It’s a fact—there is no one-size-fits-all solution to classroom seating. Class size, student behavior, and the teacher’s lesson plans greatly affect how a classroom should be set up. Of course, it’s usually up to the teacher to decide how to arrange the classroom, and that typically involves some degree of trial and error. To help you decide what configuration is best for your students, check out the benefits and drawbacks of these popular classroom setups.
Stadium-style seating involves angled rows of student desks that touch on the sides. This common desk arrangement faces all students to the front of the room, ensuring everyone has their eyes on the teacher and the lesson.
Pros: The primary benefit of stadium seating is that the teacher can see what every student is doing at all times because everyone is facing the front and is in clear view. Likewise, every student also has a clear view of the teacher, ensuring everyone can see what’s happening. Because students are already next to each other, group work can be done quickly and easily. The advantage of angling the rows rather than leaving them straight is that it’s easier for students to see the front of the room and also leaves some space at the front of the classroom for a podium or AV cart.
Cons: Although stadium seating works well for smaller class sizes, it may not be ideal for larger classes as the rows would need to be farther away from the front of the room to accommodate more students.
Horseshoe- or U-shaped seating is ideal for seating a large number of students without taking up the entire classroom. In a U-shaped configuration, students are seated side-by-side and can be easily separated from their friends if necessary. This arrangement allows you to utilize more wall space around the desks for other purposes.
Pros: The horseshoe shape enables teachers to fit a large number of desks in a small space, making this an ideal configuration for larger classrooms with more students. Students are more separated from each other in this configuration, making individual work easier and preventing students from getting distracted by one another.
Cons: The same benefit of spreading students out can also be a negative aspect of this classroom arrangement. Because children are so spread out, it can be difficult for a teacher to address the entire class directly. It can also make group work a little trickier since desks cannot be moved around the room as easily as they can be with a stadium configuration.
Runway-style seating involves 2 rows of desks facing each other with a good deal of space between them, forming a "runway." In this setup, the teacher stands in the runway during lessons and can walk up and down freely while speaking.
Pros: This setup emphasizes paying attention to the teacher. This configuration is best-suited for classrooms that hold a lot of lectures and class-wide discussions.
Cons: Due to the amount of space it takes up in the classroom, the runway-style configuration is not suitable for large class sizes. This type of grouping can also make group and partner work tricky.
Clusters or group seating works well if you have a smaller class and include a lot of group activities in your lesson plans. This grouping may not work with larger classrooms because it encourages collaboration, which you may find difficult to manage if too many students constantly get off-task.
Pros: This type of configuration can really save on floor space, and it’s great for supporting group activities. After all, everyone is already in groups! It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Cons: Students may be more likely to chat in this configuration, so you may struggle to hold their attention. This arrangement is distracting for many, so it may not be right for every student.
Hybrid seating involves a combination of the arrangements listed above.
Pros: Hybrid seating is very flexible and allows teachers to accommodate specific student needs. Remember what we said about there being no one-size-fits-all solution? This arrangement allows teachers to accommodate specific children with specific desk arrangements.
Cons: This style can be tricky to accommodate since it requires special procedures for passing out and collecting papers and supplies.