ARTICLE

How to Seat Students

There are so many ways to mix up student seating at lunch that it can be paralyzing 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.

There are so many ways to mix up student seating at lunch that it can be paralyzing 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. So 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 in itself 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 cards, 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 table topics 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.