Creating seating assignments can be stressful and incredibly time consuming. I am not a huge fan of the task. Not only is my lacking special awareness very apparent when drawing the layout of my room, around 50% of the time I get the same kid on there twice, while some poor kid gets totally left out. There are so many working parts to a seating chart, it can be a total mess.
I came across a great little trick that I now can’t find anywhere on the internet. Have students create a name card that has table group “requests”. Have students write their name in the middle of an index card. On the top part have them write 3 boys they want to sit with, on the bottom have them write 3 girls. This trick gives you so much data on the way the class is working out while also helping you create table groups the kids actually will want to work with.
I started to pull out examples of how to do this from my own class and I realized it would basically be a giant blurred out document. For explanation purposes I made up a fake class.
Step 1: Student circle their own name in the center of an index card. They write 3 boys they want to sit with on top and 3 girls they want to sit with on the bottom. Collect the cards and store them somewhere safe. This is sensitive information.
Step 2: Sit down with your class list and start noting information you will need to create a seating chart.
Information to include:
-Friend groups that need to be separated- Make sure all talking groups are marked. For example, an * by each name in one talking group and a # by each name in a different group.
-Students who will have an aid come in so the aid will have a spot that won’t block anyone
-Students with glasses or who forget their glasses so they can be close to the board
-Students who don’t get along with each other
-Students with significant reading difficulties so they can sit next to a strong reader who is patient
-Students who need distance from the teacher, or need to be close to the teacher
Step 3: Go through the name cards and mark how many requests each student got. This was eye opening to Sam and me when we did our last seating chart. We had one kid who was requested by all but one kid. Another wasn’t requested at all. One student was part of a group of four boys, or so we thought. None of his former friends wanted to sit with him.
Step 4: Start playing around- You have cards that you can manipulate. Each one has a suggestion for who you could put at each table. If you don’t want to look at your master list, you can make notes on each card.
It is usually best to go ahead and start by separating your talkers. At this point you don’t have to actually assign any groups to an actual table. That can be done at the very end. After my talkers are as far away as possible, I tackle any kids who really can’t get along. Hopefully you only have one or two kids at each table at this point. If you have that many talkers, yikes! I try to get my special education kids in good spots and make sure they are with peers who are open to helping.
It is also nice to pinpoint a few students you really want to support with a great table group. The boy who had been left out of his friend group was worrisome for us. It also seemed like an opportunity to put him with some fun kids who we thought he would get along with. We also saw a couple of students who had been with really tough groups before. We tried to give them a break from some of the more difficult kids.
Lastly, I look at the mix of learners at a table. I always try to have a heterogeneous mix of students at a table. Once your groups are put together you can decide where each one can go in the room.
One thing I shied away from in my first years teaching was having students sit by themselves. I wanted them to be part of a group, especially since they work with their table groups frequently. Then I realized a couple of years in that some kids WANT to work by themselves. There are students who prefer the quiet and some who know they can’t handle that degree of self-control. They still have a group that they move their chair over to when we work in groups, but for independent work, they have their own space.
I’m not saying this will make creating seating charts pain free, but it can help you create groups that function and your students are happy about. If you have great groups, you won’t have to do this very often. We have had the same groups for almost a full semester and I haven’t heard a complaint in months.