Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Joining the Classroom Seating Debate

The photo above is not a traditional seating arrangement for a foreign language class. I looked on many sites to find an accurate photo or chart, but to no avail. It’s a pity, since a picture is worth… you know. Imagine this; you’re standing in front of the teacher’s desk which is centered in front of the classroom, facing the students.

As you look straight ahead, there’s a wide aisle. There are no student desks or obstacles there. This aisle divides the room into two sections, and makes it easier to move around the room. Half of the student desks are in rows to the right and half to the left. Each row contains three to four student desks, depending upon the size of the classroom.

Each row of student desks faces the wide, empty center aisle. This means, of course, they face each other, and not the white board. But, when students turn their heads slightly toward the board, they can see easily. They can also see the teacher as he/she moves about the room. The teacher can see the face of each student too. This is important when learning a foreign language.

Students need to see the teacher’s mouth as a new word or phrase is being formed. The teacher needs to see the mouths of the students too. This modeling and checking for understanding goes on constantly. But there is a secondary benefit. Student rows are short, and it’s easy to treat them as “teams”. This is helpful for routine tasks, like collecting work, passing back papers, practicing vocabulary, language games, etc.

Students love this configuration. They can see everything in the room much easier. This includes the teacher. Teachers love this seating arrangement because it makes classroom management and instruction much easier. When setting it up, just remember not to allow any of the seats to be pushed against a wall. Leave space around the “block” of student desks on each half of the room for better flow, visibility and classroom management.

There’s a reason this seating arrangement is used so often in foreign language classes. Visibility and being able to reach students easily is important when teaching languages. It may help in other disciplines as well. Give it a try.

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Image Credit: Pixabay

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