Seating arrangements in the classroom Some people might think it is not so

Some people might think it is not so important where and how the students sit in the classroom. When they arrive for the first time, they leave it up to the students how they want to arrange the classroom and start teaching afterwards.

Great care must be taken with this perception though. There are many different ways to arrange the classroom and each one of them has its own benefits and disadvantages. There is no 'best seating arrangement' for classes in general though. It depends on the available space, the type of chairs and tables, the age and personality of the students and the type of lesson that has been planned. The teacher must always take this into consideration and should plan very carefully how to arrange the classroom.

The most common seating arrangements are mentioned below. Each one of them will be discussed in greater detail afterwards with their own characteristics.

'Orderly rows


'Groups / clusters


Orderly rows

The tables are placed in well-organised rows. This is the traditional form of a classroom. Advantages of this are that the teacher can see all students, move freely around the classroom and can gain the attention of all the students. The main disadvantage is that there is very little scope for student interaction.

When teaching adults, this method is usually not recommended. In some cases, it can be beneficial when teaching young children though. Children can be noisy and are sometimes difficult to control. By placing the tables in rows, there will be very little possibility to talk and to play with other students. If the teacher has too many difficulties with the class, this will make his job a bit easier! Larger class sizes may also be a reason to use this method. Another reason to place the tables in rows is when a test is being given. This will make sure, for children and adults, that the cheating possibilities will be minimised.


Tables are placed in well-organised rows but in pairs of two. The teacher can see all students clearly and can walk around without any problems. The main advantage of this arrangement is that the students can work together in pairs. They can help each other and motivate each other. Working in pairs can be very beneficial for the students. This method is recommended when teaching young children. Make sure though you keep control of the class. Students have the opportunity to talk to each other so if they get bored it will be noisy.

Groups / clusters

This arrangement consists of a small number of students sitting together in a group.

One of the advantages is that students can easily communicate together. Especially during activities this can be very useful. The teacher can focus his attention on a group in particular without disturbing the others. Motivation from the students is required though. Disciplinary problems can arise from students (especially young ones) who concentrate on other things than the exercise. Groups are not very good during tests because the students can easily cheat. If there are many students in the classroom, it may also be too noisy to use this arrangement.


The tables and chairs are arranged in the shape of a horseshoe. The teacher is positioned at the open end of the arrangement. The big advantage is that the students are less aware of their teacher and it is easy for them to communicate and work together with other students. It is a very informal way of teaching. The disadvantages are that it takes up a lot of space and it could be more difficult for a teacher to get attention, especially with children. When teaching adults in small groups, this method can be extremely beneficial.

Sources : ITTT, Unit 5, Managing classes