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Create a Culture, Not a Classroom: Why Seating Charts Matter for Student Success

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The start of a school year means a new seating chart for each classroom—full of students that the teacher likely hasn’t met. Without knowing the students, how does a teacher know where to assign their seats?

This question comes up each summer as teachers strive to create the best learning environment possible. From my experience in the classroom, I’ve found that seating chart choices can be critical to how students engage with one another and the teacher. 

Today, the influx of digital tools and new instructional models means that the traditional classroom settings of “quiet students, talking teacher” may no longer apply. Already, some teachers are letting go of tradition and allowing flexible seating in classrooms to give students freedom to choose where they want to sit. For others, placing students into assigned groups for cooperative learning can produce the optimal learning environment.

As each teacher develops their own style of seating students, their process involves weighing several factors to create their ideal classroom arrangement. But how does a teacher know what’s best for their classroom and which student dependencies should factor into these decisions?

Prep and Plan

The seating chart is an underrated tool that can help turn a good learning environment into a great one.

The lead times for seating chart planning range from the moment the teacher receives the class roll to the first day of class. Some teachers wait until getting to know the students before assigning seats, with open seating in earlier weeks and a solid chart after seeing how students interact, focus, and learn. This reactive approach can work better for teachers who enjoy flexibility and adaptability.

Others take a proactive approach, often by asking previous teachers of those students for their feedback. While this warrants extra legwork at the beginning, polling fellow teachers about their previous students can sometimes help identify when seat placements are beneficial to how an individual student engages in class. 

Consider Preferences

Options for seating arrangement type vary, from row-and-column grids to two-person tables to stadium seating. Some draw inspiration from their favorite popular hangout spots, like Starbucks. (But others warn against turning flexible furniture design into a fad.)

For more traditional layouts—whether in rows or in the form of a semi-circle arrangement—past research suggests that students who sit toward the center tend to participate more in classroom discussions. 

Although a fixed seating chart does make it easier to remember students’ names, a teacher might decide to change up the layout regularly for a variable learning experience, some as often as every day and others about once a month. That’s not to say that change is necessary for everyone. As long as a classroom is functioning harmoniously, a fixed seating chart can remain unchanged throughout the year. If something doesn’t work, then the teacher can adjust until an arrangement sticks.

Other Factors and Dependencies

There’s more to a seating chart than telling a student where to sit, as many other considerations must be taken into account. Learning disabilities, academic performance, and vision problems could necessitate students being placed in the front of the classroom to ensure better learning and higher engagement.

Social considerations and partner compatibility are important to consider because some students work well with others, even if their socialization can be distracting. It’s common for friends to ask to sit together and not unusual for a teacher to separate them to avoid over-socialization. What they might later learn is that the friends complement and challenge each other in a positive way. Being open and malleable as a teacher creates opportunities for students to learn from each other collaboratively.

Clustering students into groups can also lead to learning environments that foster student collaboration. Previous studies conducted by psychologist and John Hopkins research director, Robert Slavin, points to positive outcomes from cooperative learning, in the form of students learning more, enjoying school and the subject, and feeling more successful.

Create a Culture, not a Classroom

It is integral for teachers to find a layout that suits their preference and instructional style, in ways that make them most engaging and effective. But it is also important to create an environment where students can support each other. 

Grouping high level and low level learners together is useful in facilitating peer coaching, and heterogeneous groups can help each other in the learning process. In my experience, this method has been the most effective way to encourage a positive exchange for collective learning in a classroom community.

The seating chart is an underrated tool that can help turn a good learning environment into a great one. While there is no clear model for where to place students, if done correctly, a well-thought-out seating chart fosters an effective classroom environment that allows students to maximize their learning potential.

posted Aug 27 in General by Khemara

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+2 votes

The excitement of finally getting your own classroom can be overwhelming. Whether you have been hoarding supplies all through your PGCE or are about to embark on a summer shopping spree, you will no doubt be keen to make your mark on your new temple of learning. 

Five things to remember about setting up a classroom

Here are a few things for you to think about:

  1. Consider the needs of all learners

    When you are setting up your classroom, test out your seating arrangements; can you sit and see the board without craning your neck? Think about your colour scheme. Your hot pink and turquoise combo might have looked brilliant on Pinterest, but will it give some children a headache or be an unwanted distraction? And while you may have banked a million display and “area” ideas during your training, remember you have to put the needs of your children first.

  2. Don’t expect a blank slate

    You might be imagining walking into a crisp and clean classroom, ready to work your magic. I can tell you now that this is not happening. Your room will probably be cluttered with the remnants of the last teacher to inhabit it and their displays will most likely still be up. But be positive about it, embrace the cathartic clear-out and take care of things without any grumbling; you don’t know who your new room belonged to last − or how many of their friends are still working at the school.

