The Perfect Student Seating Arrangement?

This is a strange time of year to be writing about seating charts... I mean, it's almost the end of the school year! No one is making seating charts right now.

...or, is it that strange? This is the time of year that is perfect for reflection. Thinking about what went well and what you want to change for next year. This actually might be the perfect time as you are thinking about how you might want to set up your room for next year!

So, what are you thinking about trying for seating next year? Are you a desks in rows kind of person? Pods? Partners? Do you have a rug where kids come for math talks? Do you want to try flexible seating? No assigned seats? Randomly selected partners? Carefully chosen groups?

There are SO MANY choices and decisions to make when it comes to classroom environment and seating arrangements. I wanted to share something I tried with my middle school students. If I had a class of my own again next year, it is what I would be doing. Now, it's going to sound crazy at first, but hear me out.

I did randomly chosen seats that students sat in for 1 week and changed each Monday! (sound crazy?!)

Here was my rationale:
-I wanted students to work mostly in partners
-I wanted students to have an opportunity to work with everyone in the class
-My classes were co-taught so I had a wide range of abilities and difficulties
-I didn't want students to be with 1 partner for an extended period of time (like an entire quarter)
-I wanted to build a sense of community among all the learners

I was able to create a seating chart template in a LMS that we used called PowerSchool and then could populate the seats, randomly, with a click of a button. I haven't tried any of the other free tech tools out there that do this as well, but if you Google "random seating charts" a few come up that you could try.

I did this random seating chart generator each Monday and students knew how to find their new seat when they came in (I did have to teach them how to "read" a seating chart and find their location). I also had a rule that they had to have a neutral reaction to their new placement. No "YES" or "Noooooo!" or sighing or clicking their tongue, or complaining... you get the idea.

I also really challenged myself to keep it truly random. Sometimes I had my doubts that a certain pair would get along. Sometimes I was right and sometimes I was surprised! The thing was, I could handle anything for 1 week... and so could the kids. And in the end, it helped them develop empathy, patience, and they got better at working with others. In addition, they got to know all the other students in the class, because at some point, they were partners and did interesting math together.

So, if you are in the market for a way to encourage collaboration in your classroom next year, maybe give random seating a try!