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Three "Seating Zones" To Enhance Productivity In The Classroom

There are only so many hours in a school day for a teacher to interact and teach students. For teachers in the middle school and high school, where students switch classes, it may only be 45 minutes!  In order to be effective day in and day out we all understand that routines are absolutely necessary.


One simple way to boost productivity right away would be to implement an effective seating system into your routine to keep students energized.  I am a firm believer that routines are necessary to help with that success.  A great routine to begin the process would be “seating zones.”

 When it comes to seating in my classroom we essentially have three seating “zones” that we use almost every class period. We follow three simple rules no matter which “zone” we are in at the moment.  

The rules are simple:

Rule one:  Respect Your Space and Those Around You.

You will be in each specific zone/space for the week and you are to show respect.  Respect your space and the space of others.

Rule Two:  Focus In Your Space and Enjoy Learning

When you are in any zone/space you are focused on the task at hand.

Rule Three:  Take Pride In Your Space. This Is Your Class Real Estate.  IT IS VALUABLE!

When you are in a zone/space, take ownership!  Be responsible and mature when working in any zone.

Zone One: Independent Space

In my class we move, ALOT, throughout the class.  We begin class in Zone One which is our  “independent zone,” or as we call it,  “student space” in the room where no one else can hinder focus.  When students come into the classroom they sit in their independent area and immediately begin their work.

The independent space is really great and allows the students to focus immediately.  There really is no question as to what they should be doing or how to get started.  We usually spend the first five minutes of class in zone one.

[shareable cite=”Chuck Poole”]In order to be effective day in and day out we all understand that routines are absolutely necessary.[/shareable]

Zone Two: Partner Space

In my classroom we change partners each week to make sure that students have the chance to work with different classmates often.  

Students get to choose where they would like to go in the room for the week when they work in partners.  They must decide on a place that is not too close to other pairs in the room.

Students change partners each week, so there is little complaining since they cannot have the same partner two weeks in a row.  If there are any conflicts we settle it with “rock, paper, scissors” which of course is the most effective way in the middle school mind to solve any issue!

[shareable cite=”Chuck Poole”]For any conflicts we settle it with “rock, paper, scissors” which of course is the most effective way to solve any issue![/shareable]

Zone Three: Group Space

The last zone is the group space.  I use our groups just about everyday as well for students to debrief, share, and discuss the skill or lesson at hand. It is so important to give time for students to interact with the concepts together.

Group choice is bi-weekly in my class.  This means one week the students get to choose their groups, and the following week I get to choose their groups.  This system is fair and works quite well.

Since we transition and move from zone to zone quite a bit in one class period it is essential that the routines are solid and understood, and the rules for each are followed.  I would recommend placing “ZONE RULES” in a visible space in the classroom as a reminder for students each day.

Overview: Step by Step 

We tend to move through the “Zones”  this way:

*The key here is that ALL instructions for the lesson/class are posted in a visible area AND all materials needed are explained BEFORE we begin movement.*

1. We start class in ZONE ONE, the independent zone,  and students begin immediately working on the task at hand or the “Do Now” as we call it in class.  This is followed by a 5-10 minute “mini lesson” focusing on the skill or concept for the day.

2.   From the independent zone we transition into the partner zone where students will practice the skill discussed in the mini lesson.   Usually we take about 10-15 minutes maximum in this zone. I like to give them enough time to focus, but not too much time to lose concentration.  I make sure to visit each pair and discuss any issues they may have with the lesson in order to reinforce the concepts taught that day.

3. From the partner zone we move to the group zone.  In their groups they debrief about the lesson and skill and I have them write down questions they may have about the skill or lesson at hand.  I visit each group as they are discussing to make sure I answer any questions they may have and give insight on the discussions they are having.  

4. Lastly, from the group zone we transition back to the independent zone to close out the lesson and conduct a “ticket out” at the end of class.  The “ticket” usually consists of three questions to measure student understanding of the lesson that day. 

I find it to be so important to have transitions and movement in the classroom.  I have found however, that movement within the classroom will only truly work if there is a plan and a routine in place.  

If you are planning to try this seating system or would like to think about it, here are some simple takeaways:

1. Take the time to teach the students the routines and make sure to practice them

2. Create rules or just use the ones I have made for each zone and POST them in a visible area in the classroom

3. Be an active facilitator with each transition and make sure to interact with the students at each stage

4. Have a routine for movement so the students know what to expect daily

5. Have a system for settling conflicts.  I use “rock paper scissors” and it works great!

Question: What routines to you find useful in your class?  Leave a comment by Clicking Here!

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