Assigned Seating

When I stepped into my first CURR 303 (Intro to Teaching Biology Class) at Queen’s, I noticed that tables were arranged into groups of four and each desk had a sticky note with a name written on it. For simplicity’s sake, our instructor simply made seating our assignments follow alphabetical order. 

At each table, there were four coloured pieces of paper, markers, crayons and stickers. The instructions on the board prompted students to use the material in front of them to design their own name tags – an easy, relatively quiet activity to do while the teacher is still getting things sorted out for the rest of the day. 

I found this to be an effective strategy because it forces students to socialize with others whom they may not have been in contact with before. Personally, it took a lot of the pressure off me to find my own seat in the class – a very real fear I might add. Having to find your seat in the classroom is sort of like those awkward moments when you’re at the cafeteria and desperately scanning the room to see if there’s anyone you know so you can sit with them. Then, once you DO find a seat, you’re usually there for the rest of the year, which can be good or bad depending on the content. If this has happened to you before, you’ll know what I mean. 

I have also never sat with the same four people since classes started, and I’m enjoying it so far. Aside from getting to meet other students in the class, it is also useful to exchange ideas with different people and adds an element of surprise to my day. 

As with everything, there is a balance to be met of course. How often should I ask students to change their seating? Should I allow students to sit with friends? The answers to those questions will depend on the class and the results you want to achieve. If you have assigned a group project, and you want students to work in pre-assigned groups, then assigned seating will be the way to go. Some days, you may let the students pick their own seats, and they may find the class more enjoyable that way because they get to sit next to their friends. If students are getting too distracted by their friends, you could offer them a choice, “What would work better for you? To sit next to each other and restrain yourselves? … Or to change seats so you won’t be tempted?” (Faber and Mazlish 90-91)

Works Cited

Faber, Adele, and Elaine Mazlish. How to Talk So Kids Can Learn. Toronto: Scribner, 1995. Print

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