The Power of Seating Charts
About two weeks ago I lobbied my mentor teacher to change the seating chart early. Typically he waits until the end of each marking period to make adjustments. But I persuaded him on the grounds that I would not be there long enough to see how effective my changes would be. Therefore he let me loose with the chart.
I approached each of the three periods differently. But I did start by making sure that the students with vision issues, 504s/IEPs, and students with accommodation-related needs. Then I placed the students around the room based on their first MP performance. I placed the high performing students in the back and the low performing students in the front. I did then try to make some adjustments to have student that I had yet to interact a great deal with in prominent places. Then I approached the three periods as follows.
Period 1 was primarily designed based off of students that required emotional support we're bumped up in priory. I also made sure to put my one student in this period that specified that they did not want to appear on tape in the back corner so that the camera would not capture her. One of my students, H, has been having confidence issues. Therefore I made sure to keep her in the classroom next to her best friend F. (though across the isle to give her a new seat partner).
period 5 was similar to period 1, except I put my two chattest students as far away form each other as possible. I then made the front 4 seats into very unlikely pairings. I put three (and one quiet "loner" student) of the strongest personalities together. My hopes is that they won't take crap from each other, and keep each other in check. I also made sure to keep one student going through a great deal of family upheaval near his previous partner in hopes that the stability/consistency is beneficial.
Period 7 was similar to period 5, I started by putting my 5 troublemakers/talkers in the corners (and using a column in the classroom) and used quiet students at similar performance levels to create a barrier around them.
Some Preliminary Results
In period 1, I did have one of the highest performing students, W, complain about their seat. But I explained to them that it was not a punishment. It was because I could rely on them to do well that they "earned" a spot in the back.
Separating the 5 in period 5 alkers is working wonders. That still interior me a lot, but they are not filing off of each other as much. I have also created three of the most unlikely pairings I could have imagined. K&H and L&C have actually started to partner up and help each other when they get stuck. I don't know if this is dumb luck or brilliance on my part, but I'll take it.
What I've Learned Thus Far
No matter how hard you think about seating charts, you can't predict everything. They will surprise you at every step of the way.
I can set up the room using my natural circulating flows to make sure I intentionally bias the students that need my help.
Trust your gut. Your subconscious will take in observations about students that can often be right. If something feels right, try it. If it doesn't, avoid it. However, don't be afraid to also experiment. Some of the best accidents produce surprising results. I will continue to get to know all students, especially the ones I have yet to interact with a great deal, in order to place them even more strategically. This will give my subconscious more data points to work with. There are clusters of students that i do not talk to as frequently as others, and i will continue to develop relationships with them.
Student engagement can be greatly influenced by eir location in the classroom, group members, seat mates, and proximity to classroom resources. I will continue to observe students in their new seats and be flexible in how students perform in different configurations. As much as is possible, i will be open to their seating feedback, as i know students to be aware of what they need to be successful.