An unruly Year 11 class lines up at the door and a teacher directs the students to their seats. The teacher in question is armed not with a loudspeaker or water cannon but a solitary piece of A4 paper.
That piece of paper is a secret weapon: the classroom seating plan.
To the untrained eye, it might look like a simple collection of rectangles and names but any teacher knows that, with great a seating plan comes great classroom discipline.
Introducing classroom seating plan 2.0
In today’s classrooms, the piece of A4 paper is just the tip of the iceberg – a technically savvy, interactive and fully integrated iceberg.
The seating plan has transformed from a humble method of remembering students’ names into one of the most powerful behaviour management tools at teachers’ disposal.
In a couple of clicks, teachers can rearrange a whole class by attainment or generate behaviour reports for their head of year or parents. You can quickly identify which members of a class are hitting their targets or which students are due in detention.
Unlike some classroom technology, where it can feel as if problems have been invented to solve, modern seating plans look to solve problems you previously thought were insurmountable.
Four ways your school can maximise the classroom seating plan
1. Ready-made seating plans
Rather than sitting and creating the seating plan using the register and a piece of paper, now you can get the computer to do it for you. Most programmes have a feature where students are automatically assigned seats, and then you can tweak as necessary.
Some of the software available will let you adjust your plan to seat students based on attainment. Others will use behaviour data to optimise your plan so that students sit with students who have a positive impact on them.
Definitely try: mixing up the seating plans as and when you want to: just because you’re midway through a term, it doesn’t mean you have to stick with something you know isn’t working.
Avoid: giving up too soon. If you have a tricky class, then any seating plan is going to prompt a kick-back. Weather the initial storm and then decide if it is working or not; remember, it is your classroom so you get to make the decisions – don’t let the moaning get to you.
2. Centralise detentions
Schools often give organisational barriers as their main reason why centralised detentions can’t be implemented. However, now that this can be done through seating plan software, there is one less excuse.
The best thing about centralised detentions is that teachers tend to be more willing to set them if they know someone else is going to administer it and, consequently, you will find consistency will improve. This one is an easy win-win.
Definitely try: using support staff or the on-call senior team to collect students for their detentions. If they have a tablet, then they can even check on the seating plan where they should be in the class, which will make picking them up even easier.
Avoid: missing out on the “settling up” part of the detention. Just because the admin part becomes digitalised doesn’t mean everything else will fall into place. Remember to make a point of seeing the student in person before the next lesson (even if it can’t be during the detention) and clearing the air before they return to the classroom.
3. Track the ‘good’ and ‘bad’
By the end of the first term, a teacher should have a decent idea about the sort of students they have in their class: their reliability, effort, general attitude to school and their subject ability. However, bear in mind these opinions will take a while to form into usable data.
This is where tracking comes in handy. Rather than trying to flick back through your mark book or rely on your memory, you can track these smaller points as they happen – on your seating plan.
Definitely try: to think about the positives as well as the negatives. Not only is it important for the students but it will also make you feel better to reflect on all the good things your they do.
Avoid: making the mistake of displaying this information on the projector. Look for “student safe” options if you’re using it online or make good use of the “freeze” button.
4. Home in on homework
Some seating plan software allows you to set and check homework and can save you hours of time chasing late submissions. You can even allow parents select access. Keeping this function within your seating plan saves switching or syncing between different tools, keeping your admin to a minimum.
Check out this article for more tips on keeping homework simple.
Definitely try: making parents aware of how they can check what homework has been set – it is great that information is out there for them to see but they won’t know to look if you don’t tell them.
Avoid: filling in late marks in retrospect. Do it as they hand homework in so you’re not creating extra work for yourself.