Classroom Map 3: The Circle of Life
Having students set up in a circle, or horseshoe pattern works pretty well in a lot of ways. Every single student is in the front row all the time, which is really nice. You can definitely see what everyone’s doing at all times. The only problem is, students can all see each other all the time as well. This pattern works great in mature classes or if you’re a teacher who favors learning that depends on discussions. It works well to promote equality and avoid that ‘bad kids sit in the back corner’ mentality that can easily develop over time.
If you have two students who always make eyes at each other, there’s no way to stop them from amping each other up all class. The best way to keep students apart in a circle or U shaped format is to put them on the same side of the classroom, but it is much harder to keep students from looking sideways at each other than it is to keep them from turning around.
This setup has either the advantage (or disadvantage) of having students look in a variety of directions. This can be a great tool for differentiation -- smart kids face the wall with no visual cues and only artwork, lower-achieving students face the wall with all the posters and visual cues to help them. On task kids face the windows because they can handle the sunlight on their face without being distracted from the task. Distracted students face the board or the teacher just like they would in the first, most controlled setup.
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So much of the writing published about education is published by people who don't teach. I figured it was time for a teacher to write about teaching. I've been proud to teach 8th-grade ELA in Dunkirk City Schools since 2007, and to serve at Fredonia State University as an adjunct professor, teaching educational technology since 2017.