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Classroom Management - The 3-Minute Seating Chart

By Darren Barkett

Most every teacher has struggled with classroom management at one point in time or another. Ask any veteran teacher who still enjoys teaching, and he or she will tell you that a well designed seating chart makes all the difference in how many distractions you deal with daily as well as how much you enjoy your teaching.

The trouble with seating charts, though, is that a good one can take lots of time to create. When I first started teaching, I would spend over fifteen minutes per class per chart. This may not seem like a lot of time, but it adds up, especially if you've got four or five different classes like I had.

Eventually, though I figured out a way to create an effective seating chart in less than 3 minutes. Impossible? No way.

Here's how I create my seating chart. On the day I'm going to give students new seats, I tell them to sit wherever they like. "Really?" they ask. "Sure," I respond. All excited, they enter the room collaborating with their friends to sit as closely together as my desk or table arrangement allows.

Then, once class begins, I break the news. "Don't get too comfy in your new seat because I'm getting ready to give you a different one." -Insert big groan from class here-

At this point I like to preempt any belly aching, complaining, and fussing about their up-coming assigned seat. I tell the students how important it is that I am able to teach them the valuable skills (I teach reading and writing) they'll need to be successful. And I ask them, "What happens when you sit next to your friends?" "We talk a lot." "Right! And I'd rather not fuss at you constantly. Do you like it when I fuss at you?"

I consider this time the "pre-sell" of my seating chart, the attempt to get them to "buy-in" to my overall classroom management system.

I then go through the class giving each student a number. My current room layout has six tables, so I give students a number from one to six. If you've got desks in rows, count the rows and use those numbers. Once everyone has their number, I warn them (again part of the pre-selling process) that I may still have to change their seat once I see how things work out. I then tell the students which numbers sit at which tables (or rows) and I let them find their new space.

It's amazing. The seating chart instantly separates students from their friends and puts them together with students they normally wouldn't sit with. It's like magic! I'll take a moment to look at the layout, pointing out to the students places where I think I may need to make a change (the students always promise they'll be good!). I make a change here and there.

And then I move on! Three minutes. Tops. And that means more time for teaching and less time spent on classroom management - which is why we're here in the first place, right?

Classroom management is a struggle for nearly every teacher at one time or another. Darren Barkett of Helping Teachers Grow works to create classroom management videos and behavior management resources designed to help teachers at any level manage student behavior more effectively and respectfully. His classroom management website provides free class management videos as well as other helpful tools for teachers. You can find online classroom management training at

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