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Seating Arrangements

Seating arrangements are a main part in a teacher’s plan for classroom management. Not only do the
teachers need to consider the physical arrangement of the room but also the nature of the students
involved. The considerations in arranging the physical environment of the room is so that teaching and
learning can occur as efficiently as possible. The teacher needs to be able to walk around the room
without the students having to move their desks. Teachers need to take into account that students seated in
the centre or front of the classroom tend to interact more frequently with the teacher and the number of
behavioural problems tend to increase as the students sit farther from the teacher. Also, students in the
back and corners of the room are more likely to be off task than those close to the front or to the teacher’s
desk. There are many seating arrangements that the teachers can use, six common arrangements are
cluster, rows, table rows, semi- circle, pairs and centres or activity zones. From my personal experiences
working in the classroom and being a student, these are the seating arrangements that are used the most in
the United States. The best arrangement depends on the situation of the class and teacher.

 Traditional - The traditional lecture setup typically consists of rows of fixed seating. Students face
the instructor with their backs to one another. This classroom seating arrangement is historically
common in colleges and universities, minimizing student-student communication and largely
supporting a “sage on the stage” learning environment. The highest communication interactions
between professors and students typically occurs with students in the first row or along the middle
of the classroom. Students in back rows are more likely to be less engaged.

 Roundtable - Many seminar-course room arrangements may consist of instructor and students sitting
around a single large table. This seating arrangement can also be formed using individual desks.
Students and instructors all face one another in this setup, which can support whole-class as well as
pair-wise dialogue.

 Horseshoe or Semicircle - The horseshoe or semi-circle offers a modified roundtable setup, where
all participants face each other while the instructor can move about the room. The horseshoe
encourages discussion between students and with the instructor, although this setup tends to
encourage more engagement between the instructor and students directly opposite, with slightly
lesser amounts for students immediately adjacent to the instructor. A horseshoe setup can be
particularly effective when the instructor wishes to project and discuss course-related material in the
front of the class.

 Double Horseshoe - This seating arrangement involves an inner and outer horseshoe, and similar to
the conventional horseshoe, invites greater discussion than the traditional format. It is more limited
by the backs of students within the inner circle facing students in the outer circle. However, students
may also more easily interact with those nearest to them or turn around and face students behind
them for group work.

 Pods (Groups, Pairs) - The pod or pair arrangement can be designed with rectangular, circular or
trapezoidal tables, or individual desks. With regards to stations, instructors can place several tables
together to form student groups (e.g. 3 - 4 students), or pairs. This arrangement can be especially
advantageous when students will work in groups or pairs with their classmates for a large portion of
class time. More generally, this arrangement communicates a learning community where students
are expected to work with one another.


Factors that Influence Classroom Seating Arrangements

1. Classroom Size: Your preferred classroom seating arrangement can only be applied if you have
the appropriate space and school furniture.
2. Distractions: It is important that your classroom seating arrangements can keep students from
getting distracted.
3. Student’s Age: It is not the same teaching adults than teaching teenagers and children that have
disruptive behaviour so your classroom seating arrangement will depend on the students that you
have in your classes.
4. Class Size: There are teachers who have to teach large classes so they have to be creative if they
want to keep their preferred desk setting.
5. Teaching Styles and Objectives: If you teach classes in which students are required to have some
sort of interaction, you won’t expect to maximize speaking by having students separated from
one another. Choose the classroom arrangement that support your teaching style and objectives.

Giving instructions
One way to manage students’ learning is by giving instructions to students, which is more difficult than it
seems (Dixie, 2003). One way to give students instructions is by catching student’s attention. Giving
instructions is a very hard task for teachers to take into account considering that the importance of doing
this is compounded if you are teaching practical lessons where pupils have a degree of freedom
to use the resources located at various points in the classroom.
Giving instructions is an integral part of being a teacher. You are going to be spending a lot of time
telling students what to do and when to do it. However, if the students do not understand what you are
saying, all your instructions are going to be meaningless. So, how do we make sure that we give
instructions to our students that they will actually understand?