  3. Create curiosity

    Your new children will be keen to get to know you and your personality, so don’t be afraid of sharing it. Whether that’s through an interesting memento on your desk or your favourite book in the reading area, it will help to start conversations and build rapport.

  4. Exercise restraint

    Your laminator is smoking, you have staple-gun blisters… stop. The excitement of setting up your first classroom can put you into a pre-term giddiness of filling every last inch of your space with wiggly-bordered loveliness. But a cluttered space won’t create a good learning environment. Think about having room to learn and to move.

  5. Resist the urge to create the finished article

    Yes, you want to “wow” your new class with their beautiful learning environment, but you have to remember that it belongs to them as much as to you. Your classroom needs to grow along with your children. Ensure they have the space to put their stamp on it, too.

+2 votes

Santa Barbara Unified School District is rolling out 1,200 iPads to three elementary schools and an alternative high school. Los Angeles Unified School District plans to put iPads in the hands of all 640,000 students. The goal is to improve learning through interactivity. First, school districts need to mitigate costs and get teachers on board.

High school teachers have a new disruption to deal with in the classroom: the coming of the iPocalypse. At schools across the country, teachers are being told they must use iPads, which will upend everything they've learned over the years about how to teach students. For some, it must feel like the latest, an ignominious blow to a profession often under siege.

Todd Ryckman and student at Santa Barbara Unified School District.

But Todd Ryckman, a former high school teacher and current director of technology at Santa Barbara Unified School District, sees the iPad in a more positive light.

Ryckman says he believes his small iPad pilot project will invigorate teachers, not dishearten them, and make their jobs easier. He says the iPad's simple touch interface and easy-to-use apps belie a device capable of revolutionizing the American classroom. Then there's this extra credit: iPads in high schools might help bridge the digital divide for low-income families.

"This is a fabulous new tool," Ryckman says.

An iPad in Every Backpack

After three years of planning, Santa Barbara Unified School District is finally rolling out 1,200 iPads to three elementary schools and an alternative high school this month. Eighty-five miles to the south, Los Angeles Unified School District is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar plan to put iPads in the hands of all 640,000 students by the end of this year.

The iPads-at-schools goal, of course, is to reshape the classroom and bring it into the digital age. The iPad promises to change the teacher from lecturer and instructor to facilitator of interactivity, whereby students take on a greater role in their learning.

Ryckman says teachers can finally get out of the game of getting students to memorize facts -- after all, Google and Siri make searching for facts easy -- and instead help students to think critically about those facts.

"The [board of directors] realizes where we are in history," says Ryckman, who taught high school history for 15 years. Everyone will have an iPad or a similar device in five years, he says, and Santa Barbara Unified School District students need to be ready for this future.

The future of iPads in high schools looks bright, yet iPad pilot projects should start now.

Textbook Publishers and MDM Vendors Buy-In

After initially dragging their heels, educational text book publishers are finally getting onboard with ebook versions. Introduced a couple of years ago, Apple's iBooks Author that lets teachers create multimedia textbooks has been gaining traction at Santa Barbara Unified School District, Ryckman says. Apple has made strides to combat theft with a service called Apple Care Plus that essentially bricks lost or stolen iPads. And mobile device management (MDM) vendors are coming out with tools aimed at high schools.

Last month, AirWatch unveiled Teacher Tools that gives teachers some control over student iPads, such as the capability to give exams in single app mode, send documents out to the class, and turn off the camera and disable screen shots so students can't pass tests to their friends.

However, many obstacles still remain on the road to iPads in high schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District, for instance, has run into security problems with students taking MDM profiles off of iPads. There are also rumours of iPads being broken and stolen, and closets full of iPads collecting dust while waiting to be distributed.

But the biggest barriers continue to be cost -- who's going to pay for all these iPads? -- and especially teachers refusing to embrace iPads. The iPad represents a paradigm shift in the classroom, Ryckman says, and that's uncomfortable for teachers who like to have complete control of their environment.

iPad Payment Plans

In order to overcome cost, or at least mitigate it, Santa Barbara Unified School District came out with two plans to put iPads in students' hands. In the first plan, students and their parents can opt to have an iPad handed to them, which they'll have to return at the end of the school year. They'll be on the hook for lost, stolen or broken iPads (although this might change as the plan evolves).

