Phil Beadle in ‘How To Teach’ argues that it is the most ‘important philosophical decision you will make in your career’ and urges us to ‘turn away from the darkness into the light’ in respect of seating. Now, whilst I wouldn’t go that far, having a good seating plan is really important.
Three obvious reasons are:
- Behaviour management – a key strategy with chatty or difficult classes. It lets students know that the classroom is yours to manage, not theirs.
- Imperative for setting cover – our policy states that you must give a seating plan with your cover.
- An opportunity for students to work with a whole range of students, not just the ones they would choose.
- And (reluctantly, I would add) it’s a good way of showing planning to anyone who is observing you that you know your class well. You know their strengths and weaknesses and how to get the most out of them.*
However, there is a far more important reason: Differentiation. We need to seat for success. In a climate where we need to know our students well; their SEND needs, Pupil Premium Status, AG&T status and whether students are working below, on or above target, the seating plan is one of the best tools that we have to impact progress in the classroom. It is a working document that we should use and use well.
Polly has really informative seating plans – below, she explains her methodology:
I tend to change seating plans at the beginning of the year and then every half term. I alter it depending on pupils needs, for example if they need extra support or if there are new pupils in the class. Every plan is changed/altered when new data has been inputted to show the most recent data.
I sit pupils according to:
- Required Academic Support (AGT and underachievers)
I will further annotate and colour code depending on Pupil Premium, SEN, Underachievers, AGT, Attendance issues etc.
Most often I sit my stretch and challenge at the back and those who need support at the front or on an end, buffered by well achieving students. I will occasionally give them a lesson of ‘sit next to who would be your choice of ‘maths buddy’ to get a feel for who might work well together and give them some ownership of the plan.
I use Idoceo (www.idoceo.net). This great little app is everything from my planner, markbook and seating plan. The beauty of this tool (for those with iPads) is that I can link my markbook to my seating plan. I can update it as I input new data. It stores all my ILPs. It is also really useful as I can move people around the screen as I choose, making changing seating plans really easy. I can also email parents at the press of a button! A great tool. Going through the process of planning your seating is a good one. It gives you the opportunity to think about where individuals and groups are sitting. There is training on Idoceo.
Tips for seating students
There is no definitive way to sit your students. Some people like to:
- More Able Boy next to less able girl (one helps the other)
- Less motivated students surrounded by motivated students.
- Those who struggle to focus in the front row, away from a window.
But the most important thing is to think about how you place your students. Leaving it to chance will not get the most out of your class.