Seating with Groups in Mind

The initial idea of using playing cards and the compass is not my original idea.

If students are seated at tables or in small groups of desks, tape a playing card or a colored dot (the ones used at garage sales) where each student sits. That way each student in the group has a different card or color. When the time comes to get students into groups, it will be much easier. For example, all spades or all blues will be a group, or each blue has to find another blue and work in twos. No counting off, no drawing popsicle sticks, and less confusion.

Rather than using cards (or in addition to?), the teacher may tape a compass onto each table (if students are sitting at tables and not desks) so that each student is assigned a direction, which will help their geography skills. It will serve the same point as taping a card to each desk or corner of a table.


Classroom management and seating go hand in hand. Here are some thoughts about seating.

Gary Rubinstein writes that collaborative learning (i.e. seating students in groups and doing projects in those groups) isn’t necessary all the time and should, in fact, be used in moderation. There’s a time and place for independent work and group work. The good news is that desks and chairs can move.

I taught in a classroom that had the desks in a U-shape. Students got up and moved around frequently. Desks were used to store heavy books and other belongings, but it wasn’t as if their desks were their personal property to which they were attached.

Gary writes that in his class, students often sit in rows (he teaches math, by the way) but know that they can ask their neighbors of help. So there’s the collaborative teaching and learning environment right there without students sitting in groups and being more prone to being off-task. I’ve worked with a teacher or two who¬† made the rule that before asking the teacher for help, students had to ask 2 or 3 other students for help first.

There’s really no reason for students to sit in groups unless it’s best for them to work and be assessed together. At the end, you’ll still need an individual assessment.

So right now, it seems that sitting in a circle or U-shape seems the best for most lessons.