Telling students what to do, who do not understand your language can be a ginormous challenge. There is
no way around it, and the only way you get good at this, is with practice. The thing to remember most, I
think, is to be patient and not get angry with students who do not understand. There will be some students
who do not follow because they are not paying attention, and you can discipline them accordingly, but
there will also be students who listen to every word you say, and they still do not get it. It is not from a
lack of trying, they just simply do not understand your words, and that is okay. Try and take the time to
explain again, simpler. If that doesn’t work, try and show them exactly what to do, even if you have to
solve the first exercise for them.
The best activity in the world can end up being a waste of time if the students do not understand what it is
that they are supposed to do. There are two simple rules to keep in mind when you are giving instructions,
and they are:
- Instructions must be comprehensible to the students
- Instructions must be logical

 When you are giving instructions to the students, make sure you are standing in the front of the
room, facing the students and not the whiteboard, blackboard, window, computer or your phone.
Speak out into the classroom with a slightly elevated voice to make sure they can all hear you. A
teacher raising his voice means he is talking to everyone, and that everyone should be listening
right now.

 Try and give sequential instructions. If you have more than 6 steps for an activity or exercise,
break it up into parts of two, do those two and explain the following two steps. You wouldn’t
necessarily understand all the steps at once, so maybe they won’t either. But try and give the most
important instructions BEFORE handing out any papers or aids or materials to the students. You
can be guaranteed that when students get something in their hands, they will start examining it, so
make sure they know WHAT to do with the things you give to them BEFORE you give it to them.

 After you have explained the steps you want them to follow, always try to demonstrate it yourself.
Show the students exactly what you want them to do, and they will get not only an auditory
explanation but they can see, physically, what it is you are trying to make them do. Again, if you
are doing a game or an activity, do the first part with the students, even if it means solving the first
exercise for them. Here, it is also a good idea to use the board to make examples. So if you are
trying to have them solve an exercise, show it on the board so they can all see.

 When you are finished explaining, look around the room at look at the responses. Did they start?
Are they all staring blank back at you, then explain again. Have most started but a few haven’t,
help those individually. Try and check if they understand what they need to do. But, especially in
Chinese classrooms, avoid asking questions like “Okay?”, “Understand?” and “Clear?” because
the students are, in a lack of a better word, programmed to respond immediately with a confirming
answer, even if they do not understand. A student can have no clue what he or she is about to do,
and if you ask “Okay?”, the student will answer “Okay!” without even blinking.

 For giving instructions and in general when talking to students, it can be a good idea to develop a
set of gestures that you use to demonstrate certain meanings or phrases that you use a lot. Like a
simple gesture for “read”, “write”, “listen”, “speak”, “think” and so on. Try and think of
instructions that you are likely to be giving many times in the same class over the course of your
lessons and find gestures to match them.


Another way to manage learning for teachers to know is the right moment transitions have to be made –the
change from one activity to another- because “it demands on students to do three things at the same time:
mentally close out one task, prepare for the next one and refocus their mental energy on a new topic”
(Thompson, 2009, p. 291). Similarly, Weistein (2006) suggests that a transition has to be finished and then
change students’ behaviour and attention to the new topic. On the other hand, organisation could also be a
hard thing for teachers to deal with. Kelly (2010) suggests that “Organisation can seem difficult at first
because it requires some discipline on your part”. The fact of knowing what to do at the right time will help
a lot when teaching. This could be done by the help of planning. Lesson plans will help teachers to see the
correct moment to make transitions.
Transitions are not simply a means of controlling or managing a group, they are interesting, engaging and
open ended activities with a definite structure. When you incorporate Transition activities into your
timetable, you can give children the activity to re-engage and provide students with a series of tasks that
don’t take a long time to complete. This can help students feel that they are making progress by keeping
them engaged.

Mastering Transition – Hot Tips

Make transitions fun and meaningful

Keep a collection of finger-plays, games and songs in your teaching bag of tricks for instant activities
Use a timer to indicate when a transition will happen and for how long.
Tell students what is going to happen next, what will they be doing after the transitions. This helps
students to understand what is expected of them and look forward to the next change
Invite students to create their own versions of transition activities.

