Sunday, January 1, 2017

New year! New you! New seating assignments?

I hope everyone brought in the new year with happiness and joy! I also hope you have had the chance to re-energize during winter break for the second half of the school year!

It's been a while since my last post. I blame it on work overload and holiday chaos. I'm sure many can relate.  ;)

Any who! It seems the new year has blessed me with a huge wave of ideas and energy. (I truly hope it will last all year.) 

I'm actually thinking of going to work before I actually HAVE to go to work, if you know what I mean. You know the saying, "New year, new me!" Or at least, new seating arrangements and new seating charts. Yeah, it's about that time.

Let's talk about these, shall we? This is what I do in my classroom.

I have my desks set up as illustrated below. I actually write the letters and numbers on the desks with permanent marker. I've tried the colored dots, labels, stickers, etc. with packing tape, but some students keep fidgeting with the tape and curling the ends. GRRRRRRR! Don't you just hate that?

The number on each desk is the group number and the letter represents the student sitting at that desk. It comes in handy and definitely avoids confusion. For example, if I'm calling up a group to conduct a presentation in front of the class, I just call on Group 3 when it's their turn. If it's time to put away journals, I'll just have student C from each group put them away. No arguing. No chaos. I love it! You can find more information about writing on desks with permanent marker HERE.

By the way, I refer to this as "Position One". All desks facing the front of the classroom. As you can see, the illustration above shows 24 desks. You know and I know that not ALL classes have exactly 24 students, so you have to be creative for some classes. If I ask student D to gather the supply baskets for their group and student D from Group 4 is absent or no one sits at this desk, I just tell students to go on to the next in line which would be student A in their group. I just needed to tell each class about this once and they caught on really quick.

My students talk a whole lot in my classroom. I love for students to discuss ideas for solutions, take turns explaining to each other, and peer tutor during certain activities. "Shoulder partners" are perfect for doing this! So is "Position One".  Group 1 is shown below. Students A and B are shoulder partners and students C and D are shoulder partners.  If the activity involves taking turns, I'll just have students A and D from each group go first, then tell students B and C to go second.  It works really well in my classroom.
"Position Two" is for group activities, such as stations, projects, etc. Sometimes, I even allow students to sit in "Position Two" to complete a practice sheet for a newly presented skill. This gives students that are struggling or don't understand something a chance to ask students in their group for help. This works really well for students that are too shy to ask the teacher for help in front of the whole class. Some students prefer to ask a peer instead of the teacher on certain situations. They just feel more comfortable doing that. I'm okay with that as long as they are learning!

As you can see, only students A and B move their desks so that they face each other. Students C and D remain in the same position. This makes the transition from one position to the other easier, quicker, quieter and smoother.  It also allows all students in the group to face each other to allow for better communication during activities.

By now you have noticed the order of the letters in my groups. It comes in handy for activities that require all students in a group to take turns participating. I direct them to take turns clockwise or counterclockwise. This is so that they can understand what direction clockwise and counterclockwise go in, especially if and when it appears on a particular test. You know it will and not only on a math test. ;) Most importantly, with more vocabulary, they receive more knowledge and more power!

Another advantage to setting up your desks this way is that you can make larger groups for other activities. For example, you can have all A's form a group, B's form another group, all C's form a group and all D's make the last group. They can do a gallery walk activity then reconvene with their main group to share ideas they gathered from the group they were just in! Imagine all of the discussions, ideas shared and learning taking place!

Whew! That sure was a whole lot of information!  I truly hope it is helpful.

I'd like to spend a little more time explaining how I assign seats now. I promise, I'll be quick. 

I don't allow my students to just sit anywhere they would like. I'm pretty sure you know why. I use test data.  For example, when we finish a unit and take the unit test, I place students from highest score to lowest score. I then create quartiles, so that I have quartile 1 (highest), quartile 2, quartile 3 and quartile 4 (lowest).  I place one student from each quartile to form one group alternating between highs and lows. This way, students can peer tutor each other when they are doing a shoulder partner activity and their levels are not so far apart that they will get frustrated with each other. I also do take personality conflicts into consideration. :)

I hope these tips on seating arrangements are helpful! As anything else in life and on the internet, all of these are not guaranteed to work but they are definitely worth a try!  I do understand that everyone is different, students and teachers alike. I also understand that everyone has their own ideas as well.  I am just sharing what works for me in my classroom in hopes of helping someone else.

Thanks so much for reading and have a wonderful 2017!

If you do have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me. I will get back to you as soon as I can!  ;)

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