Classroom Management & Discipline - How To Create a Classroom Seating Plan for the First Day of School

Time for another installment of my Classroom Management and Discipline Series, how to create a classroom seating plan for the first day of school.  Every teacher knows there are a million and one things to do to prepare for school to start, but nothing is as important as what you plan for the first ten minutes of the very first day.  That is what will set the tone for your entire year!  

Classroom Seating Plan for the First Day of School

I have always said that I could tell how my year was going to go based on the first few minutes after my kids start trickling into the room.  In order to set yourself up to have the best start possible, you need to focus on two things, creating a classroom seating plan and your first day warm up.  

I believe that it's important to set the tone of your classroom from the moment the students walk in the door on the first day of  school.  That is why I have a routine that I follow each and every year.  First of all, I greet everyone at the door and tell them to find their seat and look at the board for further directions.  I am a creature of habit, and my students need to learn the habits that will help them be successful in my classroom this year.  One of the first things they will need to do in the next 179 days of school is look for directions on the board as we start our day.   My Morning Message Board will welcome them to my classroom and then direct them to today's warm up.  

Welcome Morning Message Board

Choosing the right type of warm up on the first day of school is critical.  I want something that my students will be able to complete independently and that will take them a little bit of time.  Though my classroom this year will often be filled with the noise of students talking, working together, and laughing, I want to set the tone on this first day of a quiet classroom where students can think and work on their own.   My first day warm up has two tasks.  One is to read a letter from a student who was in my room last year.  At the end of every school year, I have my students write a letter to next year's students.  After they read the letter from one of last year's students, I have them fill in a First Day Welcome Letter to me about how they are feeling on this first day of school.  Both of these letters are freebies in my TPT Store!

It's important for me to get my students working on something right away as this sets another precedent for the year.  As my students are finding their seats, putting away their school supplies, and starting on their warm up, I walk around the room and take lunch count.  This is a chance to once again put names with faces after I greeted them at the door and an additional opportunity to set the tone of our classroom.  For my classroom that means this is a quiet working environment.  So, each interaction I have with them this morning is done in a quiet voice.  Unless I am addressing the whole class, I always use a quiet voice in my classroom.  When I talk to students individually, I do not want all of the students in the classroom to hear, and I do not want interactions that I have with individuals or small groups to be a distraction to the rest of the class.  Likewise, I expect my students to learn how to talk quietly so as not to disturb the work of others.  

I believe a seating chart is also vital to setting the tone of my classroom.  Though there will be times that students will have the freedom to choose where they want to sit, the majority of the time I will make that choice.  It is my responsibility to be the instructional leader of the classroom and that means figuring out the best place for each child to learn.  Fortunately, I am given some basic information about each of my students that I can use to make a seating chart.  If I didn't have any information about my students other than their names, I would do a boy, girl, boy seating chart and then use my observations of the students from the first couple days of school to create a new one.  

In my school, the 4th grade teachers fill out a pink (girls) or blue (boys) card on each student.  The card gives me basic information such as their academic performance (marked high, average, low), citizenship (marked high, average, low), reading level, and whether they get any kind of special services.  This information helps me create my first seating chart.  I have my desks arranged in six groups, so I start with students who were marked low in citizenship and put one in each group.  It gets trickier the years that I have more than six kiddos marked low!  Then I go to my students marked high in citizenship and put at least one of those in each group.  Woe is me if I don't have six!  Then I fill in the rest of the spots with kids who were marked average in citizenship.  

Once I know which kids are grouped together, then it's time to figure out where exactly they will sit in the classroom.  Classroom management 101 is all about proximity, so my students who may struggle the most when it comes to making good choices with their behavior need to be seated the closest to my teaching station.  This is why I find it best to have a table rather than a typical desk right next to my cart that contains my teaching computer and document camera.  If I'm teaching the class, working with an individual or small group, or sitting at my desk, it's all in this same location with my behaviorally challenged students nearby.  It wouldn't make sense to seat a student who struggles with behavior near my desk and then go to the back of the room to work with a group of students at a table.  

So, I place my students with the potential for the most behavior issues in a desk that faces me close to my teacher area.  It is pointless to put them in a group near me, if their back is to me.  I must be able to see their face, and they must be able to see mine.  

How to Create a Classroom Seating Plan

In the picture above, you can see the group that is closest to my teaching station.  I would place a student who may make bad choices in the desk with the arrow.  This desk is closest to me if I'm standing at my cart or sitting on my stool.  If I'm sitting in my chair at my table, I can clearly see their face, and he/she can see mine.  I would try to put students with high citizenship or at least average next to and directly across from him/her.

This next group is tricky, and if my class size is a little smaller, I don't put any students where the two red arrows are.  

Creating a Classroom Seating Plan That Works

If I'm at my teaching station, their backs are to me, and if I'm sitting at my table, I really can't see them at all.  If I have no choice but to use those desks, I put two of my most responsible students in those seats.  Sometimes I resort to creating two front facing rows of three instead of the group of six.  The white arrow is pointing to the spot where I would put a student who needs proximity to me as once again I am able to see their face from my teaching station.  

In the groups that are further away from me, I put my behaviorally challenged students in the front facing row on the end closest to me.  Those are the seats where I will most easily be able to see their face.

Classroom Seating Plan for Success

I try to only put very responsible students in the desks that have their backs to the board, as they are most likely to turn around to pay attention.  

When it comes to assigning seats, you have to be flexible.  Where you have placed your students can make or break your learning environment.  I change where my students sit based on how things are going from day to day.  If kids are doing very well and acting responsibly, I may leave everyone in the same spot for weeks.  If a particular student is struggling, I may move them every couple days until I find the spot that works.  

I hope this helps you figure out the seating arrangement that works best for your kids!  Would you like more information about how to set up your classroom for success?  Check out the other blog posts in this series.  

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