Girl Ear Pokers and Hair Pinchers:  Where to Seat Those Students

Having a good seating arrangement can be a tremendous help in the classroom. If the right students are in the right spots, everything will run more smoothly, and the teacher can avoid many distractions and potential disruptions. It does take a while to get to know your students and to know who should be where. After that though, don’t be afraid to move their desks around as often as needed. They usually like having a new viewpoint in the classroom anyway, and if they complain, don’t let them. One of my new favorite verses is “There will be no complaining in our streets . . .” (Psalm 144:14), and my students have memorized it because they’ve heard me say it, with a big smile on my face, many times already this year.

Moving my students’ desks around is often a weekly event for me. I love the variety, and the students do too. But sometimes, you find a really good seating arrangement and it just needs to stay for a while.  Like that one year with one of my classes…

It was one of those classes, and they were junior high students. They were honestly one of the most enjoyable groups of students I’ve ever had. They were energetic, creative, full of life, and a bit mischievous. They did some rather interesting things. Once they decided that two origami swans (that we made while studying ancient China) could be used as “snot kleenex picker uppers.”  They made “girl ear pokers” out of four pieces of paper taped end-on-end and rolled up tightly. Binder clips became “girl hair pinchers.” When the class one year beneath them won a pizza party for collecting the most money during a trash-a-thon, they stole one of their pizzas during lunch and hid it in a closet. (They didn’t eat it and it was returned after a lecture from me.) The girls and guys had so many disputes that we had to separate them and address the issues at least twice. I can’t even count how many times I walked into the hallway by the bathrooms and gagged on excessive amounts of Axe. And it wasn’t all being sprayed on their bodies.  I believe they called it “Axe wars.”

Now, most of this did not happen during classes. I’d never allow that. It happened at lunch, while getting ready for physical education classes, or in between classes, but you can imagine that we teachers had our hands full. A great seating chart was a life saver for me that year.  I tried several arrangements, but I finally found THE SOLUTION, and it greatly helped.


Front of room

 C2  D1  D1   C2
 D2   D2
 D2   D2
  CC   D1  D1   CC


  1. Put the four most “creative” (i.e. mischievous) students in the four corners.  (C2 and CC spots)
  2. Put the class clowns in the back corners. Part of their acting out is to get attention. They cannot do this as easily if they are in the back where most of their classmates cannot see them. (CC spots)
  3. Put the less mischievous and more conscientious of the “creative” students in the front two corners. (C2 spots)
  4. Directly next to the four C spots, place your most diligent students.  (D1 spots)
  5. If you have a few more diligent students, place them in the remaining spots surrounding the “creative” students. (D2 spots)
  6. Carefully place the rest of the students in the remaining spots.

There are a few other seating arrangement ideas, too. Here is something else I’ve done with students who were decently behaved but were close friends and liked to communicate too often. The hardest way to make eye contact with a friend is if he is in the same row a few seats back. It is difficult to completely turn around 180 degrees and then talk over a few peoples’ heads.

Remember that you, as the teacher, have the right to move any student anywhere at any time. If I notice two students even making eye contact too much in class, or distracting each other in any way, I’ll write their names on a sticky note (which may make them wonder if they are getting their participation grade docked) so I won’t forget, and then move them to new spots on the seating chart right after class. The next time they walk into the room, I’ll announce “Susie and Sally,  please switch seats.”  I’ve even done that during a class.

I cannot teach if I am distracted, or if any of my students aren’t paying attention. So if they don’t stop after a warning, I’ll just ask the student who appears to be initiating the distraction to please switch seats with another student. I don’t make a big deal of it as I don’t want to embarrass the student, but I won’t let the behavior continue while I’m teaching. I will usually apologize to the student who didn’t do anything but has to move by saying something like, “Susie, I’m sorry you have to gather up all your stuff and move. You didn’t do anything wrong. Thanks for having a good attitude and being willing to move.”

Finding the right seating arrangement is challenging, but well worth the effort. Don’t be afraid to keep moving students around until you find something that works. The students will enjoy the variety, and you will avoid many potential distractions so that you can focus on the important stuff, like being a great teacher!

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