Monday, September 19, 2011

Seating Arrangements

"Who am I going to sit next to? Where is my desk?" These are important questions that concern us even as adults! For a teacher setting up your classroom, deciding how the children will sit can either prevent or create behavior problems. Don't worry about fads, or what other teachers are doing. This is a decision that needs to be personal and related to your own unique teaching style.
Tables are more often found in preschool and kindergarten classrooms than desks. These provide large areas where children can spread out and collaborate on activities. Many primary grade classrooms will have desks instead of tables, stemming from the traditional emphasis on teacher-directed lessons. While desks provide helpful space for children to keep their books and materials, it requires creativity to have children move around and work collaboratively in classrooms with desks.
The following questions can help guide your decisions about how to set up the seating arrangements for your classroom, especially if you have no choice about having desks or tables in your room.

     What kind of activity do I want the children to do? Am I going to read to the children? Have them work independently? Do small-group instruction? Movement? Each of these activities would need a different type of seating arrangement. This means your seating will need to be adaptable to different arrangements or it will need to include various areas around the room with different possible seating. 

    What kind of seating is possible? Brainstorm the different possibilities for your particular room. Is there enough space for a carpet in which the children can sit in a circle? Can the children sit in rows? Will they be able to see and have enough room around them? Can you arrange the desks for independent work and move them easily for small group work? Are there tables for groups to work? Is there a place to have guided reading groups that will not be disturbed?

     When will I use different seating arrangements? Think through your schedule and consider what type of instruction you will use throughout the day and what the transitions might look like. Be particularly thoughtful about your instructional style. Many teachers group children’s desks together in small sets of 4 or 5. This allows children to work together. However, it also encourages children to talk to each other so it is important that the physical environment is aligned with and supportive of your teaching style and goals. If you want the children to be focused and paying attention to you, or to be doing quiet, independent work you may find that having desks pushed together creates a struggle between you and the children. The worst case scenario is to group desks together and then chastise or reprimand children for talking! Or to spend your entire story time asking children to move over or stop touching each other because there is not enough room on the carpet. Let the physical environment support you – not work against you. 

     
    Can I create flexibility? Because there are so many different kinds of activities that happen in early childhood classrooms, it is important to have flexibility. Can you move desks together for group work, and back into rows for independent seat work? Can children all sit comfortably on the rug in the classroom and yet still have that space available later in the day for project work? Can the cabinets be turned around for circle time so that the children are not distracted by the materials? 
   
      What have you found that works for you?

16 comments:

  1. JoAnne Sommer
    I was wondering about this myself because children are at tables in Kindergarten and are getting thier work done. Is it possible to group them together in the beginning of first grade to make the transition easier?

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  2. I believe that children have different ways of reacting to a new transition in their lives. When kids are little i feel they work best in groups because they see what there peers are doing and they follow along. In the classes that i've observed which were pre-k and kindergarten and first grade they were put into groups of four per table or 4 desks put together and i feel they learn more when they are put together in groups. Of course when they get older we would have individual rows and seperate desks for them.

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  3. I think that I would group all the tables of a kindergarten class into two separate groups if it is a large class. If the class size is small, then I would have all the tables grouped together to make one long table. Grouping the tables together would give extra space for the materials used for art or crafts activity to be placed in the middle of the table for easy access and instruction.
    I would say that this would free the rest of the room for floor activities. For instance, this would leave enough space to place an extra large rug for the children to sit without interfering with one another's personal space while taking part in a story time session. It would also free up the room for other activities like centers and more. These would be placed around the big space.
    I have been in a classroom where this type of setting was in place and I liked how it worked out. The children did not feel like they were cooped up in their desks.

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  4. After reading the chapter about the physical environment within the classroom, and my previous experience. I agree that space should be well thought out and appropriate for each area. The large group setting should be large enough with space and the children should be comfortable. The block area and dramatic play for the early childhood classrooms should be wide enough that children would not be bumping into each other and knocking over their creativity especially with the blocks. There should be a nice free walkway for the children to pass freely, however it should not be as wide enough to allow the children to run and play. Proper physical environment space in the classroom is great because it prevents children from misbehaving. IT keeps the unpleasant behavior such as annoyance, arguments, and fighting out of the room and maintains a safe and friendly environment.

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  5. About grouping the children together in the primary grades: The issue for me is whether you want them to collaborate on their work or not. DO NOT group them together if you are then going to yell at them for talking!! If you want them to primarily work independently, then move the desks in rows, or apart. If you do a lot of group work, then grouping the desks together makes sense. I have seen at least one classroom in which the children quickly and quietly (relatively speaking) moved their desks from being in a group to being separated when they switched from group work to individual work. This was 2nd grade.

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    1. The class I am doing my internship in is very talkative. Having their desk group together, they were talking over one another. The noise level was through the roof. About a month ago decided to have the children work in rows. It is unbelievable how much quieter the class is. Their grades even went up. I agree with you Dr. Rand every class is different and the seating arrangement does make a difference.
      Francine Strugala

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  6. Denise Petersen- Liburd said.....

