Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cooperative Learning/ Classroom Seating Arrangements and a First Day of School Freebie!

I don't know about you but I like to change things up a bit in my classroom every year.  I think that the newness of it all kind of energizes me and helps motivate me.  I've moved bookshelves and my teaching table around.  I've reorganized my shelves and cabinets.  But, one thing that I usually do the same every year is the way I arrange my desks.  We had a presenter come to our school several years ago whose focus was cooperative learning.  After the workshop, I immediately ordered a book from Kagan Publishing.  You can visit their site by clicking HERE!  They have tons of resources and they are all wonderful.  I ordered the book Kagan Cooperative Learning.  You can see the book here.  This book is packed with ideas on how to build an environment in your classroom that encourages and supports cooperative learning.  There are many different kinds of learning experiences in this book.  It is a great investment if you want to use cooperative learning in your classroom.

One thing that I like from this book is the kind of seating arrangements that they use to encourage cooperative learning.  Today I am going to focus on seating arrangements.  I have tried  a lot of other ways but I always go back to this one.  First you need to level your kids from highest to lowest.  My school is a DIBELS school so I use their reading fluency scores.  You list the kids from highest score to lowest score.  Now, go down the list and count the first five names.  These are probably the top five kids in your room academically.  Now, count UP from the bottom and get the next five names.  These are the students that may need the most support.  Now, back to the top, go under the first five names you marked and count 5 more.  These are probably the "medium " high kids, and again, go to the bottom, start after the first five and mark the next five.  These are probably your middle/medium low kids.  The kids left in the middle are probably middle kids.  Now you are ready to assign seating. 
I've attached a drawing of how this all works.  The main idea is that a high kid sits beside a medium low kid.  High kids might not have the patience to work with a low kid.  Across the table, we have a medium high or middle beside a low kid.  The medium kids seem to be more patient with low kids.  The kid beside you is called your shoulder buddy.  So, when I assign kids to work on something with a partner I might tell them to work with their shoulder buddy.  **I have to say here that the kids don't know that this arrangement is about ability levels at all.  I think that this would not be good.  So next, we have face buddies.  Middle sits across from high.  Low sits across from medium low, so they are alike academically.  If something that we are doing is differentiated, face buddies would work well together.  So, I write numbers on their name tags (1,2,3 or 4) . If I want to group LIKE abilities, I call, for example.... all 1's meet at the back table, etc.   Sometimes after a lesson, I'll tell all 2's to go to one corner of the room, etc. and tell the kids to share something in their group of 2's that they learned.  The good thing about this system is that you won't have to worry about making groups of kids to do things.  They are already grouped into ability groups by number. You can make mixed groups by calling 1's and 2's meet, 3's and 4's meet, or 1's and 3's meet, etc.  I write the number onto their desk tag with a sharpie and we are ready to go.  If you try this, you will love it and will wonder why you haven't been doing this all along.  I have attached an example list of kids and abilities to show you how to group your class and I have also attached a drawing of the desks and their arrangements.  If you do this, please let me know how you like it!  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Now, we all know that sometimes certain kids CANNOT sit together and changes have to be made, but for the most part, this works beautifully and you can get down to teaching!    Click here to get the directions.

Now, the first day for me is quickly approaching.  You might already be back at school.  I made a first day of school "get to know me" kind of game that I'm putting on here for free!  Click here to get the free game.  Let me know what you think!

Ok, let's get ready! Time to go!


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