Why Seating Arrangement is So Important in Learning
Arranging seats in your classroom can be an important task, though it may not seem like it when you first are thinking about it. There are so many different options when it comes to how you can arrange seats. There is the full circle, semi-circle, giant square, U-shape, grouping tables in several desks, two desk pairs all facing forward, or the single file rows facing forward, just to name some of the many you can choose from.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Brandie K. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Pros and Cons of Different Types of Seating Arrangement
All of these arrangements have good and bad points to them. The circle is good because it is easy for all the students to see each other while having a discussion, but it leaves the teacher out and can make the teacher feel like they are not part of the group. It is also difficult for some students to see the board for any board work that is being done. Grouping the desks into small groups is great for group activities and also allows stronger students to help the weaker ones without the weaker ones feeling the need to always ask for help, causing them to become uninterested in learning English.
However, it can cause cliques to form, if a student doesn't get along with the people she or he is grouped with, they will be left out or made to feel bad. Some students will even tell that student that they don't want them to seat with the group and go to complain to the teacher or just complain loudly about having to have that student sit with them. This will cause the student to not only feel left out and singled out, but cause the student to hate coming to class, act out to try and become accepted, or simply stop coming to class.
Other Things to Consider
Other things to think about when trying to decide about the seat arrangement are: how many students will you have? How big is your room? What are the ages you will be teaching? Will you need more room for dancing and movement or will there be more sit downtime? Are you teaching in an actual school where the sit-down time is more expected? Are you teaching in a language school where getting up and doing more movement is expected and allowed? Should you allow the students to choose whom the seat with?
This could cause them to sit next to their friends and for some of them, it will tempt them to spend the whole lesson talking to their friend, in their native language, and not paying attention to the lesson. For other students, letting them decide who to sit with will allow them to feel comfortable as they will sit next to people who can help them or who they are ok with making mistakes in front of and know they won't make fun of them for their mistakes. Or, do you assign them seats and run the risk of students who hate each other sitting next to each other and constantly picking on each other and having to police them the whole lesson.
Another thing to take into consideration is how are the students in the country you are teaching in taught? In Japan, students either sit in single rows facing forward, groups of 4 or 6 or two desks next to each other in rows. Anything other then these patterns tend to make them uncomfortable and it will take several lessons for them to become comfortable with the arrangements.
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These questions and more will play a major part in trying to decide how to seat up to your room. There is no right or wrong this answer. It is all about what works better for you as the teacher that allows you to be able to see what is going on in the classroom and be able to take control of any issues or behavior problems that arise, and allows the students, in the country you are teaching in, to be comfortable.
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