The second is a pay-to-own plan, in which the parents must pay the school a little bit every month en route to owning the iPad after three years. They're also on the hook for lost, stolen or broken iPads and don't own the iPad outright until the final payment. The school district, of course, also doesn't profit from this plan.

Both plans allow students to take iPads home, and parents are responsible for watching over them. If a student takes off the AirWatch profile, as students at Los Angeles Unified School District did, or violates any of the acceptable use policies, then the student will be penalized by not being allowed on the network.

Interestingly, the second plan is helping to close the digital divide. Ryckman says lower socio-economic schools began seeing high rates, in the 80 percent range, of parents wanting to participate in the pay-to-own plan, while the more affluent schools tended toward the first plan that puts the cost burden squarely on the school district.

"Parents who don't have $600 to plunk down at an Apple Store saw the pay-to-own plan as a way to provide this technology to their kids," Ryckman says. "Apple said that this would happen, but our board was still really surprised."

Getting Teachers to Own the iPad Program

Getting teacher buy-in is another big problem, one that Ryckman began solving well before the first student got even a whiff of an iPad. Ryckman was just starting to make the transition from high school teacher to director of technology when he set out to get iPads for teachers.

Ryckman convinced the Parent Teacher Association, and, later, a wealthy donor, to subsidize half the price of a teacher iPad. The teacher can purchase an iPad at half price, which would be their personal iPad, not the school district's, in return for a couple of concessions: Teachers must agree to take Ryckman's iPad classes and use the iPad to enhance teaching in their classrooms.

Ryckman's big bet paid off, and many teachers opted in. Since the iPads were their personal devices, teachers didn't feel threatened by them. Like most iPad owners, they used their iPads daily and quickly became familiar with the touch interface and enamoured with the exciting world of apps. They could see the iPad's potential to enhance their profession.

Some three years later, iPads are now being rolled out to students.

"We've had iPads in the hands of our teachers for a long time, well before students get them," Ryckman says. "I think other school districts have made a mistake by trying to do it at the same time."

This isn't to say, however, that the iPad is a teaching panacea. The platform still has limitations that need to be overcome. For instance, AirWatch's Teaching Tools lets teachers force student iPads to open a single, pre-determined app but not multiple ones, such as Calculator and Pages. It would also be nice if a teacher could blast out an app to students at the beginning of class and then take the app off the iPad when class ends.

Despite limitations, the iPad should be a boon for schools. You'd think Ryckman would want to roll out iPads to all 15,000 students at Santa Barbara Unified School District. But that's hardly the case. Many schools want iPads, he says, but they're not ready for them.

Ryckman interviews teachers at schools to gauge their interest, and he still sees some hesitancy. There needs to be nearly 100 percent commitment from teachers before an iPad rollout could be approved.

"This will only work if it's organic, not forced if there's teacher buy-in," he says.

As a teacher himself, Ryckman knows that the best way to get teachers on board is by appealing to their educational values, which is why he offers iPad classes. It'll take time, he says, but eventually, as educators, they know they need to change with the times.

"Teachers themselves tend to be lifetime learners," Ryckman says, adding, "One 25-year veteran teacher told me after one of my classes, 'This is the most excited I've been about teaching in a long time.'"

+2 votes

The future classroom needs to be radically different in order to become relevant for the new era of education. Technology will be at the centre of this metamorphosis. When our parents recall their school days, they make no big deal about a makeshift class under a tree. They were used to taking down notes from blackboard on which teachers would write using dusty chalk. With time, chalk and duster were replaced with touchscreens, audio-visual facilities, and the era of digital learning started.

However, the journey will be much more exciting in the next decade. Here are the 5 things that will not be same in the future classrooms:

 

1. Question papers and answer sheets

We have already seen some tests being conducted online. However, as technology becomes more accessible and affordable, it will largely replace pen and paper-based tests.

The rationale is simple. Online tests need lesser logistical arrangements, can be customized for different batches, and evaluated quickly and accurately using artificial intelligence and algorithms.

Imagine the time saved by future high school and 12th aspirants when they receive their board exam results within a week, thanks to online examination. They can plan the future course of their career and do not have to spend months in speculation.

 

2. Practice books

Practice makes a man perfect. All of us have heard (and practiced) it. But technology will change the way students practice.

For instance - Avocado, an app enables students to practice questions from Maths and Science. Using Avocado, student can get customized practice tests, detailed explanation for answers, and review their results with just a few taps.

What makes a digital platform for practice like Avocado unique is the insights based on test results over a period of time. This helps the students understand areas which require intervention from their teacher or parents.

Using Avocado and similar practice solutions, parents and teachers can also track the progress of their wards and make informed decisions to improve speed and accuracy. All these details are available on a smartphone- anytime, anywhere.

