We’ve talked before about the marvels of assigning seats. I actually approach this more as “assigning groups” and then the process of putting the kids in particular desks is secondary to that. I was trying to come up with some laser-powered digital version of this, since you’re reading this on a COMPUTER and all, but I think the index card method is just easier. It’s also easier to do while watching “Castle.” (EDITED: I used this method to create a downloadable roster, sorted into groups, for a class of 16. I’ll be posting similar rosters for class sizes of 20, 24, 28, and 32.) Okay, as you were.
So, here we see two students: Alstromeria (male) and Temperance (female). Why, yes, these are their real names.
Alstromeria is a boy, so his name is underlined. (It is possible that I had not factored in Alstromeria’s gender before making this card. Someday soon, there may be a new, more professional-looking photo inserted into this blog post. You are witnessing history in the making). Temperance is a bit chatty while I’m talking, so her name is highlighted in blue.
I want Alstromeria and Temperance to be partners when I tell the class, “this next activity is going to be done with a partner.” So I put the same number in the upper left-hand corner of their cards. I did the same for all of the students in the class.
Then I want to make groups of 3 or 4 – this is my favorite configuration of students, by the way. I don’t want Alstromeria and Temperance to be stuck with each other again, so now I’m going to assign them different symbols in the lower left-hand corner. See how Alstromeria has a star and Temperance has a smiley-face?
And that’s basically it. I keep shuffling them around – this particular group of students has now been sorted into pairs, two different arrangements of groups of 3 or 4, and divided in half (Franciscans vs. Jesuits – lower right-hand corner).
Another moderately bad photo, with names airbrushed out – see how it works, though? I’m going to say that the top of the photo is the front of the room. I arranged these cards by upper left-hand corner and just made sure that none of the blue-highlighted names were adjacent to one another.
What I’m going to do now is make up a fancy-pants spreadsheet and do a mail merge to print out nicer-looking versions of these cards. There is really no reason you’d have to use a spreadsheet, but I do suggest that you make another version of the cards that you can share with the kids without losing all of the groups you made if a couple of kids happen to misplace their cards. And, obviously, I’m not going to highlight anyone’s names on the actual cards. I underline the boys’ names so that I can easily tell if I’m mixing up the groups by gender, but I’ll leave that off the real cards, too.
Once I have the “professional” version of the name cards, I can do a few different things:
- recreate this layout of seats with the real cards, take a photo of it, and post the photo for the kids to see as they come into class.
- place the cards on the kids’ desks when they come into the room.
- laminate the cards (YES) and give them to the kids
I like to give the kids the cards, because then I can say, “time to get into groups. Look at the symbol in the upper right-hand corner of your card and find the other people in your group.” Much faster than “okay, you guys, put yourselves in groups of three or four, and don’t leave anyone out. Hey, you, wake up. Time to learn cooperatively.”
I keep my own, handwritten-with-highlighting copy of the cards, so that when I want to rearrange the seats, I can do so easily and the highlighting shows me at a glance where my Chatty Cathy or Calvin is going to sit.
In our next Catechist Chat, I will show you the spreadsheet and the fancy version of the cards, and give you some tips on using Mail Merge to print them out.
So, that’s it. Probably not as awesome a system as had been promised, but it works for me. You can use as many symbols as you want, depending on how many different ways you want to configure the students. With little kids, I like to use pictures, although I haven’t figured out how to do that with Mail Merge (which is not to say that it can’t be done). Actually, I guess you could use a font like Zapf Dingbats to insert pictures…hmmm…stay tuned.
Catechist Chat will be an ongoing series of posts for teachers in religious education programs. It is based on my personal experience and not on any statistical evidence of the effectiveness of my advice. Suscribe to my feed to follow along, and Caveat lector, which is Latin for “your mileage may vary.”
Click here to read other entries in the series, and be sure to follow Catechist Chat on Facebook! You can also sign up for my email list, and I’ll send you resources, including non-PDF versions of the activities I post (which means you can edit them in Microsoft Word to customize them for your own students).