Unless you are the most meticulous of teachers and have contacted past teachers, former landlords, parents, friends, and old librarians, chances are that you don’t really know your students on the first day of class. Sure, there are a few stalkers out there that already have the perfect seating chart in place, but most of us need at least a few days to gauge personalities, observe academic skills, and suffer through bad pairings. In addition, you might notice that that box or cabinet that you thought was in a prime location is really more of a nuisance than a help.
After some time period, even the best teacher will often need to make a few adjustments within his or her classroom. Here then are three tips to teachers in the first few weeks of school for making your classroom a better learning environment.
1) Mix up your seating chart
Decide whether you want kids in rows and columns, in 4 or 5 desk “tables”, or in some other formation. Should this kid be sitting next to (or even within spitting distance of) that kid? Can these two kids help each other if they are next to each other? Will these kids get high sniffing the Elmer’s glue sticks if they sit next to each other?
Typically, some combination of behavior and academics will determine seating arrangements, especially if you have the kids paired in any way. It’s OK to change your seating chart a few times, just don’t do it every day. Give a new combination at least a couple of days to make sure it’s not working before switching it again.
2) Moving furniture can free up space
If your teacher’s desk or a nondescript table is taking up space that would be better served somehow else, move it! Perhaps it could be behind a shelf or an overhead screen where a student desk could not go.
While it is usually better to get big-item furniture arrangement settled BEFORE school starts, there is no law in place saying it can’t be moved around midyear. Remember, the easier it is for you to move around the room, the easier it will be to help students and to keep them focused.
3) Keep those paths clear!
This follows directly from point number 2. Don’t paint yourself into a corner, or even into the center of the room, by arranging desks or furniture with no gaps or openings. You want to be able to walk around the room (from potential trouble spot to trouble spot) quickly and unhindered. If you use a “horseshoe” pattern, be sure to leave some spaces to get inside and outside the shoe easily. Otherwise, that horseshoe will NOT bring you any luck!
Remember that you might find yourself rearranging your classroom more than once this year. It’s OK to take stock every few months and think about how the setup is working for you.
No matter how often you move things around though, these three tips will always keep you on the right course.