Earlier this week I read a blog post by Aviva Dunsiger entitled: “Why I have such strong reaction to rows”. As is usually the case with my PLN when something is on my mind someone else is thinking about the same thing and writing about it. Some people say they don’t like students sitting in groups because it causes increased noise levels and behaviour problems. Although this is true in some instances. Should learning really be quiet and reserved all the time? Although I am not the biggest fan of row seating I don’t think it is that bad but rather keeping your seating plan static for long stretches of time is.
Over the course of the year I have tinkered with our seating plan. We tend to change seating arrangements once every 4 – 6 weeks to keep things fresh. Sometimes I have the students vote on seating options and at other times I just pick an option. We have sat in pairs, in groups of 3, 4 and 5 and in rows. The same goes for choosing where students sit. Sometimes I pick, sometimes they pick. Variety is the spice of our seating arrangement in grade 4. And yes, by request from the students we have sat in rows for a bit this year. They loved it for a bit but then as usual got bored and asked to change the arrangement again.
Students will occasionally request that they sit alone and I let them do so with the understanding that next time they will need to sit in a group with their peers. They happily agree and we find a spot that is just right for them to sit.
For the most part in our grade 4 classroom we sit in groups and I prefer it.
Some of the reasons I like having my students sit in groups are:
Sitting in groups makes group work easier. No need to move desks when students need a space to work because there area already spaces ready for them to work in.
Learning is very social in elementary school. Young students love learning together!
Sitting in groups teaches them self-control. When great friends sit together they chat. It’s natural. Seating them in a group forces them to learn that there are times when it is okay to be talking and sharing with each other and others when you need to be listening.
Peers model appropriate behaviour. Sometimes all students need is to see their desk mate pulling out their work to do the same. No need for a teacher prompt.
For whatever reason when students sit in rows I feel like I need to lecture more. I don’t like lecturing to my grade 4’s for long periods of time as I find they tune out and get bored.
Sitting in groups also allows students who may otherwise not interact with each other to see each other in a new light and learn to work with new people.
I also tend to be flexible with where students work once they are given an assignment. We are lucky enough to have a large table at the back of our room that can seat 6 people. Students will often move there when they are given work and collaborate together on projects. At times I sit there so I can help students who need extra help. Other students prefer to do their work on the floor using clipboards which is also okay with me as long as the work gets done. Others simply stay at their desks.
What are your thoughts on seating in elementary classroom?