Group set up only works for the strongest classroom managers with the most engaging lessons. Usually, when you give directions to students seated in this group format, you could work the words “I’ll give you $140 if you snap your fingers in the next five seconds” and not a single student would snap their fingers, because not a single student was listening to a single word you said. If you still consider classroom management to be a consideration when planning lessons, don't have students seated in groups all year, and don't start the year with students seated in groups.
Students in this setup are most likely to focus on each other, which is ok some of the time. They won’t focus on you at all, which is also ok some of the time. In general, this setup works for lessons where creativity and interaction need to flourish. This is, however, the kind of setup where it can easily seem like every group is talking about what they’re supposed to until you do a wrap up that no one listens to, and not a single student can tell you what they learned in class today, because they didn’t necessarily learn anything.
Even though this setup is bad for any form of direct instruction, there are ways to minimize the damage. Notice how the X’s and O’s all have their sides oriented to the front of the classroom. As soon as you face students toward the back of the classroom, they are immediately disengaged, in a hiding spot because you cannot see their faces, and they have a justifiable excuse why they didn’t use any of the hints on the board. They couldn’t see the notes on the board.
If you choose to use this setup, use it for a single day at a time, or for the duration of a single, short, structured project. Don’t set your classroom up like this all the time unless you’re already your school’s classroom management guru, or you’re inviting classroom management mayhem.
**Fun fact, even if you are your school’s classroom management guru, you will be expected to attend professional development training for basic classroom management in which they teach irrelevant twaddle like "have students trace a slice of pizza with a magic marker" hoping that one day, you might eventually become screamers.
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.