and works if you don’t have a projector. Make cards with students names on them and put them in their assigned seats. Students simply need to find their card to find their seat. You could also put their names on a handout of the class rules, which would give them something to read as everyone is getting settled.
3. Sit But Don’t Get Too Comfortable
This is my old school way of assigning seats. I tell students to go ahead and sit wherever, but not to get too comfortable because they will be moving. I would then call roll and alphabetically arrange students as I call their name. This takes a while, and is not my favorite method. I still use it in my study hall because it makes attendance easy when they are arranged alphabetically.
4. Open Seating
I use this method in my advanced classes. These are usually small classes of students who already know each other, like AP Biology. I tell them they can sit where they want. There is, however, a catch. Principals and substitute teachers do not like open seating plans, so I tell them that on the 3rd day, they will be “locked in” and the seating chart will be made for the semester. This gives them a couple of days to decide where they want to sit and who their lab groups will be. Admittedly, this strategy does not work for every class.
5. Seating Chart Games
This is a way for students to get to know each other while finding their seats. It can take longer, and can be much more chaotic, but can be fun for the students. Basically, you tell students to organize themselves by a certain criteria such as: birth date, height, student ID number, alphabetic by middle name. The last person to find the seat is responsible for explaining how the class did at this task. You don’t give them much information beyond those initial instructions, which leads to a lot of interpretations.