Seating – Ideas vs the Reality of Live Students

As this school year is coming to an end, student attendance is spotty between standardized testing, retake testing, exams, and exam exemptions. I am still teaching as much as possible in this situation, but sometimes I just give up for that day. What to do then?

Well, for starters, I ask the students to help me clean and pack the room. I’m always surprised how many students will eagerly offer to lend a hand (though I’m pretty positive their mother has to twist their arm to get them to help around the house).

But that’s not all. I find the end of the year a perfect opportunity to test run new and different seating arrangements.

My two necessary requirements to any seating arrangement:

  • Room to move about easily.
  • No one’s back to the board.

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I ask for student input. We move desks. They sit and I take a precious moment of full cooperation to “mock” teach for a while. In past years, we’ve reviewed tenses, translated a fun story, played Kahoot (my least favorite, but a reward for them), listened to a myth, etc.

Afterwards, we vote on the seating arrangement. Could everyone see where I was with ease? Could everyone hear me with ease? Were the desks too close together? Too far apart? What should we try next?

At the start of the next year, students are always excited to see whose design won out.

As I’ve been planning next year to include more CI, I’ve specifically focused on finding ways to get students away from the ever distracting backpack of fun alternatives (to listening for understanding). I can’t wait to introduce this new wrinkle into our seating designs – “The Backpack Zone.” I’ve been tossing around ideas for how to introduce next year’s limitation of backpack access without getting students riled up and pissed off before even trying it. I hope this idea works… A Mary Poppins-esque “spoonful of sugar” to help them accept fate.

(“The Backpack Zone” will be marked off with tape – some kind of fun design – a “box” along one wall for the backpacks, sports bags, lunchboxes, and purses to chill during class. I’m also tossing around the incentive of a “charging station” for cell phones and laptops in the “Backpack Zone”.)

As an aside, thanks to an idea from Martina Bex at the Comprehensible Classroom, I’ve created a series of six desk cards (with mythological monsters) to help with first day seating arrangements, etc. I can’t wait to try her idea out!

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