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.
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.
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.
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)