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6 New Year Steps to Seating Chart Success

Charity Preston


6 Steps to Seating Chart SuccessWith the winter holiday break over, many teachers are buckling down and getting ready to put learning into high gear in anticipation of standardized testing season, which will be upon us before we know it. 

To mark the change of expectation, a change of scenery is always a good way to set the tone.  Changing your student seating chart may be just the thing to kick off the new year!

Student Teams Seating Plan

One of the most effective seating charts I have used is student teams of 3,4, or 5 in order to promote cooperative team learning for review and practice of the concepts learned.  With this seating arrangement, you can then use team incentives for classroom management, team challenges, and team getting-to-know-you activities throughout the day.  It will make a difference in your learning environment once the students realize they must work together, for better or worse.


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Deciding who to group together gets a little trickier when you factor in ability, male/female ratios, behavior issues, and more. Follow these simple steps to decide how to group your students the most effectively:

6 Steps to Seating Chart Success

Step 1: Start by grabbing an updated class roster.  You will need to decide what criteria you will be grouping your class by before getting started.  For example, you may decide to group based on reading level, fluency, or their overall math grade.  If you wish to change seats several times throughout the day, you can have multiple criteria.  

Start simple first and list the score of the criteria you want to try next to the student name on the roster.

Step 2: Now, grab a stack of sticky notes or index cards, and write a student name and their score in the top left corner.

Step 3: On a flat surface, place your sticky notes/index cards in chronological order from highest to lowest in a vertical column.

Step 4: Now, divide the cards into either 3,4, or 5 equal (or as close to equal) groups based on whether your teams are 3,4 or 5 students large.  For example, you should now have a top, top middle, bottom middle, and bottom groups if you are setting up teams of four.

Step 5: Color coding will help this process along if you are visual (like me), so grab a crayon, sticky dots, or a marker and place a circle or an X in the top right corner to mark the groups they are in now.

Step 6: Last, you will be taking one card from each pile (one of each color if you have decided to color code) to place in a team that will work together for 4-6 weeks.  Keep in mind you will probably want to break up students based on gender or the likelihood of chatter. 

Change up the cards and groups as much as you like, making sure to have students grouped in mixed abilities.  Once you are happy with the results, get them set up in their new seat and do a quick introduction activity (chances are, they are not the closest friends).

Adjustments & New Attitudes

Of course, as you get the new seating chart rolling, there may be tweaks and adjustments needed, but it will be super easy to swap out desks if needed. By mixing up the abilities and genders, students may actually realize that they are more alike than different – which will be a newsflash for some.

With that change, you have set the tone for a team effort of learning!   Enjoy and get back to work

How do you decide your seating chart?  Do you allow students to pick, is it alphabetical, or gender-based?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments as well!

Image source: Group1PhysicalEnvironment wiki

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