Seat arrangement -the fun way….

DSCN0094As a teacher, creating seating charts is always something difficult.  Seating charts are one of those things where there is no way to make everybody happy. In the past, whenever I created a seating chart I felt  like I was putting together a giant puzzle with too many pieces.

Therefore, a few years ago, I decided to change that, and make the monthly seat arrangement , more fun and meaningful….
The purpose of a seating chart is to group and move students so that they are in the best learning orchestration possible for that instructional time period.

What usually happens in most classes is that, students often don’t see the purpose behind their seats or read more into their assigned seat than is there.  It is important for students to understand that sometimes their seat won’t be the seat they would choose, but it will be a seat that they will be productive in and that his or her seat assignment will change again and again over the course of the school year.


Of course, students need to be able to communicate with the teacher about their needs, when it comes to a seating chart, as well as listen to the teacher about the reasoning behind those seats. This is an important skill for students to develop as it will help them in future endeavors and realistically, seating charts are a part of their school experience the whole way through.

I personally ,assign seats and switch them every month, and rotate project  groups as well – anything to get students interacting with others outside their own social groups. Anyone with special needs is accommodated as well. It works great!

I tell them right from the beginning that I am going to move their seats around, and that they will work in teams, and that they will work with everyone at some point, and it’s going to be SUPER FAB. Then there’s some grumbling, but at least they know what to expect.

My primary reason is to ensure that the students have a chance to work with all of their peers, actually. I want to try to avoid cliques and make everyone feel welcome.

I also am a big fan of cooperative learning in general .

Also, there is good reason to randomize the groups again and again. This helps students experience different levels of group success – with most groups becoming more successful due to each student’s experiences.


Activities for  my older students

Sharing here, some ideas I have found on  , and have tried successfully!..

Each activity takes 10 to 15 minutes but there is some preparation. Before beginning, I label the tables and chairs in an orderly way and post the seating challenge prominently.Here are the ideas….

1: Greet each student at the door and make sure he or she is in the right classroom. Next, before he or she has a chance to sit down, direct the student to follow the posted instructions: “Sit in birthday order so that the person with the birthday closest to January 1 sits in Seat 1. The year you were born doesn’t matter. Don’t skip seats. When everyone is seated, the student in Seat 5 will raise his or her hand and report that the class is ready to begin.”

Observe the interactions: Look for organizers, active and passive participants, refusers and disrupters. Be mindful that some students would rather be invisible and that the activity is probably something they haven’t experienced before.

If anyone asks you what to do, redirect him or her to classmates and the posted instructions. Encourage students and remind them that you don’t know the answer.

When Seat 5 reports in, do a couple of spot checks, show them where your birthday lies (just for fun!), and begin your lesson. By the end of this activity, every student will have interacted with other students and many will have reported to the whole class in a safe, nonthreatening way. (Ok, Seat 5 is under some pressure.)



 2: Ask the students to follow these instructions: “Line up in alphabetical order by the name you like to be called. Then sit with an equal number of students at Tables 1-4. Remaining students sit at Table 5. When all are seated, the last student raises his or her hand and reports that the class is ready.”

Adjusting to have equal numbers at each table produces a lot of interaction and some tension. Watch closely how students with different ideas negotiate. Don’t intervene with the answer, but mediate if necessary. Have students quickly report out their names. Treat alphabetizing mistakes kindly, of course.


 3 is different. Meet each student at the door with a paper that says, “Read this card completely. Do not enter the room until you understand the instructions. You may talk about the instructions before you enter the room. When you understand the instructions, give the card back to your teacher, enter the room, and begin.” Here’s what the card says:

1) Complete this challenge in complete silence: Remain silent for the entire activity. Do not talk or whisper after you enter the room.

2) In the room, line up in order by height.

3) Then take your seats with the shortest person in Seat 1.

4) Do not skip seats.

5) When the class is seated, the student in Seat 12 raises his or her hand, and when called on reports that the class is ready.

Post the instructions in the room as well. Although the task is easy, the silent rule adds some stress, so observe which defense mechanisms students display. Note who is comfortable reading the cards and who avoids the task.

On activities 4 and 5 students sort themselves into groups and sub-groups that may be lopsided. The instructions demand more judgment and decision-making from the students.


