Classroom setup is something we teachers love to perfect. And with that comes playing around with the ideal seating. Whether you love flexible seating or the old-school line-the-desks-up-in-arrays format, one thing that sure challenges us educators is the messy world of who-goes-where.
Part of that challenges is friendships. Or frenemies-ships. Or — lack of friendships. How can we separate the chatterboxes and the kids who push each others’ buttons? How do we support the shyer kids? It’s a balance that I don’t think any teacher has yet perfected. It should be an Olympic sport, given all the hazards that come with placing growing humans in social situations.
Classroom setup and social drama
I’m not going to tell you how to set up your classroom today (or probably ever.) Rather, I want to share a tool that helped me figure out what was going on below the surface in the murky waters of kids’ social lives (which simultaneously gave me the data I need to create the ideal-ish seating chart.)
The tool is a simple survey that asks four basic questions:
- Who in this classroom do you consider your friends?
- Who do you not get along with in this class?
- Which kids allow you to get your work done?
- Who do you find it impossible to get work done next to? (Dang it. I ended a sentence with a preposition.)
For obvious reasons, the results of this kind of delicate survey are not shared with the class. Kids need privacy to fill this out and they take it VERY seriously. And it doesn’t take long — only about ten minutes.
Getting to know your kids through this survey
Like the “I wish my teacher knew” activity, this survey lets you quickly take stock of one of your students’ biggest concerns: friendships. Between taking the attendance — anyone else always late in doing theirs? — and posting one’s daily goals, it’s easy to forget how kids’ days revolve around friendships. They are the be-all-end-all of the kid galaxy.
So it’s good to take this survey now and again, as the information gleaned from the data is eye-opening and oh-so-helpful.
I created this (free) survey with three goals: [Download survey at end of this post]
- to help teachers create seating arrangements that allow students to work efficiently with fewer distractions
- to give students the opportunity to reflect on their own needs
- and most important, to identify students who are feeling friendless and/or isolated
I use this in my own room to adjust seating arrangements and to jumpstart discussions about how kids feel they work best.
But its most crucial role is to shine a light on how kids are feeling socially in my room. Do they have friends? Are they feeling pressured to work with their friends when they’d rather work alone? Or are they feeling friendless and isolated?
The first time I used this, I was convinced one of my kids had no buddies. Yet upon looking at the data, I saw that several students identified that person as their friend. So I made sure to group him with those people to help foster deeper connections for that student.
On the other hand, a student I wasn’t worried about was the one that nobody identified as a friend. That raised a red flag. I had glaring data that pushed me to observe him at recess and lunch, to check in with him each day, and to confer with other teachers/administrators about connections we could make for that student.
Why survey? Because we’re not perfect.
We educators are a busy breed of people. We try to notice everything, but crucial bits of information elude us because there are so many to-do items on our daily list. It’s easy to miss the quieter students who aren’t raising a fuss. They are alarmingly good at escaping notice, especially when you have more vocal students willing to capture your attention.
This survey is just one tool, of course. But I purposely made it quick to administer and analyze because we don’t have an excess of time. Plus it’s something you can do several times a year as 1) kids LOVE to have their seats changed and 2) friendships and feelings change weekly.
There are a lot of lonely kiddos out there. We need to identify those hurting little souls and brighten their present and future. (Or find people to help us do this.) Knowledge is power. Let’s access this power and each bring our unique gifts to bring light to those kids’ lives.
‘Tis your turn!
- Download this free survey. You can print the PDFs or use the editable powerpoint and insert all your kiddos’ names into it and use it all year.
- Give the survey to your kids this week and then take a look at the resulting data.
- In the comments, tell us:
- How did it help you?
- Were there any surprises?
- What do you do in your classroom to identify lonely students?
I’m going to give the survey to my students tomorrow as they’ve been pining for me to change their seats. (I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, but I’ve been too busy looking for that danged attendance sheet.)
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