The way students are placed around a classroom in relation to the teacher can affect how they feel about their assignment and their learning experience. A number of important studies show how different kinds of classroom seating arrangements help with different kinds of classroom aims. Here are a few classroom seating ideas.
The Stadium Seating Arrangement
The stadium seating pattern involves arranging desks in angled rows. In this arrangement, instead of having long rows of desks that are all parallel to the front and back walls of the classroom, the rows are broken up in the middle and angled inward to face the teacher.
Teachers prefer this seating arrangement when they need an easy way to keep an eye on what each student is doing at any given time. The arrangement is easier on the students, too. When they are made to sit in long rows from one edge of the classroom to the other, the ones who sit at the desks on either end usually need to strain to see the teacher.
In the stadium seating arrangement, the students’ desks can be arranged in such a way that students on each angled row are right up against one another. If they were separated, they would have a hard time helping one another out.
The stadium arrangement is a good idea, also, because it provides a considerable amount of space at the front of the class. This can give the teacher space to pace about in or place an overhead projector cart in. Students often love temporary seating rearrangements like this because it gives them a bit of welcome change.
The downside to the stadium seating arrangement is that it can take up too much room. It won’t work in classrooms that are jam-packed with desks.
Different Kinds of U-shaped Arrangement
Teachers don’t always need to teach their classes. Sometimes, they need to assign work to everyone and keep an eye on them as they go about it completing their assignment. In a classroom where everyone needs to busily work away, it’s also important to separate students somewhat so that there isn’t much talking.
A proper or partial U-shaped arrangement can be ideal for such needs. With students arrayed out in a U, the teacher necessarily has her back to half the class at any given time. This isn’t a good idea for a teaching classroom. It works when the teacher only needs to keep an eye on everyone and offer help whenever necessary.
Setting Desks Out in Little Groups
In teaching situations that focus on collaborative learning, students often need to form little groups or teams of 3 or 4. A grouped desk arrangement can work very well here. To emphasize the effect that each collection of 3 or 4 desks is a group, each group necessarily need to be spaced apart. This, then, can only work in classrooms that don’t have many students. If a grouped arrangement is preferred, they can be arranged in one of several ways. They can be arranged in a spread-out circle or a U, for instance.
Teachers who need classroom groups sometimes do away with desks altogether and bring in tables, instead – one table to each group. This kind of arrangement makes for a less cluttered classroom.
Combining Different Kinds of Arrangements
Sometimes, the way a teacher needs to deal with a classroom falls into none of the above categories. For instance, while a U-shaped arrangement may work for most students in a class, there can be two or three students who have difficulty concentrating when placed with other students. They may need to sit by themselves for the duration of a given task. At other times, the teacher can find that two or three students do very well when placed together by themselves, but have their rhythm disrupted when they have other children in the group. They can be placed separately, too.
It’s important to not feel the need to rigidly keep to any specific seating plan. Seating arrangements are meant to help the teacher and her students find a seating plan that works for them.
Marcus Anderson is a middle school English teacher. When school lets out, he likes to share his insights by blogging online.