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Make Your Move... In Classroom Seating

For the first few weeks of school, my students are tortured with sitting in straight rows, all assigned a specific spot for my benefit.  I am not a name person, so learning the names, first and last, of 200+ students is my most frustrating teacher obligation.  But then, as I start to get the names, I feel more comfortable to make my move.  And then comes the question:

How do I arrange the desks?

Now keep in mind, I continue to have seating charts until... Oh, about the last week of school!  I think that structure and clear expectations are vital for a successful classroom, but I also love to change things up!  One of the greatest compliments I ever received from my students was, "I never know what to expect from you!" 

So, why move the desks?  Varying up the seating arrangements has a number of clear benefits:
  • Students can focus more on the activity at hand.
  • Greater interaction can take place between students.
  • Activities or lessons can be implemented in an easier or more logical format.
  • Classroom management can be more easily achieved.
  • Student relationships can be molded and modeled.
And then the best reason... Just to keep them guessing!  Stimulating brain activity just by moving my desks was the start to engaging lessons.  As students entered the classroom each day, they asked,

"What are we doing today?" 
"Is this one of those activities you do?" 
"Are we doing something fun?" 

And I could always answer, "Yes!"

How can you vary things up?
  1. Arrange for group small group interaction and response required group work.
  2. Pair for analysis activities and pair discussion and sharing activities.
  3. Circle for whole class discussion or direct instruction.
  4. Set in straight lines for timelining activities or cause-and-effect lessons.
  5. Do a wall-face for individual assignments where focus in imperative.
  6. Arrange in staggering rows for testing or assessments.
And then one final note... Sometimes students entered my classroom to find all desks against the back wall.  These were the most valuable and engaging days!  This meant we were doing a walking tour, and archeology dig, a review game, or even better, we were all going to sit in the floor to discuss a topic dear to my heart and to share our thoughts as a group. 

In the end, it's not about the seats.  It's about making the move to encourage student connections.  What could be more valuable in a Social Studies classroom?

Happy Teaching!