How to Seat Students for Mix It Up

There are so many ways to mix up student seating at lunch that it can be difficult to consider them all. Don’t let this be a stumbling block. The outcome is the same, no matter the path that gets you there—You want to get students to sit with different people at lunch, and you want them to have a conversation so they get to know each other a bit.

Just choose a way to make that happen. And if this is your first year, keep it simple.

First, give students a visual to alert them that this lunch is different than any other lunch. How? Rearrange the tables in the cafeteria. That alone signals a change.

Then use something—anything, really – to direct students to particular tables, in a way that separates them from their usual tablemates. Color-coded tickets, playing cards, small candies, alphabet letters, shapes or symbols, trading cards: The list of possible handouts is limitless. Again, just choose one; it will work. Then have the tables marked with similar symbols, cards, etc., so students can find their destination.

Another possibility is to seat students by birthday month, or by the letter that begins their first names.  Just make sure the tables are identified clearly and that members of your planning group are helping students to find places to sit.

At the tables, have discussion prompts written on poster boards or on small slips of paper in a basket.  Keep the questions open-ended, and remember that the goal is to find common ground and have fun.  Do not use yes-or-no questions, and don’t raise touchy or difficult questions, especially if this is a first-time event for the school. 

Some favorite Mix It Up activities can be found here.

For now, remember the goal: mix up the seats, and get people talking in a positive way.

A leader at each table to get things started is good, but the power of Mix It Up is to let the conversation flow. Don’t over-manage it, and don’t get too heavy-handed (especially in middle and upper grades). Let students have their own “Aha!” moments; it’s much more powerful that way.

Mix It Up at Lunch Day is Oct. 30!

Questions about Mix It Up? Ideas for Mix It Up organizers at other schools? Other thoughts? We welcome feedback–and can respond to questions–on Facebook or Twitter. You can also browse our free Mix It Up resources online.


Great Ideas!

Submitted by Anonymous on 30 December 2014 - 12:38am.

How about trying to get the Isreali and Palastinian kids to do this? They could bring kids from Tel Aviv to Gaza City and 'mix it up!' The Jewish State could also use 'mix it up' to foster understanding among their fellow Jews, especially the new Ethiopian Jews, who are Black. Maybe there would be no more war between the Jews and the Palastinians. This would be especially appropriate between the orthodox settler kids and the Palistinian kids whose homes have been bombed by Isreal! The Jews could say how sorry they are and will never let it happen again and peace and Love will reign in the Holy Land! All because of Mix it Up day in Isreal and Palastine.

Ideas like this are brought

Submitted by John Doe on 17 February 2013 - 7:58pm.

Ideas like this are brought forth with the implicit assertion that no disagreement is possible.

With that in mind, and with the full realization that any protest of the methods discussed here will automatically put me in the camp of those propagating the hateful ideas that the SPLC highlights, whether deservedly or not, I would just like to say that I think its better to let the children behave as they wish. Kids aren't stupid. They know when they're being manipulated.

Racially inclusive circles of friends do not happen because of encouragement from teachers. They happen because the child is smart enough on his own to realize that it is to his or her own benefit to behave in such a way.


Hi, I just wanted to say that

Submitted by Charles on 15 October 2012 - 12:02pm.

Hi, I just wanted to say that I think this Mix It Up day is an absolutely fantastic idea. From Kindergarten to 6th grade, I was fortunate enough to attend a private school that fostered this very same mindset of open-mindedness, support and diversity that you are exemplifying here with this idea. I recently read a news article concerning the conflict you've been met with from the AFA and the aspersions cast at your organization. I just have to say that I know EXACTLY what it is that you're trying to accomplish with Mix It Up day, and I know that the accusations being made by the AFA are completely groundless and self-serving. If more schools in this country understood and adopted your goals with this initiative, I have no doubt that we would have a nation more full of intelligent, kind people. I understand that the purpose of this day is not to force children to condone, agree with or "convert" to an alternative life view; it is simply to challenge socially/culturally exclusive views, and help children interact more freely with their peers. Not exclude based on race, religion, gender preference, or the like. At the end of the day, we're all people. And especially children should not be so maliciously influenced to exclude other children due to the parents' dysfunction. Thank you again (SO much) for promoting such a wonderful idea. And please know that there are good people out there who fully support you and hope to see more of this around the world!

Have not experienced a Mix It

Submitted by Lynne on 15 October 2012 - 7:30pm.

Have not experienced a Mix It Up day, but am so glad to see your organization sponsoring tolerance. I am disgusted with the AFA! I hope you find schools eager to participate in such a wonderful experience. THANK YOU for what you are doing, and peace and strength and compassion are visibly seen in what you are doing.

What was the conflict with

Submitted by MKR on 21 January 2013 - 4:58pm.

What was the conflict with the AFA? What is the AFA?