 4:  The instructions read: “Sort yourselves into two groups: sneaker wearers and non-sneaker wearers. Next, each group forms two subgroups: students with curly hair and those with straight hair. You have curly or straight hair if you think you do. Each sub-group finds enough chairs and sits in order from the person with the shortest hair to the person with the longest hair.”

A tree diagram showing the groups may help. Watch how they negotiate and decide where to sit.


 5: The instructions read: “Form two groups—students who prefer to spend free time indoors and those who prefer to spend it outdoors. You may like both but choose just one. Within those groups, define your own subgroups based on the last thing you did when you spent free time the way you wanted to. Find a place to sit together and talk about your free time activity.”

Some extra fun activities I have tried with my very young learners are:


I hand out coloured pieces of paper to each student as they enter the room. They then arrange themselves in groups according to the colours.

I hand out cards with half a word or sentence written on them and students look for their..other half to  change a seat with…

I hand out simple question cards to half the class and the answer cards to the other half. Students, walk around the classroom asking and answering questions , to find their match and change seats with them.

I also, whisper to each student’s ear a word or a number and ask him/her to remember it for a while. I make sure that, I whisper the same word to two different students. Then , I ask them to walk around the classroom and look for their partner…The student, with the same word. This is either the person they have to sit next to or the person they exchange seats with.

A favourite activity is, to have the class listen to some dance music and ask them to walk around until it stops…When it stops, they have to sit down in the nearest chair they find….It’s similar to the Musical Chairs game!

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I also, hand out papers with animal names on them. The students mill around making that animal noise or action until they find the “animals ” in their group. I used this when we were studying Animal Farm when we needed groups. Lots of fun and very funny. Most kids loved it.

These ideas do not necessarily involve a lot of cooperation by the students to arrange themselves but then I am forever telling kids that groups or partners are not a life time commitment. They last for about a month or even a bit longer, depending on the assignment or reason. Kids are generally pretty happy as they know this will change. The line of “this is not a life time commitment” must work well as I have heard students repeat it to each other and all seems to work well.


All group arrangements take time but it is time well spent as we all have to learn to work with others. A class that learns to cooperate early in the year will learn and share more over the course of the year than one that is always fighting groups.


My favourite attention getters…

Whole Brain Teaching posters, behind my desk in the classroom!

Whole Brain Teaching and attention getters posters, behind my desk in the classroom!

As teachers, we know the value of having good attention getters to calm a noisy classroom.  I have always wanted a comprehensive list of all of the most effective attention getters I have used , in one spot…

My most favourite attention getter, by far is : WBT- “Class Class Class”, they respond with “Yes, Yes, Yes”. In the exact same way the teacher said, whether a high or low voice, silly or whatever.  I say class they say yes. I say classity class class, they say yesity yes yes. All students  love it. I change the tone of my voice and they change the tone in theirs.

My class magic bell!

My class magic bell!

Whole Brain Teaching is based on brain based learning. The technique to consistently catch the attention of your class is simple. It is so simple, and effective that I kicked myself for not having thought of it myself years ago, and have lamented many times since the instructional time I lost for not having known this.

Simple, hunh? It is amazing how effective this approach is.

Whole Brain Teaching uses a very simple and effective approach. Whole Brain Teaching injects fun back into the classroom for both me  and my class.

One day I was trying to come up with something different from what they may have had in the past, and then I found this on line ! I say “Alright stop!” And the students say “collaborate and listen!” It’s perfect because they really do have to do those things, come together and listen. I love it!

Happy teachers=Happy students

Happy teachers=Happy students

I say Pop , kids say corn. I say Apple, kids say Sauce. I say hot, kids say dog. I say milk, kids say shake. You can do it with any word combo as long as kids know that when they say the word it means freeze and eyes on me.

I have also tried ..: If you can hear my voice, clap once.  If you can hear my voice, clap twice.  I start at a whisper and they are silent by 4 claps…best part is no yelling.

I put a little bell on my desk last year and it was magical! The kids love it –I just use it when I need their full attention or when I want them to know that time is up for some activity we do….

If you are in need of some great attention getters to quiet your classroom, this additional list below is just for you!  You can  save it for when you need them on the fly!

It can be found behind my desk in my classroom, along with the Whole Brain Teaching rules !

Me,saying " Class, class, class"!!

Me,saying ” Class, class, class”!!


Teacher                                     Students

NEVER ———————> GIVE UP!


WORK————————> HARD!


L-I-S—————————> T-E-N! LISTEN!