    The classroom environment has a lot do do with the way in which children learn. Grouping children allows them to interact and share information with their peers. Children are not isolated from their peers and take part in group activities that are engaging and foster learning. Grouping allows the teacher to be in close proximity to all children. This helps when there are papers or materials to be passed out. When grouping/ assigning seats, the teacher should take into consideration the classroom layout. Children should be able to move freely from one center to the next without difficulties. This also include Writing assignments, classwork,and homework.

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  7. When it comes to seating arrangements I get confused. I don't know which is the best choice. The classroom I am in know is set up in groups of 4, 5 and one group of six. They tend to chat alot(I don't blame them). I also noticed they also copy off each other alot. That really gets to me. I am always mentioning to them that the person you are sitting next to you might have the wrong ansers. When they take tests they spread out and also put up privacy folders. Groups are good but not all the time.

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  8. Samerh,
    I think many teachers are confused about seating arrangements, because there is a real dilemma. We want to encourage socialization and group work, however, at times we also want children to work quietly and independently. One solution I've seen to this is a classroom in which the children regularly moved their desks from groups to rows for different kinds of activities. The desks had tennis balls on the end of the legs so they were easy to move. Flexibility in seating arrangements can be one solution!

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  9. In one of the 1st grade classrooms that I observed recently, the teacher had just changed the seating from groups of four tables where two desks faced one another to a big "U" shape composed of 16 tables side-by-side and 3 rows of 2 tables in the center. The teacher said that she always does this at the end of October because the children need to be more independent. I think that this makes sense because everyone faced the front of the room where the Promethium Board is located.

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  10. Holaya,
    The U-shape arrangement is a good example of an alternate to grouping the desks. One of the advantages is that the children can all see the instructional area, plus, they can all see each other which is helpful for building community. Again, I think flexibility is the key. If children can also have space or arrange the desks to work in groups AT TIMES, then this arrangement makes sense.

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  11. Hello Prof. Rand,
    As a student teacher I have noticed that seating arrangement is definately important in a 2nd grade classroom. I feel that I don't want to place anyone in the back of the class, because I would feel as if they would not listen to me. With the experience I went through this semester I now know that, there are some children who already have good behaivor skills. These are the kids that are placed in the back. I would place the behaivoral problematic children by me in the front , so I can prevent any negative attitudes that may have. The U-shape arrangement works wonderfully ! I have seen many teachers in the school where I train that do this. The teacher can see everyone's face much better, and can quickly stop any child from getting distracted =]]

    - Cecilia Huamani

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    1. What's so effective about your strategy here, Cecelia, is that you are thinking about individual children's skills and needs, rather than just choosing a plan and hoping it works. Great way to individualize!

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  12. Hello Prof. Rand,
    I like the set up in the classroom where I am student teaching. The Smartboard is in everyone's view. There are four students in each group. The carpet is in front of the Smartboard while the desks are spread out in a U-shape form. This allows everyone to see the board (because everything is on the Smartboard) but at the same time they have each other to ask for help if needed. Also, there is a back table which is a bit farther than the others but it works!( They are the inclusion students that work with the other teacher.)This helps both teachers teach without interrupting each other because they are far apart. In addition to, having the carpet in front of the Smartboard is very helpful (especially because there is a lot of large group activities).
    I always thought about putting the children in rows (very old school) and now that I think about it it most likely won't work. The children learn best from each other. For example, one of the best spellers in the class is always helping his friends at the table by helping them spell words that they struggle with. What would happen if I sit them individually? Should they get in trouble for turning around and asking a friend for help? Will they be comfortable writing with their notebook on their lap? (due to limited space) I feel as if the way I imagined a classroom setting has changed because we need access, view, and the students to work together.

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    Replies
    1. This is Sandy Bonilla from this semester's ECE 400 class.

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  13. Hello Prof. Rand,
    I like the set up in the classroom where I am student teaching. The Smartboard is in everyone's view. There are four students in each group. The carpet is in front of the Smartboard while the desks are spread out in a U-shape form. This allows everyone to see the board (because everything is on the Smartboard) but at the same time they have each other to ask for help if needed. Also, there is a back table which is a bit farther than the others but it works!( They are the inclusion students that work with the other teacher.)This helps both teachers teach without interrupting each other because they are far apart. In addition to, having the carpet in front of the Smartboard is very helpful (especially because there is a lot of large group activities).
    I always thought about putting the children in rows (very old school) and now that I think about it it most likely won't work. The children learn best from each other. For example, one of the best spellers in the class is always helping his friends at the table by helping them spell words that they struggle with. What would happen if I sit them individually? Should they get in trouble for turning around and asking a friend for help? Will they be comfortable writing with their notebook on their lap? (due to limited space) I feel as if the way I imagined a classroom setting has changed because we need access, view, and the students to work together.

    ReplyDelete