Inspiration for Classroom Seating Arrangements

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Written by Holly (Teach Starter)

Are you feeling like your classroom desks could do with a little re-arrangement? Are you about to embark on a new school year in a new classroom? We’ve all been there. We spend hours upon hours setting up our classroom displays and moving the classroom furniture around multiple times before the children even step foot in the classroom. Then, there’s the highly mathematical thought process of re-arranging the desks throughout the year to suit the changing needs of the students in your class. This blog highlights a number of classroom desk arrangement ideas to inspire you!

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Classroom seating arranagement ideas

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Classroom Seating Arrangement Ideas

Finding a classroom desk set-up that suits you and your students can be a tricky task. Here are some pros and cons to eight different classroom desk arrangement ideas that have been tried and tested by teachers in the know. Obviously, there are a number of factors that will influence the seating arrangement that will work in your classroom. The main struggle is, of course, the size of the classroom and the furniture you have available to you, etc. However, I’m hoping this list of suggested seating arrangements spark some inspiration to help you get your classroom working.

(1) Grouping

The grouping of student desks in a variety of numbered groups is one option that may work for you and your students in your classroom. This layout is also known as ‘pods’.

Classroom desk arranagement ideas

This set-up, of course, lends itself really well to a classroom that does a lot of group work and collaboration. Also, if you are a teacher who finds the competition of ‘group points’ works well to keep your students on task – this desk layout is a winner! You may like to use some of our grouping posters for the classroom to name your groups and keep track of group points.

Cons to ‘pods’ desk configuration include:

  • desks move around easily
  • can be distracting for some
  • some children will be side-on to the whiteboard.

(2) Mix it Up

Let’s face it, in a classroom of 30 or so students, there are going to be a variety of learning styles and learning requirements. One way to combat this is to mix up the desk arrangement and try to cater to a variety of learning styles and needs.

Classroom desk arranagement ideas

Another classroom management technique using this desk configuration is to not have ‘set’ desks.

A bit like flexible seating, students can move around to the desk configuration that is going to work for them for different subject areas. This may be more teacher-directed than student-directed. If you have a small group of students that need a lot of teacher assistance for one subject area you can get them to sit in a desk arrangement such as the small U shape and position yourself in the middle of the U.

The obvious con of this arrangement is that students may not like to be sitting in a different configuration to their friends. Also, can you cater to every students’ learning needs?

(3) Flexible Seating

Flexible seating is not a new concept. Teachers either love this concept or they don’t. Again, it really depends on the students in your class and what works best for them.

As stated in Cassie’s blog, Flexible Seating: Unreal or Unrealistic? Flexible seating gurus say that this form of classroom ‘un-seating’ better reflects the hyper-connected and every-changing world we live in. That it inherently requires students to master skills such as flexibility, creativity, problem-solving and collaboration.

Classroom desk arranagement ideas

This kind of seating arrangement is an absolute classroom change. If you are thinking of changing to flexible seating it may be an idea to have a bit of a trial period to see if this sort of layout is going to work for your class. Have one ‘different’ flexible seating option available and see if it’s something your students will be able to cope with and will improve their learning environment.

We have some Flexible Seating Expectation posters that would also help with the change over if this is something that you are thinking of doing.

Flexible seating posters

Worried about the cost and how to set it up?

Check out how this teacher and her students designed their own space – A Student-Designed Flexible Seating Classroom Tour. Getting your students involved in the process is another bonus to this seating set-up.

(4) Mini U’s

This layout is one that I often used in my early years’ classrooms. It had the benefits of easily managing small group work without students being squashed together and meant they had a bit more personal space.

Classroom desk arranagement ideas

This layout was also beneficial for me, as the teacher, as I could easily go around and mark work and check up on individual students.  I would often sit my chair in the middle of one of the ‘U’ shapes to have small discussions with each group when needed.

Again, a con to this set-up would be you will have some students not ‘facing’ the whiteboard and others that are facing the whiteboard, however, may have other students heads in the way of their viewing of the whiteboard.