ALL SET————————–> YOU BET!






3,  2,  1……—————————>( CLAP)!


1,2,3  EYES ON ME ———————–> 1,2 EYES ON YOU!


And the old-time-classic :



"Oh, class! Oh, yes!"

“Oh, class! Oh, yes!”


If you liked this post , be sure to share it with  your teacher colleagues struggling to get their students’ attention ,every day..! Because ,happy teachers=happy students!


Whole brain teaching activities that rock !

I first came across Whole Brain Teaching, on line, reading about it and watching videos on Youtube! Later, I decided to apply it in my classes  and ever since, it has proved to be  a valuable teaching tool in my class!

Whole brain teaching is a new “radical” idea to some, however it is nothing more than tried and true teaching practices, combined into a new approach.  Whole brain teaching combines direct instruction,  sharing and immediate feedback to become a new style of teaching.  Whole brain teaching surmounts to several  steps that a teacher incorporates into their everyday classroom.   I believe that because this method can be adapted to any age level, any group of students in any place, this practice may be one of the best, best practices.

Whole Brain Teaching posters, behind my desk in the classroom!

Whole Brain Teaching posters, behind my desk in the classroom!

Here today, I’d like to share with you my most favourite WBT teaching practices, that have proved to be valuable in my class and are highly recommended to all teachers!

Step 1: Class-Yes
The teacher of a whole brain classroom (WBC) uses this attention getter before beginning every class.  The teacher begins class by saying “class” any way he/she likes, and in turn the class is responsible for mimicking the teachers voice by responding yes.  Therefore, if the teacher says, “class, class, class, classy class!” The class must respond: “yes, yes, yes, yessy, yes!”  My students LOVE this attention getter! They always respond to it and I never need to raise my voice anymore in class!

Step 2: Teach-OK
I use this teaching practice, mainly when I teach grammar…..It always works miracles!! You should all try it and see for yourselves! This is the informative part of the lesson.  Before beginning the teacher must divide the class into two groups, 1’s and 2’s the teacher in each pair will rotate each time.  Then the teacher begins to teach small sections of information, while incorporating gestures, songs, movements and chants.  When the teacher has finished a small portion of information he/she says to the class “Teach” and the class responds “OK!”  In turn the students turn to teach each other, mimicking the “lesson” taught by the teacher.  During this time the teacher observes the students’ comprehension, if the teacher is not convinced the students understand the lesson, repeat this process.Otherwise, move to “class-yes” and begin another short lesson.

WBT Teach.

WBT Teach.

Step 3: Hands and Eyes
This step is used at any point during the lesson when you want students to pay “extra attention” to what you are saying/doing.  To begin this process the teacher says, “Hands and Eyes!,” and the students respond by mimicking the words and movements of the teacher. Perfect!!

Step 4 :Mirror
I personally  use Mirror, mainly when I teach grammar rules!Similar to “Hands and Eyes,” mirror allows the teacher to gain control of the classroom as well as have students mimic the motions and speech of the teacher.  This is the main part of the lesson where teachers are expected to contribute their own “silliness” and movements into the lesson.  Teachers will incorporate their own gestures, songs or chants in this portion of the lesson and the students are expected to “mirror” the teacher after the teacher says “Teach” and the class responds “OK.”

WBT  mirror

WBT mirror

Step 5: Switch!
This step is to be used with the “Teach-OK” step, while students are teaching it is imperative that the same student not teacher every time. Therefore, in order to get every student involved in the lesson, the teacher will direct the students to “Switch!,” the students will respond by saying “switch” and the “teacher” of the group will rotate.

 I admit that the idea of combining classroom management and active teaching/learning has me very intrigued.  I feel that beginning this practice in any classroom would be very easy.  The students would hopefully be very willing to try the techniques since the teaching centers somewhat around an overarching game. 

  Here, I should also  remind you of the classroom rules I wrote about in another post a few months ago….

 Classroom Rules

Before beginning the actual “informative” part of each lesson, the teacher goes over the five classroom rules with the entire class. This is to ensure that everyone understands the rules, but it will also help the teacher in the end, if a student is not following rules.  The rules and gestures are as follow:

  • 1-Follow directions quickly! (Make your hand shoot forward like a fish)
  • 2-Raise your hand for permission to speak (raise hand, bring down to head and make a talking motion).
  • 3-Raise your hand to leave your seat (raise hand, make a walking motion with fingers).
  • 4-Make smart choices! (tap one finger to your temple as you say each word).
  • 5-Keep your dear teacher happy! (hold up each thumb and dex finger out like an “L” framing your face; bob your head back and forth with each word and smile really big!)

