Your classroom seating arrangement can shape the dynamic of student interactions and the functionality of each activity in class. Not to mention how much your desk arrangement affects classroom management. For world language teachers, it’s especially influential on speaking activities.
I would spend WEEKS in July researching the best classroom seating, getting the best possible posters (for cheap of course), figuring out how to display and organize my teeny but proud collection of CI readers….it was the dream!
For setup and classroom design, I even designed my own high-frequency word walls since I had the unique challenge of sharing both a French and Spanish classroom.
Sure, my aversion to home decor is a little insane, but the fervor for classroom design is one of the many things I miss about having my own classroom.
Here are some things I found out about desk arrangements, decor, and classroom seating and setup ideas to maximize your interaction in the classroom:
Tips for Classroom Seating Arrangements
- It’s good to shake things up with desk arrangements and have students sit next to new people. How often is certainly up to you. I used to switch up my seating every 4 weeks or so.
- In my class, it was always an earned privilege to choose your seats. Classes with good community boundaries could choose and I would only occasionally intervene. Classes that were not connected to each other and often broke norms and boundaries needed assigned seats to help maintain the learning environment. Choosing seats for a day/choosing partners for certain activities was treated as a reward for good days.
- Big assessments = moved desks as far apart as possible, as well as having folder dividers. Even if you’re not worried about it, it helps all students feel secure and just eliminates the temptation to peek at other peeps.
Seating Arrangement for a Small Classroom
#1 classroom seating arrangement for small classes for me was a horseshoe. You can see everyone and they can all see you!
Classroom seating arrangements for 28 + students in a small room
#1 arrangement for 25+ classes is groups of 4-5, For the desk groups, your groups are already arranged for turn & talks, games, etc. Students get to know the students at their desk and help each other alot.
Downside: LOTS of room to hide phones under desks, so you need that proximity often. But the classroom community is great.
Another #1 classroom seating arrangement for 25+ is partner groups of 2 because you can see EVERYTHING. And they always have a designated partner!
Downside – if you have a physically small space, this arrangement takes up alot of room.
Seating arrangements for easier classroom management
#1 classroom seating arrangement for easily distracted/chatty/need lots of supervision classes: 2 large connected rows, horizontal across the room.
This means you have a GIANT front row and can see everything, move easily to each student, be seen easily, and see them easily.
They are also right next to tons of people and can easily speak and interact with others.
Downsides: it restricts movement for students ALOT. Think movie theatre style – lots of popcorn spillage.
Desk Arrangements for Speaking Activities
I always arranged desks to better facilitate speaking practice. If we had a heavy speaking day, students knew they were getting up and moving all the desks towards the center of the room in 2 rows facing each other for speed dating.
The room below me sometimes complained about the noise. That just tells me their class was very boring. I didn’t give a toot – I got tennis balls. learning is noisy, y’all. The only quiet things that should happen in a class is assessment.
Classroom Arrangement Ideas: Where Should I Put My Teacher Desk?
#1 Place to Put your desk??
The BACK of the room.
I know, I know, it’s counterintuitive. But if your tech allows it, you can see what every student is doing, what they are working on, and who they are talking to – even from your desk for those times you absolutely need to grade while they partner practice.
Secret bonus: they can’t see your gradebook pulled up in powerschool.
It should be in the furthest corner from the door, facing the door if possible, so that students are taking up the prime visual real estate in your room.
That way, you can also keep easier tabs on who’s coming and going and at what time for late arrivals, bathroom passes, etc.
World Language Classroom Decor Ideas
Everything in your room should be functional for language acquisition or help make your room feel cozy.
Of course, there’s no real rules for classroom decor for world language. However, I do find that functional classrooms strike a balance between a TON of words and tools readily available and plenty of blank space to help combat the constant eye assault that word walls bring.
A great culturally responsive teaching note I got from Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond: your decor often reflects only the teacher’s worldview. What does it say to students is important about the world? What does it say about their place in it? Where can you leave space for your students to contribute?
Let Student Work Decorate Your Room & Halls!
One of my best ways to reduce work and prep AND be more culturally responsive for your students is to give them tons of space to add their personality to class. I put their work everywhere and switch it out pretty often. Those of you on my newsletter also know how much I LOATHE decorating. But there are tons of students who love it!
Students who are great artists? Put up their art, from any class, not just yours.
I also reduce alot of prep by having students hang up their own work. At the end of a class project, their last step is to find a good place on the project wall to hang their work. It’s easier for me to grade when they are all displayed anyways.
Build a Community Bulletin Board
You can even make a community board for when students have events to advertise, like club events, sports games, plays, etc. Put up their school pictures! Talk about a great way to start off the day with target language too. You can do tons of PQA – personalized questions and answers based off of the events students want to share – think art showcases, skateboard clubs, etc. The options for connection are endless.
Allow them to bring in some favorite things from home, like a fave pillow or cozy butt cushion for reading time – as long as they’re cool with sharing with everyone.
Keep a Class Collection
It’s also really fun to have a special collection of something that students can contribute to. I’ve seen colleagues with Harry Potter swag, cute stuffed piggies, anything skeleton, tiny plants, rubber duckies, etc. Anything that students feel they can contribute to is GOLDEN for community and fun.
For Spanish class, it’s especially easy to collect calavera themed things nowadays if you teach in the US. Students would love to bring in fun things to contribute! The main thing that makes it a community-builder is the emphasis on the class collection, not teacher collection. You are the keeper, but the collection belongs to everyone.
Where to Put Your World Language Posters
Keep your posters in the front and sides of your classroom if possible. Also try to put your word walls nearest to the places where you can draw, write, and reference your visuals when telling your stories or having your target language-heavy conversations. Placement and size are key for your target language tools.
Check out an example tour here of what my French classroom looked like, with all tools and posters: French Classroom Decor Ideas for Proficiency Oriented Instruction
The Posters You Need in Your World Language Classroom:
For maximum target language, you need 4 things:
- word walls
- high frequency verbs – 1st 20 or so
- question words
- guide to language acquisition/proficiency
Spanish Word Walls:
Here are some of my Spanish word walls in action – you can grab your own high frequency word wall set here.
French Word Walls:
World Language Proficiency Explained : My New Language Posters
These are my new tools to help teachers display and clearly communicate the language acquisition process to students in simple, student-friendly language.
Posters are legal size, 6″-14″.
Final Tips to World Language Classroom Seating Arrangement and Setup:
Have fun and leave some blank space.
Your classroom is a living, breathing tool to aid in community building, target language use, proficiency, and a hella fun class.
Talk about blast from the past – this is my 2019 French classroom! Before the pink hair!
Hope you found some great ideas for both your classroom seating arrangement and world language setup specific to your language. My very last tip for you is this:
Switching to proficiency shouldn’t feel like you’re starting from scratch. Let’s get you a plan with doable steps that STILL feel like your teaching style. Grab the free guide here
Always rooting for you,