All About Seating Plans


Seating plans...every teacher's nightmare. A good seating plan can be the difference between a well-ordered, controlled class and an unruly argumentative one. I know that when I first started out, I had a horrible time trying to figure it out. One student out of place can be a disaster. Here are five things to consider when making your seating plan, whether it's the first day of school or any old Wednesday.

Type of Desk

The first thing to think about is the physical drawbacks of moving around your desks. Are your desks permanently adhered to the floor? Can you move them at all? Are they small and light, or large tables? How many students can they seat? Is it possible for them to seat more or less students? Have you considered alternative seating arrangements? Several high school teachers I know personally use alternative seating where the students can use standing desks, or exercise balls.

In-Built Distractions

What does your classroom have that make it suck away attention? Do you have a huge row of windows facing the parking lot or sports fields? Display cases full of props? Shelves full of things within grabbing distance?

Are there kids who should be seated closer to a trash can, or a pencil sharpener, or the Kleenexes, or farther away?

Teacher-Focused vs Student-Focused Arrangements

This is something that I didn’t spend a ton of time on until recently, but it makes so much sense when you embrace the idea that there are two kinds of classrooms – ones focused on the kids, and ones focused on you. How you set up the desks, kids facing each other or in groups, versus facing the front or towards a projection screen, greatly changes this dynamic.

Student Maturity

Some kids can’t handle working in groups. They aren’t mature enough. In a room that’s filled to capacity, sometimes this means that you don’t have an empty seat to put next to a trouble maker. I find that matching a less mature or louder student with a quiet more mature one can bring out the best of both kids.

Friends – Both Positive and Negative

It’s important to harness the power of friends. Some kids work a thousand times better when they’re paired up with someone who they know well. Orrrr…they might do a whole lot of nothing and be a disruption to more students. I try to pair each kid up with someone they tolerate, but maybe not their best friend, otherwise that’s the end of all productivity.

Well, I’m making a new seating plan tonight! What are your tips for seating difficult students?