To know more about Whole Brain Teaching, you could visit

Brain gym-WBT  warming up: the lion's roar

Brain gym-WBT warming up: the lion’s roar

Goal setting and Life Skills for kids

mos14ls4I spend about a week every September to teach my students LIFE SKILLS and GOAL setting!

I strongly believe that, our gift is to teach our children how to take more responsibility for their education.It is essential that we give them the tools they need to succeed today, tomorrow and for the rest of their lives!How can we get kids to “own” their education?

If we show them how to set and acheive goals and how to use these principles in the classroom ,we will give them important life skills tools that they will use for a lifetime!

I teach my 6th graders  the life skills below and then, a discussion follows….

1.No vision= no direction. I have them write down what they want to accomplish during the school year. I ask them to start their sentences with ” I want to…” or ” I will…”.  I sometimes, have the kids write a letter to themselves  about what they think they will be doing during the school year, what their expectations are, who their closest friends would be,  how I can best help them during the year, etc…Later, I ask them to put all these letters  in a TIME CAPSULE which is actually a Pringles  can, and reopen it in June…one week before school closes and talk about how many of our goals have been accomplished ! We also talk about why, we have failed to accomplish the rest of them.


2.Don’t find a fault=Find a solution!

3.Show them how these 6 words can hold them back from being successful:no, can’t, won’t, never, maybe, if.

4.Coach the students that: to Earn more they will have to Learn more, Think more, and Do more!

5.Stress the  ” I’ll make it happen” words: yes, I can, I will.


6.Demonstrate to them the power of eliminating Excuses!

7.Show them tangibles examples of how to set and acheive goals.Give them examples for how to use Goal setting in the classroom.

8.Help them to develop a habit to ask themselves each day:” Did I give my best effort to today’s activities”?

9.Demonstrate the importance of helping others.

10.FOCUS: Vision+Goals+Attitude+Action

It’s simply unbelievable, how my students appreciate this kind of teaching! They feel grateful and I know, because of the letters they write me from time to time…we have a letters box in the classroom which I am writing to you about, in a future post!



Oh, Class!….Oh, Yes…!

I have to admit, I have become a addict! I find it REALLY effective in my classes! It has helped me with class management issues more that I have ever expected! One of the first steps a teacher can take , even before the introduction of the 5 class rules, is the attention getter ” Class! Yes!”

I can share the way I have been using it in my class,

Whole Brain Teaching posters, behind my desk in the classroom!

Whole Brain Teaching posters, behind my desk in the classroom!

How many times have you started class, called for your class to get quiet, only to have a few kids comply, and several others continue chatting, apparently oblivious to your request? You ask for their attention again, a bit louder. At this point you can feel your blood pressure rising, right? After all by this time they should know how to follow procedures. They have certainly been trained in procedures similar to yours for years by the time they get to you … well, depending on what age your students are.

Then why don’t they listen? Why don’t you already have their attention? You have teaching to do. They doggedly hang onto the conversations they are in, even as your voice rises …

Now you are headed into a bad mood and the darned class is only just beginning. To top it off, some of your lovely moppets are acting as though giving you their attention is a gigantic imposition. Now both you and your students are in a hostile mood, and no one has learned anything yet.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you would like to change, then read on.

The technique to consistently catch the attention of your class is simple. It is so simple, and effective that I kicked myself for not having thought of it myself years ago, and have lamented many times since the instructional time I lost for not having known this.

To get my classes’ attention I simply say ‘Class!’ and then they reply ‘Yes!’. Next is the catch, the hook that makes this fun, and gets them invested in it in a way that has them looking at me and grinning rather than continuing their conversations.

loras photos2

When I say ‘Class!’ and they say ‘Yes!’ they have to say it the way I said it. If I say ‘Classity-class-class!’ they have to say ‘Yessity-yes-yes!’. If I say it loudly, they have to respond loudly. If I whisper, they respond in a whisper. They have to match my tone and intensity.

Simple, hunh? It is amazing how effective this approach is. I used to be the teacher I described above. With middle schoolers in particular it was almost impossible to get their attention. Too often, I would find myself frustrated by my students’ behavior.

