Easy ways to implement a seating plan


If you are having classroom management issues, you may find that one of the main reasons behind your troubles is the combination of certain students. Best friends, committed to doing everything except learning, you may face reluctance when trying to split them up.  But it’s imperative you do.

Apart from in a few age related instances where forcing students to work with other students will result in personal stress and the inability to speak, I strongly recommend ensuring that in every class you get your students to change partners as much as possible. You’re probably thinking, yes I know but the faff of getting people to move cant be that beneficial surely? Trust me it is.

By constantly changing the seating plan you are glueing the group together by making sure that everyone works with everyone else and as we know, the more comfortable the class are with one another, the more open they will be to experimenting with new language and making mistakes which we know are vital in the learning process.

You’re also reducing the likelihood of class cliques forming which, particularly among teen classes or in monolingual contexts can pave the way to bullying or general negative behaviours.

By constantly changing partners everyone is getting the opportunity to learn something from someone else, whether it be a strong sense of grammar, a new lexical item or killer pronunciation.

And of course it also keeps the pace of the lesson, students need to be engaged to learn and there is nothing worse than getting comfortable to the point of falling asleep. Movement energises bodies and also minds.

So, now I’ve finished my sales pitch of why it’s so important to keep moving, here are a few simple ideas to change seating plans with the minimum of effort and disruption.

  1. Find your seat – At the start of each lesson outside the classroom give each student a slip of paper with a word written on it (ideally something related to the topic you are studying in that lesson or revision of something from the lesson before). Ask your students to then find the seat which has the matching word, it could be literally the same word or it could be a collocation, a synonym or antonym.
  2. Find your partner – In a similar vein to ‘Find your seat’ can you find the other student whose word matches yours? Particularly useful for splitting up rowdy pairs.
  3. Seat Quiz – To enter the classroom students need to correctly answer a question to be assigned a seat (which may have been pre-meditated depending on the classroom management issues you have)
  4. Line up in order of… age? height? shoe size? the number of photos on your telephone? Whatever the category, you are likely to separate natural groups, it provides good speaking opportunities, is easy to organise and can be fun to do!
  5. Move to the end – the quickest way to change all partners without making everyone up sticks is to simply move one person to the other side of the classroom. Bingo, new partners and no fuss!
  6. Speeddate – perhaps one of my favourite classroom layouts, arrange students facing each other in an inner and outer circle configuration. After each activity, make the students in the inner circle move one position to the left and meet their new partner.
  7. Lucky Dip – get students to pick a number and that number corresponds to a specific seat. Surprisingly easy to manipulate but again, appears random to unsuspecting students…

Give some of these a try and let me know how you get on. Alternatively, if you have any other ways that you change up your working pairs, please share in the comments below

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