There is a lot of data to show that thoughtful seating plans can raise attainment and improve behaviour. Personally I now have all my classes arranged in a ‘most able, least able’ formation, with the belief that if my lower ability students are struggling and I am otherwise detained with another pupil (who has just smashed a beaker/set themselves on fire etc) that there is an interim level of support. It also means that in a practical subject one of the pair undertaking the experiment should have understood the safety measures in place. I change the seating plan after every internal test/exam and now the boys are used to this routine so any changes cause minimal disruption.
So has it made an improvement? I haven’t got any hard data to prove it has worked but my classroom ‘spidy sense’ says yes it does. On a practical note I feel there is a lot less mess after experimental activities and the class all seem to get the work carried out and cleared up in a similar length of time – before I would be forever waiting for a couple of groups to get settled while the rest of the class was waiting to continue. On a academic note I now ask the pupils to check that their partners have underlined headings/dated work/spelled key word correctly, and as a result I am definitely spending less time red inking books. I also tend to find that the more able pupils quite like explaining things and the less able are receptive to asking more questions in this less public setting. Where my middle ability are matched up together they seem to work well plugging in each others gaps, but I am also able to focus more of my time on this often overlooked group of pupils. So does this mean the top ability don’t get stretched? The answer is no because this is simply a seating plan and does not detract from the fact that the resources and lesson itself has elements of differentiation and stretch and challenge.
I am also flexible in my seating plans. While this is the default position the class will get rearranged for some activities so like abilities work together at times but that can wait for another time.