Whole Brain Teaching uses a very simple and effective approach to overcome this resistance. Whole Brain Teaching injects fun back into the classroom for both you and your class.


Why is the Class-Yes, in terms of brain structure, so effective?  The neo-cortex, the part of your brain behind your forehead, controls, among other things, decision making.  Think of the neo-cortex as an executive, organizing other brain areas for complex tasks.  When the teacher says, “Class!” and students respond “Yes!,” you have, in effect focused your students’ neo-cortices on what you’re going to say next.  In other words, their brain’s executives are ready to take directions from your brain’s executive.  That’s wonderful!  Your neo-cortex is the CEO of all your kids’ neo-cortices.  We call that, Teaching Heaven.

loras photos3

Class rules


I spend about three weeks at the beginning of each school year, to work on the basics with all my classes: these incude, warming up-getting to know you activities, class rules , goals setting, life skills!

I’ll be able to write here about each one of them , soon….

Today, I could talk a bit about class rules and what I have found to be working in my classes! Well, I’ve tried class contracts and long discussions about which rules both the teacher and the students should follow during the school year!

First, the kids brainstorm classroom rules .My class rule is a pledge!  ” I will do nothing to interfere with the learning, safety, or respect of myself or others”.We also talk about the 3 P’s: BE PROMPT- BE PREPARED-BE POLITE! My students brainstorm all the rules they can think of and we categorize them into these three!

But, I’ve also tried to work with WHOLE BRAIN TEACHING RULES which my students just love!

The following are five classroom rules that will make your life amazingly easier. One of them is nuclear power in your hands!

If rules are only posted on your board they are not really a part of your class. You must have the rules running around in your students’ heads for them to be effective. It will also help you quiet extra talking in the class. Look for that as you read.

Teach them as follows:

Rule One: Follow directions quickly! (the gesture: make your hand shoot forward like a fish)

Rule Two: Raise your hand for permission to speak (the gesture: raise your hand, then pull it down next to your head and make a talking motion. This rule will be the most commonly violated. See below for how you stop this without criticism or negativity.)

Rule Three: Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat. (the gesture: raise your and, and then make a little walking figure with your index and middle finger.)

Rule Four: Make smart choices! (the gesture: tap one finger to your temple as you say each word.

Rule Five: Keep your dear teacher happy! (the gesture: hold up each thumb and index finger out like an “L” framing your face; bob your head back and forth with each word and smile really big!)

In elementary school, rehearse the rules first thing in the morning, after lunch and after each recess. When you call out the rule number, your students respond with the rule itself and the correct gesture. Make the rehearsals as entertaining as possible; use a variety of voices (happy, robot, froggy) and tempos, fast, slow, super fast. For additional fun, ask of your liveliest students to lead the rules rehearsal.


Rule Two will be the most commonly violated, duh. You do not have to call anyone down; you do not have to mention names. If you are addressing the class and some kids are talking, you stop, hold up two fingers and loudly say “RULE TWO!”

Every kid in your class should repeat rule two energetically with gestures. This signals the violators to stop talking … without you needing to scold them.

Rule Five is nuclear power. Think about it- keep your dear teacher happy. THERE IS NO LOOPHOLE! No student can convince you that they are making you happy. You are the world’s greatest authority on what makes you happy. If they try to convince you they are making you happy, immediately inform them that does not make you happy.

If a student complains that they don’t know how to make you happy, tell them that following the first four rules will be just dandy.

Rule Five has no loophole.

If parents ask why their child should worry about making you happy, respond that you have the responsibility to teach their child and every other child in that class. The happier you are, the better you can do your job.

Now, let’s think briefly, about how these five classroom rules relate to brain structure.  The brain learns in five ways, by seeing, saying, hearing, doing and feeling.  When you teach the rules with the Whole Brain signs, your students’ brains are maximally operative.  They see the signs, hear the rules, say the rules and make the gestures.  If you are upbeat and entertaining in your presentation, and of course you are!, your students will also have the lovely feeling of having fun.  Also note that for all five modes of brain learning to take place for your students, you have to engage in all five modes yourself.  Whole Brain Teaching is as great for the instructor’s brain as the students’!

I have recently added this attention poster below, to help me with class management and it proved to be REALLY useful! My kids just ADORED it! I have been using this every single day, when I need to have their attention and it really WORKS!!