Flexible Seating

The last five years I’ve been in the same classroom, so my desks have all been arranged the same way, and I’ve arranged my students the same way. On the first day of school, students are seated alphabetically. Occasionally, I’ll avoid sitting two students next to each other by going reverse alphabetically (based on where the row breaks are), but generally, these seats are given from day 1 until the end of September, early October, until I learn everyone’s name and the students have an opportunity to learn each other’s names.

But this past year, I was doing a study group at my school with other co-teaching partnerships, and the SS teacher talked about how she changed up seats randomly, from day 1, so students never complained about sitting next to new people, they knew there was an expectation that they would move around a lot, and there was an expectation that they would work with everyone. So if they weren’t nuts about someone they sat next to, they only needed to wait a few days and they’d forget they’d ever sat near that person.

This seems to tie in to the ideas of flexible seating, because we always hear about students managing to figure out the “eagles” are the fast reading group or the “blue birds” are the slow reading group, or whatever (i.e. they catch on to our cute ways of disguising ability grouping). I’ve toyed with flexible seating in the past, in having home seats (initially alphabetical, and later by my arrangement) and color seats (homogenous, but based on recent formative assessment for targeted skills). I’ve never tried truly randomized seating though, and I think this might be the year.

I was reading a blog post about getting kids to line up in the back by birthday and then giving students a chance to get their seats and create a randomized seating chart in the moment here https://mathymcmatherson.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/live-blogging-my-first-day-activities/ and I was thinking this might be the perfect year to try out some randomized seating arrangements. Afterall, how much more random is it to seat them by birthday (or by playing card) than it is to seat them by last name? I don’t know anything about the students at that point anyway, so anything that comes up with needing to move seats will be dealt with just as swiftly as I would otherwise. And it will begin sending the message to the students that we change seats a lot and we work with all of the other students in our learning community.

I’m even thinking of having students create a name plate with their preferred name on it for their desk and putting it out every day so that I can have them switch seats multiple times within the first week (especially when we’re doing getting to know you type of activities and other math launching activities where I don’t necessarily need them to be heterogeneously paired).

What’s everyone else’s experiences with randomized seating?


One thought on “Flexible Seating

  1. For the first week, I usually do a cardstock (folded hot dog style) name plate and on the inside, I have them do their exit tickets. I like that I can move the kids around daily and they get the chance to work with a lot of different people right off the bat. I’m also horrible with names, so it helps me to always have their name in front of them rather than saying, “Hey, you!” 🙂

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