 

3. Computer labs

Once upon a time, computers were a rare commodity for Indian students. The weekly computer lab class was their chance to touch, feel, and see this magic box.

However, this is no more the case. With digital revolution, most middle-class families can afford a personal computer.

Moreover, about 337 million smartphones make India world’s second largest smartphone equipped population. Over the next five years, smartphones and tablets will completely transform the look and feel of computer labs in schools.

These labs will follow Bring-Your-Own-Device and Do-It-Yourself approach. Meanwhile, teachers can take the role of mentors.

There will be many innovations that trigger self-learning in computer labs. For example, Cubetto is a friendly wooden robot that can teach early age learners the basics of computer programming through adventure and hands-on play.

The Cubetto Playset consists of a friendly robot made of hard-wearing wood, a physical programming board, and a set of colourful coding blocks that make up a programming language you can touch.

 

4. Textbooks

Typically, textbooks are written assuming one-size-fits-all’. The need of the hour is to customize the learning journey for every student based on speed, understanding, and interests. E-books can fill this much-needed gap.

Powered by virtual learning, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, e-books are well suited for supplementing conventional textbooks. Students also appreciate the interactive nature of E-books.

Having said that, textbooks are and will remain an important part of the education system. We will see an amalgamation of both textbooks and e-books going ahead.

 

5. Benches and desks

 

The neat rows of benches are meant to seat students in a way that they focus on the teacher delivering a lecture and demonstrating concepts on the board. But this approach will soon go out of favour.

Future classrooms will have flexible seating arrangement suited for the task that students are working on. The design will also consider comfort of the students.

Standing desks for those who find it hard to focus while sitting, accommodation for physically challenged, collaborative stations for group activities, and moving walls to make the space more adaptable are some classroom design innovations that will become the new normal.

+1 vote

In this era of digital learning, technology plays a crucial role in the process of knowledge dissemination. Though there are thousands of applications/technology tools available in the market, only a handful of them is popular among the students and educators. We bring you five digital learning tools that can be used by teachers and students to expand their knowledge and make learning easy and fun.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is a free web service designed for schools to help them with drafting, mass distribution and grading assignments in a paperless form. With Google Classroom, the learning process becomes extremely easy and is streamlined by way of sharing files between teachers and students. Here the students can post their queries on the lessons taught in the classrooms and receive answers from teachers and other students. Teachers can also post study materials for students to review at home. Google Classroom combines Google Drive for assignment creation and distribution, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides for writing, Gmail for communication, and Google Calendar for scheduling.

Seesaw

Seesaw is a user-friendly learning portfolio tool that empowers students to independently document what they are learning and perceiving at school. Students can use photos, videos, drawings, text notes, links and also Seesaw's built-in audio recording and drawing tools to showcase their knowledge imbibed, and also explain how they got their answers. Student’s projects are stored securely in the cloud. Seesaw is made available on several different devices, such as Chromebooks, computers, iOS devices, Android devices as well as Kindle devices
through which parents can access their wards work.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a non-profit organisation that was conceptualised with the aim of building a range of online tools that can help students understand various lessons and concepts in an easier way. The Khan Academy produces short lessons in the form of videos both on the Khan Academy’s YouTube™ channel and on its hugely popular website www.khanacademy.org. Its website also includes supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators. With Khan Academy, you can learn everything for free. Lessons are presented by way of videos, interactive activities, and challenges. Hence teachers can make use of Khan Academy to supplement your teaching and also provide extra work to your students and help them with all or difficult content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EPathshala

EPathshala a portal initiated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and National Council of Educational Research and Training was launched in November 2015 as one of the initiatives of digital India campaign. Epathshala is a gigantic educational reserve that hosts resources for teachers, students, parents, researchers and educators which is available on multiple platforms such as Web, Android, IOS and Windows platforms. The students can get access of all the required material, including textbooks, audio, video, periodicals and a variety of other print and non-print materials through ePathshala and can be downloaded by the user for offline use with absolutely no limits on downloads. ePathshala also allows users to carry many books as their device supports. These books allow users to pinch, select, zoom, highlight, navigate, share and make notes digitally.

Kahoot

It is a game-based learning platform where students can learn via games or, ‘Kahoots,’ which are multiple-choice quizzes. With this digital tool, which can be accessed via a web browser, teachers can draft extra questionnaires, discussions online with academic lessons. The material can be then projected in the classrooms and questions are answered by students while playing and learning at the same time. This not only enhances student engagement but also creates a dynamic, social, and fun educational environment.

 

 

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