(5) Simple Rows

The traditional desk in rows is still an option, especially if you do a lot of board work.

Classroom desk arranagement ideas

Obviously, this layout doesn’t cater very well to small group/collaborative learning. However, if you have space in your classroom, you may be able to set up a variety of other group work areas in the classroom and save the desks for individual work.

All students in this desk layout will face the board and it lends itself to easily move the desks to cater for test conditions if required.

When the desks are in rows it is often easier for the teacher to see who is on task as well. However, if you do have large numbers of students in your class this layout could put some students a fair way away from the whiteboard and the front of the class.

(6) Stadium Seating

A slight deviation to the desks in rows. Stadium like seating is another option that may work – particularly for the older year levels.

Classroom desk arranagement ideas

This layout again makes it easier for the teacher to see if all students are on task as the desks are angled to one point in the classroom. This layout also uses less floor space and, as we know, some classrooms are very, very small – the more floor space you can get the better! Am I right?

This layout won’t suit a classroom that does involve a lot of group work/collaboration.

(7) Large U Shapes

This desk arrangement concept was another one of my favourite layouts for the classroom.

Classroom desk arranagement ideas

This layout caters well to whole-class discussions and enables students the ability to easily see their classmates and interact with them during discussions.

This layout is similar to the small u-shapes in that each desk is easily accessible by the classroom teacher. Again, this layout doesn’t cater well for small group work, but students can still work in partners with the person beside them if required.

(8) Double E

If you are struggling with a small classroom. This Double E shape may just be the desk layout that will work for you.

Classroom desk arranagement ideas

This desk configuration creates two smaller carpet areas in the middle of the desks, which would provide some space for small group work as well.

Again, this layout makes it easier for the teacher to get around and help out individual students. This layout also allows for a little flexibility in that if you have particular students that really need to face the whiteboard you can make sure they are facing the front of the classroom.

We’d love to hear from you! What other desk configurations would you add to this list?

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Comments & feedback

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I like to mix it up every term and quite often I run out of ideas. I have tried most of these, all of which are affective in their own way. There were a couple I will try today when I go back in and set up for my 2020 year 3 class. Thanks again.

Melissa Messenger · Jan 16th, 2020

Hi Melissa, thanks for your comment and we’re are glad this has given you some inspiration for your 2020 classroom setup!

Holly (Teach Starter) · Jan 16th, 2020

One of my favourites is a central column of desks (like the groups of 6) but as long as needed with a flat row facing the board at the back. To the sides I have single desks that allow for two students in rows to fill the ‘wings’ as such. Allows for room up the front, collaboartive work in the column, space in the wings and a traditional back row for students who like to work together but benefit from front facing not face to face placing.

Ashe Hogan · Jan 15th, 2020

Thanks so much for your favourite seating arrangement for your classroom! It sounds like a great use of space.

Holly (Teach Starter) · Jan 16th, 2020

I would love to see some options that have room for carpet/mat at the front of the classroom.

Jade-Marie · Jul 31st, 2019

Oh, nice suggestion! Thanks, Jade-Marie. We’ll consider that for a future blog.

Holly (Teach Starter) · Aug 1st, 2019

Yes that would be good as well as a class full of behaviour issues.

teresa woosnam · Aug 21st, 2019

I think I’ve tried most of the suggested seating arrangements in the last twenty years and sometimes changed it during the year depending on the students. At the moment I’m semi flexible, I have tables that allow up to six and four students, bean bags, coffee table, small tables for one and lap trays. All with a variety of success. I also use the flexible seating ‘rules’ which have proved very useful. It sounds like it would be crowded but it’s not and I have lots of floor space for my composite 2/3 class.

Marjorie Window · Jul 30th, 2019

Hi Marjorie, thanks so much for your comment. It’s always a matter of trial and error, isn’t it? I would often change my desks around sometimes multiple times in a term. Thanks for your feedback on the flexible seating ideas as well!

Holly (Teach Starter) · Jul 31st, 2019


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