Types of Transitions

 Movement Transitions- Different ways to move from place to place

 Calming Transitions- Activities that will calm the tone of the class and redirect the focus and
energy of the classroom
 Action Breaks- Opportunities to release a little bit of extra energy eg aerobics, movement, dance
breaks, action songs
 Thinking Time- Thought provoking activities where students are challenged to think creatively,
or offer them a problem solving or open ended task
 Musical Breaks – songs, finger plays, poems

Class Size

Class size is an issue concerning to everyone who wants to be a teacher. What is the right number of students
there should be per class? Are there too many students in my class? Is it too large, or it is too small? These
might be some of the very usual questions one could possibly ask oneself. Some indicate that less than 20
students per class is considered small, and more than 20 is considered a large one. Even if we can talk about
the advantages of small classes, some teachers refer to better results to small classes since teachers give or
dedicate more time to students as they would not do with larger groups.

Different class sizes may well involve different dynamics, that influence both teachers and pupils. A small
class of 15 students could be difficult to control if 5 of those students show emotional or behavioural
difficulties or if it is hard for these students to concentrate.

The challenges of working in large classes

We can divide the challenges into two general areas:

1. The challenges of Teaching Large Classes in general (TLC challenges)

2. The challenges specific to (English) language teaching in large classes (TELC challenges)

TLC challenges include the following:

1. Classroom management: This includes the general challenges of organising the learning and the
learners. Giving instructions, maintaining control and discipline, and organising group work can all take
more time and energy in a large class.
2. Whole-class teaching: This refers to when you are addressing the whole class together, for example
when you are explaining a new concept, asking for answers to reading comprehension questions,
or drilling new vocabulary. In a large class, it can be difficult to make sure that all learners can hear you,
read your board work and feel involved.

3. Working with mixed abilities: We often find a wide range of abilities in large classes, from learners
who learn quickly to those who need more help. This brings challenges, for example when one or two of
the faster learners dominate group work, or get bored when we explain something they already know.
Conversely, weaker learners may sometimes feel humiliated if they can’t answer a question,
and sometimes misbehave out of frustration.

4. Exam time: Most teachers find preparing learners for exams, and conducting and marking the exams,
hard work. But carrying out these tasks is even more work when classes are large – especially in terms of
ensuring every student is ready, and marking all the exam papers.

5. (Often) limited resources: Because large classes are often found in low-income countries, many
teachers of large classes also face this additional challenge. For example, they may not have enough
textbooks, or other materials to make lessons more interesting.

While TLC challenges are shared with teachers of all subjects (including English language), TELC
challenges relate specifically to teaching and learning languages. They can be divided into two groups:

1. Practising language skills: We all know that to learn a language, we need to use it. However, in large
classes, it can be a real challenge just getting learners to speak English. Some may feel unwilling to talk
together in a foreign language, others may need help deciding what to say, and once we get them started it
can often be a challenge to manage the noise levels. Aside from speaking, we may also need lots
more storybooks for reading practice and audio equipment (e.g., CD players, and extra speakers) to
practise listening skills.

2. Providing feedback to learners: To improve and learn from their mistakes, language learners need
feedback, and this becomes more challenging in large classes. The obvious example of this is marking
written work, but we also need to give feedback on speaking skills (both praise and correction) and help
each individual learner.

We can see that, of these seven challenges English teachers working in large classes face, five are likely
to be shared with the other teachers in their school, so it makes a lot of sense to work together as a team
towards possible solutions.

Elements of a class

Classroom students don't usually get the same kind of exposure or encouragement as those who - at
whatever age - are 'picking up' the language. But that does not mean they cannot learn a language if the
right conditions apply. Like language learners outside schools, they will need to be motivated, be exposed
to language, and given chances to use it. We can therefore say what elements need to be present in a
language classroom to help students learn effectively. We will call these elements 'ESA', three elements
which will be present in all - or almost all - classes. They are:

Engage: this is the point in a teaching sequence where teachers try to arouse the students' interest, thus
involving their emotions. Most people can remember lessons at school which were uninvolving and where
they 'switched off' from what was being taught them. Frequently, this was because they were bored, because
they were not emotionally engaged with what was going on. Such lessons can be contrasted with lessons
where they were amused, moved, stimulated or challenged. It seems quite clear that those lessons involved
not only more 'fun', but also better learning.
Activities and materials which frequently Engage students include: games (depending on age and type),
music, discussions (when handled challengingly), stimulating pictures, dramatic stories, amusing anecdotes
etc. But even where such activities and materials are not used, teachers will want to ensure that their

Engage with the topic, exercise or language they are going to be dealing with. They will ask students what
they think of a topic before asking them to read about it, for example. They will look at the picture of a
person and be asked to guess what their occupation is before they listen to that person on tape, they will
have been stimulated by the fact that the teacher (who normally dresses very formally and always stays in
the same place in class) suddenly arrives in class dressed casually and moves around the room with
unaccustomed case, and so on.

