Thursday, September 11, 2014

Managing Classroom Management: Use a Seating Chart

Confession Time:
You know how some people are just born teachers? They walk into a classroom for the first time and immediately students stop talking, sit in their seats, and pay attention? I am not that kind of teacher.

Classroom management has always been (and will always be) a struggle for me. There have been many times when I have wanted to run out of the classroom, hide in the bathroom and cry. I am not a natural leader and my presence alone does not demand respect from my students. Luckily, having that special "teacher power" in the classroom is not entirely necessary. 
Luckily, there are ways to manage a classroom without being a natural born manager. One way I've written about before is to keep students active. Switching activities throughout a class period keeps students on their toes and gives them less time to act up and be disruptive. 

Another thing that I have found helpful is a seating chart. Sitting students 4 to a group has worked wonders for me. 4 is my "magic group number." Groups of 4 work great if your groups are balanced. Balancing takes a little bit of time but is so worth it! A fantastic group of learners is made up of 4 parts. 

Part 1:
The high achiever: This student is one you can count on to figure out new material within minutes. This student always completes their homework, always raises their hands to answer your questions, and accepts nothing less than an A. 

Part 2:
The above average student: This student tries to do well, but struggles a tiny bit in class. They won't always receive the highest grades, or finish their work first, but they do their best and perform above average.

Part 3:
 The low achiever: This student does enough in class to get by, but is not motivated to do more. They are often lazy, easily distracted and careless.

Part 4:
The struggling student: This student does not do well in class - is often just barely passing. They have a hard time with pretty much anything, have a hard time in class and really struggle. 

Together these 4 students create the ideal group of learners:
This group works well because each student has their place. They each have their own individual strengths and weaknesses. The high achiever often becomes the person other students in the group go to for answers (replacing you! as their first contact when they have questions). The high average student works with the high achiever to relay information and teach the other members of the group. The low average and struggling student are the learners of the group. The low average student learns a lot from the high average student, and is often able to simplify the information in a way that allows them to teach it to the struggling student. They each pass information along to one another and they are almost always able to work together to solve problems thrown at them with little or no intervention from the teacher.

Splitting students into groups can take time, but it is well worth it! There are many ways to determine what level students are at. I prefer to use observation, and classwork performance to split students up. I created these printable cards to help with the sorting:
An editable version of the cards can be downloaded here 
(PowerPoint file):  Seating Cards.

Creating cards for each class period starting from day one helps a lot! Each card has a students name, and class period. The boxes at the top are for recording which type of group member the student would make. Color coding the small boxes at the top helps keep the cards organized. High achieving students have their top box colored yellow, high average are purple, low average are blue, and struggling students are red. Makes it super easy to organize cards into groups! There are 6 boxes at the top so that the cards can be used to group students at least 6 different times.

Here is a picture of cards I was organizing into the various levels:
Here's a picture of my cards organized into groups:
Groups of 4 make it especially easy to split students up to complete group work. There are 2 different ways to split groups in partner groups. Really there are 3 different ways - BUT I do not personally EVER have high achieving students work one on one with struggling students. It just doesn't work. The struggling student resents how easy things are for the high achiever, and the high achiever gets frustrated that they are doing all of the work.

The best partner groups are:
High Achiever -> High Average
Low Average-> Struggling
High Achiever->Low Average
High Average->Struggling

This method has really worked well for me so it's what I've stuck with. I'd love to hear how other teachers manage their classroom seating arrangements.

Do you assign seats to your students? How do you group them and how do you determine where each student sits?

Leave a comment and let me know! :)

Have a fantastic week!

PS: If you have extra students (can not equally split students into groups of 4) try forming one or two smaller groups. With 1 extra student form one group of 3 and one group of 2. With 2 extra students form one group of 2. With 3 extra students form an extra group of 3. Groups that have 3 students should include a high achiever, high average, and low average. Groups of 2 should have a high achiever and high average OR a high average and low average. Do your best to have struggling students be included in groups of 4!

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