Classroom Seating Arrangement: The Minesweeper of Teaching

The Minesweeper of Teaching – Seating Charts - Srta Spanish

        Have you ever stared at your classroom seating for hours, placing your students in seats until you’re cross-eyed? I don’t think I’ve ever met a teacher who likes doing classroom seating (if that’s you, say hey and tell me your secrets), but the right seating chart can make your classroom management a dream (or at least help class go much more smoothly!). This is the system I have found to work best for my classroom and teaching style:

Classroom Seating – Formation

First, let’s talk about formation. My students all sit in numbered spots (Persona 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5) and numbered groups. I love groups because they lend themselves well to conversation and teamwork! We do a lot of “parejas de hombro” and “parejas de cara” and it makes it really clear who is working with whom, and when.

In groups, there’s no dragging of desks when they work in pairs. Each time we get to a partner activity in my Slides I clarify shoulder or face partners with a little image. I also point to my face or my shoulder as I give the instruction to help them. For some things, I get more specific and decide who is Persona A or Persona B in the pairs because each will have a role.


Above are examples of Slides I use that include the Parejas instructions in the top right corners. 

        When passing out, or collecting things, I decide which Persona is bringing things to the box or picking up papers for everyone. This saves me time not having to walk all over the room distributing papers but also keeps from needing every single student to get up and move*. I do a similar strategy with calling on students. I work through all the numbers in the room in a pattern until I know I have covered everyone that day. It also works well to do the Kagan structure Numbered Heads Together.

* I really like how some teachers have a drawer system next to each group, but one of my classrooms isn’t big enough to have that and still have clear traffic flow for when we do some movement based activities! If you have space, that’s a great option!

Classroom Seating – Placements

      How do I pick which kids go in which spots? I always start with my accommodations or “special placements”. If a kid needs to sit in the front because that’s what works for them, I make sure to note that first. When I say “special placements”, I mean students who have mentioned things to me, or what has or has not worked well for students in the past. 

Then, I sort my class list into four groups: high, mid-high, mid-low, and low, based on assessments and what I see in class. Ideally, I place one from each category into each group. I try and make sure that all of the numbers line up (for example, all of the 3’s might be mid-highs), but I make sure the numbers are not the same every time I make a seating chart (so 1’s are not always the high students, they could be 4’s).  Sometimes I call on a certain Persona number to share out a particular activity and they might be a different level for the different students to help them build confidence or target a structure they need to work on.

As you are placing students, there are a few other things to keep in mind. It seems that groups of two boys and two girls are best, but if numbers just don’t work out, doing a group of all boys or all girls would be my second choice. The second thing is that pairs of students work best when they are close-ish in level. My groups look like this:




That way, the lowest student and the highest student in the group are not paired during partner work at any time. It seems to help avoid a lot of frustration and difficulty between the two students.

When life gives you odd-numbered classes…

If they are in a group of five, it’s important to make sure that the students know there should always be one group of three working, and one group of two working, so one student is never left out.
If the students are placed in a group of three, make sure students know how to modify the partner activities for their extra person, taking turns between everyone instead of in pairs. The key is making sure everyone has a chance to participate!

Do you need ideas for new classroom seating arrangements? How are you going to set up the layout of your desks or tables in your classroom this school year? Check out this guide to creating seating charts for middle school or high school students! A good seating chart helps with classroom management so these tips will help your class run smoothly this school year! Click for a step-by-step guide!

What classroom seating arrangement do you use? What works best for you and your students?

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