When students are Engaged, they learn better than when they are partly or wholly disengaged!

Study: Study activities are those where the students are asked to focus in on language (or information) and
how it is constructed. They range from the study and practice of a single sound to an investigation of how
a writer achieves a particular effect in a long text; from an examination and practice of a verb tense to the
study of a transcript of informal speech to discuss spoken style.

Students can study in a variety of different styles: the teacher can explain grammar, they can study language
evidence to discover grammar far themselves, they can work in groups studying a reading text or
vocabulary. But whatever the style, Study means any stage at which the construction of language is the
main focus.

Some typical areas for Study might be the study and practice of the vowel sound in 'ship' and 'sheep' (e.g.
'chip, cheap, clip, dip, deep, bit' beat, etc.), the study and practice of the third person singular of the present
simple ('He sleeps, she laughs, it works' etc.), the study and practice of inviting patterns ('Would you like
to come to the cinema/to a concert?' etc.), the study and practice of the way we use pronouns in written
discourse (e.g. 'A man entered a house in Brixton. He was tall with an unusual hat. l! was multi-coloured
... ' etc.), the study and practice of paragraph organisation (topic sentence, development, conclusion) or of
the rules for using 'make' and 'do'.

Successful language learning in a classroom depends on a judicious blend of subconscious language

acquisition (through listening and reading, for example) and the kind of Study activities we have looked at

Activate: this element describes exercises and activities which are designed to get students using language
as freely and 'communicatively' as they can. The objective for the students is not to focus on language
construction and/ or practise specific bits of language (grammar patterns, particular vocabulary items or
functions) but for them to use all and any language which may be appropriate for a given situation or topic.
Thus, activate exercises offer students a chance to try out real language use with little or no restriction - a
kind of rehearsal for the real world.

Typical Activate exercises include role-plays (where students act out, as realistically as possible, an
exchange between a travel agent and a client, for example), advertisement design (where students write and
then record a radio commercial, for example), debates and discussions, 'Describe and Draw' (where one
student tries to get another to draw a picture without that other student being able to see the original), story
and poem writing, writing in groups etc.

If students do not have a chance to Activate their knowledge in the safety of a classroom, they may find
transferring language acquisition and study into language use in the real world far more problematical.

These ESA elements need to be present in most lessons or teaching sequences. Whether the main focus of
the lesson is a piece of grammar (in which case there will be opportunities for Study and Activation), or
whether the focus is on reading (where there may be a lot of Activation of language knowledge in the
processing of the text, but where, at some stage, the students will also Study the construction of that text or
the use of some language within it), students always need to be Engaged, if possible, so that they can get
the maximum out of the learning experience. Most students will want to have Studied some aspect of
language, however small or of short duration, during a lesson period.

There are some exceptions to this, of course, notably in classes where an Activation exercise takes up a lot
of time, for example, with a debate or a role-play or a piece of extended writing. In such cases, teachers
may not want to interrupt the flow of Activation with a Study stage. But they will want to use the exercise
as a basis for previous or subsequent study of language aspects which are crucial to the activity. The same
might be true of an extended Study period where chances for Activation are few. But, in both these cases,
the only limitation is time. The missing elements will appear, only perhaps later.

The majority of teaching and learning at lower levels is not made up of such long activities, however.
Instead, it is far more likely that there will be more than one ESA sequence in a given lesson sequence or

To say that the three elements need to be present does not mean they always have to take place in the same
order. The last thing we want to do is bore our students by constantly offering them the same predictable
learning patterns. It is, instead, our responsibility to vary the sequences and content of our lessons, and the
different ESA patterns that we are now going to describe show how this can be done.

