Image Map

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

How to Assign Seats in the Music Room

I am a big fan of assigned seating for elementary music class. Because students don't come to my room every day, predictability is important. And with such short class periods, anything that speeds up transitions is a win in my book! The right seating arrangement can also make a huge difference in how well students learn, how comfortable they feel in my class, and how smoothly the classes run. So if you're going to assign seats, it needs to be done well! Today I'm sharing all the different factors I consider when making my seating arrangements.

Because getting the seating arrangements right is so important to me, I spend a lot of time contemplating them and setting them up before the first day of school. This is one area where we as music teachers have the advantage of knowing most of our students from the previous year! Of course if you're at a new school you don't have that luxury (and I always have a new set of Kindergartners plus a handful of new students in each class)- I'll talk about what I do in that case at the end of this post.

IEP's/ individual learning needs
Of course the very first thing I look at when I'm making my seating charts is the accommodations pages of all my students' IEP's and other individual plans. Some seating accommodations don't apply to me because they don't have desks, but for things like vision difficulties it's important to make sure I'm compliant with those and meeting any individual needs students may have!

level of need for attention
My second highest priority is the level of need/ want for attention. Over the years I've learned that some students feel more comfortable if they aren't too close to me- either they need the psychological/ emotional space, or they get less overwhelmed by the noise level when they're further away from me and my sometimes loud singing! There are also, of course, some students that need a lot more individual attention, and I can give them that less intrusively if they're closer to me.

need for space/ movement
This is somewhat similar to the first two, but I also think specifically about those students who tend to move around in their chairs, need to stand up more frequently, or just take up more physical space when they're sitting. Those students I try to put at the ends of rows or in the back so that they can get up or move around without distracting other students as much.

personality mixes
Because I have my students (besides Kindergarten) sit in rows of 4, and especially because I put a heavy emphasis on those seating groups in the running of my classroom (you can read all about that in this post), I spend probably the longest trying to put the right people next to each other and in the same group/ row. Obviously there are some students I make sure to keep away from each other if they really don't get along or if they easily distract each other. I also think about putting more outgoing students together with the quieter ones so that when they are performing or working in small groups they can help each other. I usually split up "cliques" so that they aren't excluding other students, get experience working with different people, and are less likely to get distracted from the lesson, but sometimes if there are students who are very shy or seem to be having a hard time getting comfortable in my class, I'll put them next to a friend.

singing confidence
For other musical skills it doesn't really matter that much who students are next to, but for singing it can make a huge difference! Although it's definitely not at the top of my list, I do try to make sure I have students who need to hear strong singing around them in order to sing in tune better next to the strong singers when I can. Even if it's not an issue of singing in tune, putting confident singers next to hesitant ones makes it easier for the hesitant singers to sing because their voice doesn't sound as exposed to them.

I used to pay a lot more attention to height than I do now. I make sure I put visuals that are really important for everyone to see at the top half of my screen so that students aren't looking over each other's heads as much. And really, there aren't too many times when they need to be looking at the board for long periods of time. Certainly I have some students who are so much shorter or taller than the rest of the class that I have to put them at the front or back, but for everyone else the other factors are much more important.

But what if I don't know the students?
If I don't know the students in advance, I don't make my seating charts until I see them on the first day. I will find out about IEP's and other individual needs from support staff and note those on my seating chart beforehand, but otherwise I wait until I see them on the first day and do some quick analyzing in the first few minutes that I see them! After doing this for over a decade I have gotten pretty good at seeing who needs the extra comfort of a friend, which cliques need to be split up, who needs more or less of my attention, and who needs to be kept apart. You can read about everything I do on the first day in this post, but when they first come in I always give them a quick introduction to me and to the room before I show them where to sit, and that's when I'm watching and analyzing.

If you want to see how my seating (and everything else) is set up in my classroom, here is my latest classroom tour. And if you want to see all the other ways I use my seating charts besides just keeping track of seating, here is a whole post on that (I use them a LOT). And of course another advantage of having assigned seating, especially for music teachers who see hundreds of students, is that it helps us learn their names more quickly- here is a post on strategies I use to help me learn student names and why I think it's so important to do so.

Do you do assigned seats in your music classes? What are your top considerations when you're making seating assignments? My thoughts have changed quite a bit on this over my years of teaching, and I would love to know what you do to try to find that perfect seating arrangement! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

No comments :

Post a Comment