What Your Seating Arrangement Tells Your Students

A look at what different seating arrangements tell your students about the classroom.

There are many ways to set up your classroom, and the possibilities can be a bit mind boggling. Do you choose rows, tables, a horseshoe formation? All of these options tell your students something different, but do you know what it is?

A Horseshoe

A horseshoe formation out of desks that forms a "U" lets your students know that there will be a lot of class discussions to be had. It also lets students know that you are planning to lead the discussions, and have the focus on you. By having students all face inward toward one another you are promoting a healthy socratic style classroom, but still asserting that you are the leader. 


When you set up desks linked in rows all facing the front of the classroom you are showing students that you, as the teacher, will show them what to do and lead all classroom activities. By linking the desks in the rows you also give students a hint that they may work together, but not necessarily. 

Desks Alone

A look at what different seating arrangements tell your students about the classroom. By placing desks alone and spread apart you are telling students that the teacher is in charge, will tell you exactly what to do, and they probably won't be working together. 

Table Groups

By grouping desks together into tables you are letting students know that while the teacher facilitates the day, they are in charge. Table groups also show that students will be working collaboratively to complete tasks, and not as soloists. 

Flexible Seating

By allowing students to choose their seating option at not only just desks, but tables, couches, floor cushions, stools, and anything else you can imagine you are telling your students that they are the main event in the classroom. You are also telling them that there will be choices every day in the classroom that students are responsible for making. You, as the teacher, will be there to guide and facilitate lessons, but students are the leaders. 

What Do You Think?

Do you agree with this assessment of what classroom seating tells your students? Is there a seating arrangement I missed?

Want to Know More?

I love to reread these books when I am getting ready to set up a classroom. They always give me such inspiration, not just with seating arrangements, but in all areas of the classroom.  (affiliate links)


  1. I sure hope that is what students think when they see the flexible seating plan I have for my classroom. I am moving from 9 years in a traditional seating classroom- in which students' desks were grouped in 4's. While I felt like that promoted cooperation as you have suggested, I am excited to see what kinds of collaboration flexible seating brings.
    Do you incorporate flexible seating? If so, care to share photos of your room?

    1. Hi Leslie,
      I am not in the classroom this year, so I don't have any pictures. I do plan to give flexible seating a try when in the classroom again though!

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. So what does it say when you prefer rows and space between all the desks, combined with flexible seating and lots of choices? That is my preference.

    1. I would say it says that your room has several functions. You have time that is teacher directed as well as time when students are the leaders. To me, it sounds like a great mix!


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