Who should talk in class?

here is a continuing debate about the amount of time teachers should spend talking in class. Trainees' classes
are sometimes criticised because there is too much TTT (Teacher Talking Time) and not enough STT
(Student Talking Time).

As we shall see in Chapter 4, getting students to speak - to use the language they are learning - is a vital
part of a teacher's job. Students are the people who need the practice, in other words, not the teacher. In
general terms, therefore, a good teacher maximises STT and minimises TTT.

Good TTT may have beneficial! qualities, however. If teachers know how to talk to students - if they know
how to rough-tune their language to the students' level, as we have discussed above - then the students get
a chance to hear language which is certainly above their own productive level, but which they can more or
less understand. Such 'comprehensible input' (a term coined by the American methodologist Stephen
Krashen) - where students receive rough-tuned input in a relaxed and unthreatening way - is an important
feature in language acquisition. TTT works!

A classroom where the teacher's voice drones on and on day after day and where you hardly ever hear the
students say anything is not one that most teachers and students would approve of, however. TTT can be
terribly over-used. Conversely, a class where the teacher seems reluctant to speak is not very attractive

The best lessons are ones where STT is maximised, but where at appropriate moments during the lesson
the teacher is not afraid to summarise what is happening, tell a story, enter into discussion etc. Good teachers
use their common sense and experience to get the balance right.

Why planning?

Some teachers with experience seem to have an ability to think on their feet, which allows them to believe
that they do not need to plan their lessons. However, most teachers go on preparing lessons throughout
their careers, even if the plans are very informal.
For students, evidence of a plan shows them that the teacher has devoted time to thinking about the class.
It strongly suggests a level of professionalism and a commitment to the kind of preparation they might
reasonably expect. Lack of a plan may suggest the opposite of these teacher attributes.

For the teacher, a plan - however informal - gives the lesson a framework, an overall shape. It is true that
he or she may end up departing from it at stages of the lesson, but at the very least it will be something to
fall back on. Of course, good teachers are flexible an<l respond creatively to what happens in the
classroom, but they also need to have thought ahead, have a destination they want their students to reach,
and know how they are going to get there.

Planning helps, then, because it allows teachers to think about where they're going and gives them time to
have ideas for tomorrow's and next week's lessons. In the classroom, a plan helps to remind teachers what
they in tended to do - especially if they get distracted or momentarily forget what they had intended.
Finally, planning helps because it gives students confidence: they know immediately whether a teacher
has thought about the lesson, and they respond positively to those that have.

No plan is written on tablets of stone, however. On the contrary, the plan is just that - a plan, possibilities
for the lesson which may or may not come about, in other words. Of course, we will be happy if things go
'according to plan', but they often don't. As we said at the very beginning of this book (page 6), all sorts of
things can go wrong: equipment not working, bored students, students who've 'done it before', ·students
who need to ask unexpected questions or who want or need to pursue unexpected pathways etc. That's
when the teacher has to be flexible, has to be able to leave the plan for however long it takes to satisfy the
students' needs at that point in the lesson. Sometimes, the plan has to be abandoned completely and it is
only after the lesson that the teacher can look at it again and see if some parts of it are recoverable for
future lessons.

There is one particular situation in which planning is especially important, and that is when a teacher is to
be observed as part of an assessment or performance review. The observer needs to have a clear idea of
what the teacher intends in order to judge the success of the lesson.

What should be in a lesson plan?

he kind of plan that teachers make for themselves can be as scrappy or as detailed as the teacher feels is
necessary. If you look at experienced teachers' notebooks, you may find that they have simply written
clown the name of an activity, a page number from a book, the opening of a dictation activity or notes
about a particular student. Such notes look rather empty, but may, in fact, give the teacher all she needs to
remind her of all the necessary element. Other teachers, however, put in much more detail, writing in
what they're going to do together with notes like 'remember to collect homework'.

On teacher training courses, trainers often ask for a written plan which follows a particular format. The
formats will vary depending on the trainer and the course, but all plans have the same ingredients. They
say who is going to be taught, what they are going to learn or be taught, how they are going to learn or be
taught, and with what.

