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5 Tips for using an Open Seating Plan

A year and a half ago, I made a grade level jump.  The move was bitter-sweet, exciting and scary.  I was excited about 2nd grade and wanted to use the opportunity to make some changes in my teaching.  One of the things I wanted to do was give students more choice.  When students have choices, they become responsible and engaged.  

The summer before I started teaching 2nd grade, a Scholastic article about open seating plans crossed my facebook feed.  The article talked about giving students choices about where they chose to sit.  It was geared towards older students who change classes during the day as opposed to being ‘glued’ to one seat all day.  

“I can do that!”  I thought with excitement!

5 Tips for using an Open Seating Plan
At Open House, I handed students a name plate and said “Here!  You get to pick your seat!”  Most of them looked at me like I had a third eyeball.  Looking back, I probably added some anxiety to an already nervous day but they did what I asked.  

For 2 weeks, we kept those seats.  Then one Friday afternoon, I called a family meeting and talked to them about how being in 2nd grade meant you were ready to be responsible for things that happened in the classroom.  We talked about good choices.  I did think alouds about who I would chose to sit with and why.  (“I really like Alicea, but I like to talk and she likes to talk so I probably should not sit with her.  Felicia is nice and she helps me when I need help.  She talks a little bit, but I probably won’t get in trouble for talking if I sit with her.”)  I turned the students lose with instructions to clean out their desk, pile their things on their chair and pick out a new seat.  
5 Tips for using an Open Seating Plan

Standing in the corner of the room, my self-satisfied grin turned into a panicked grimace as the minutes ticked by.

5 Tips for using an Open Seating Plan

Finally, I started shoving pushing chairs up to desks and screaming saying “Just move in here!  It’s time to go!”  

I had neglected to think about just how long of a process this would be.  As I rushed students to the buses with half-zipped bookbags, I couldn’t believe I had promised students we would do this.  Every.  Week.

But we did.  Every week.  And it got better.  Much better.  By the end of the year, it was a well-oiled machine and the kids loved it! Students were able to pick seats responsibly and make good choices about who they sat with.  

Here are my tips for you–
1.  Guide students through emptying their desk.  Have students stack all the things you want them to take to their new seat on their chair.

2.  Have a plan for all the other stuff.  For example, I have a basket for students to put unchecked papers in.  

3.  Circulate, with eyes wide open.  Be on the lookout for missing assignments.

4.  Have everyone pull their chairs, with belongings stacks, away from their desks so everyone has room to move.

5.  Every couple of moves, give students a “rule”.  One of my favorites is to have students sit beside someone new.

Have you had any experiences with open seating? 

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