It is an important part of your teacher preparation that you ask for seating plans for the groups you are going to teach. My advice would be to try and get seating plans that come with an image of each student.
This will help you, as the new one on the room, to assert your authority and prevent students knowingly sitting in the wrong place with a view to getting “one over” on you! This will also help assist you with the taking the register and learning names.
If you have been provided with a seating plan then make sure you stick to it; students will try and negotiate with you but if you move away from the plan then it will signal your weakness to the students who will continue to challenge your overall control and authority in YOUR classroom.
If a student has sat in the incorrect seat you will be able to notice this during the 'to do now' exercise (providing you have a seating plan with images). It is at this point in time that you can calmly and respectfully ask them to sit where they should be sat.
"Most students will try and do this but if you raise the calmly from the beginning then you have shown the whole group that you are prepared and won't be fooled."
This is not a request you can allow the student to refuse without undertaking a suitable consequence. If you are going to teach the same group over an extended period, you can discuss with them that you may agree to some changes later on as you get to know them and whether they are adhering to your expectations.
So what can you do if you have not been given a seating plan? If there is one, ask the TA if they know where all the students should sit and make a note of it for your own reference. If you don’t have a TA or they don’t know where each student sits then it follows that you will have to let the students sit where they decide. This is not ideal but at this point, you have no other choice! You can remain in control by ensuring you discuss this with the students before letting them into the classroom. it is important that you let your students know that you will be watching behaviours and exchanges from that moment on with a view to developing a future seating plan.
"By doing this, you are subtly letting your class know that should you want a student to move, then it is your expectation that they do so without argument."
This is a good time to tell you class that if expectations are met and behaviour enables teaching and learning to continue throughout the lesson, then the need to separate peer groups drastically reduces! Students can often feel they are being picked on when they have been asked to move and others have not. It is important when developing a seating plan that you have discussions with students in advance and allow them to voice an opinion. They may have a valid reason for not sitting in a particular place! If you still feel it is best to move them then you can accommodate a move to another seat. This solves your issue and importantly is done in agreement with the student.
If you are not given a plan for a group of students, it is advised that you later double check with the schools Inclusion team if any of the students have needs that would dictate where they should sit. These small details are paramount for your teaching to be truly inclusive for all.
The key piece of advice?
If you have told the students you will be developing a seating plan then you must follow through and create one!
About our Community Expert
Community expert and former Detective Inspector, Paul Raynor has direct experience in teaching educators how to better manage behaviour within secondary education.
Paul has experience with safeguarding, and has supported schools with writing behaviour policies in conjunction with senior leaders. He is an expert in his field.