The first thing such a written plan needs to detail is who the students are: How many are there in the
class? What ages? What sexes? What are they like? Cooperative? Quiet? Difficult to control?
Experienced teachers have all this information in their heads when they plan; teachers in training will be
expected to write it clown.

The next thing the plan has to contain is what the teachers/students want to do: study a piece of grammar,
write a narrative, listen to an interview, read a passage etc. Looking through a plan, an objective observer
should be able to discern a logical sequence of things to be studied and/or activated.

The third aspect of a plan will say how the teacher/students is/are going to do it. Will they work in pairs?
Will the teacher just put on a tape or will the class start by discussing dangerous sports for? Once again,
an objective reader of the plan should be able to identify a logical sequence of classroom events. If four
activities in a row are teacher-led dictations, we might start to think that the sequence is highly repetitive
and that, as a result, the students are likely to get very demotivated by this incessant repetition. For each
activity, the teacher will usually indicate how long she expects it to take and what classroom materials or
aids she is going to use. The plan will say what is going to be used for the activities: A tape recorder?
Photocopies? An overhead projector? A computer? Mobile phones?

Lastly, the plan will talk about what might go wrong (and how it can be dealt with) and how the lesson
fits in with lessons before and after it.

In order to be able to say these things, however, we need to go a little bit deeper and ask some searching
questions about the activities we intend to use.

Elements of a lesson plan

General information (Date • Class • Student Level • Unit Title • Lesson Title • Duration of Class)

Determine what you want the students to be able to know and do by the end of the lesson. • Make it
measurable and specific.

Make sure you anticipate what materials you and your students will need. • Make sure to organize and
prepare all of those materials before class.

Write the steps that you and your students will follow, keeping your objective in mind all along the way. •
Write down the timing you anticipate for each activity.


The Three Parts of an Objective

Learning objectives describe what a participant will be able to demonstrate in terms of knowledge, skills,
and/or values upon completion of a learning event. The creation and clear articulation of learning
objective serves as the foundation for evaluating the effectiveness of the learning process.

Three Parts of an Objective

Every learning objective should contain at least three parts:

Performance – Indicates what participants are expected to do as a result of the learning activity
Conditions – Specifies under what conditions the participants should perform
Criteria – Identifies how well the participants have to perform to satisfy the requirements

A learning objective is participant-centred and performance based. It should describe what participants
will be able to do as a result of the learning event. You want to answer the question “What should the
participant be able to do as a result of the learning event?”

Action Verb
Since you are describing what participants will be able to do as a result of the learning event, the
statement should have an action verb. That action verb should best describe the type of behaviour that the
participant needs to display.
One Verb
Each objective should address just one behaviour. Therefore, only one verb should be used for each
learning objective. If there are more than one behaviours that need to be displayed, then the objective
should be broken down into one or more enabling objectives that support the main terminal objective.

Observable Behaviour
The verb you use should be an action that is observable. The only way you can determine whether or not
a participant has learned something is to observe some kind of behaviour that indicates learning has taken
place. You want to be able to see the results. Verbs such as “understand,” “know,” or “comprehend” are
not easily observable and should be avoided.
Possible action verbs include; list, identify, explain, describe, calculate, compare, demonstrate, and

A learning objective should describe conditions under which the participants will perform the
behaviour. The conditions under which the task will be performed typically addresses time, place,
resources, and circumstances.

You want to answer the questions:

“What will you give the person to use?”
“What will the environment be?”

Possible conditions include;

using a calculator
referencing a chart
while being monitored
using a drill and saw
in 10 feet of water
on a boat
in the daylight

A learning objective should describe the criteria that will be used to evaluate performance to determine
what is acceptable. The criteria should communicate the level of proficiency that is expected. It might
describe how the learner will be able to perform in terms of quality, quantity, and/or time measurements.

You may want to answer the questions:

“How many?”
“How fast?”
“How well?”

There can be more than one measurable criterion. You may create a time criterion as well as a proficiently
criteria. For example, a participant may be required to complete 10 functions within 20 minutes with 80%
or more accuracy.
Possible standards include;
within 10 minutes
within acceptable industry guidelines
80% or better
assembling 15 items
in compliance with a chart