Have a Seat! 5 Tips For Managing Your Seating Charts


Today I’d love to share a few quick tips about my seating chart system. With twenty different classes coming to my room each week, I quickly realized that my seating chart system needed to be intuitive and easy to use. Having the seating charts organized is also extremely helpful to subs in your room.

Here are five tips to keep yourself sane when it comes to seating charts.

1. Use a graphics program.

I made my seating chart in Adobe Illustrator, but the AutoShapes feature in Microsoft Word would also do the trick. Although tedious, using a graphics program is great because it keeps the chart super neat and you only have to draw it once. When you need more seating charts, just make more copies! As a bonus, if you have to have a room sketch at the end of the year, so the custodians know exactly how to put your room back together, you’re already done!

2. Organize your seating charts by day, not by grade level.

I organize my seating charts by day, instead of by grade level. Each day is organized in the order I see my classes, making it quick and easy to reference a certain class.

3. Consider color coding.

In addition, my seating charts are color-coded by grade level. Even with my seating charts in chronological order, it can be a bit much to have to flip through all of the papers to find the one I need. If I know I’m looking for the first-grade class on a Day 1 (we are on a rotating schedule), it’s much easier to find a yellow paper than a number 1.

4. Keep your seating charts easily accessible.

I use a binder for my seating charts, which sits on my whiteboard ledge at the front of the classroom. Having the seating charts right where I teach means I don’t waste time if I need to look at them. It’s also nice to have them readily available and visible for a sub.

5. Use a pencil and make extra copies.

I always tell my students that no seating chart is set in stone. Undesired behaviors (usually chattiness!) get students moved quickly. Using pencil makes it easy to switch students around. Occasionally, I’ll find it necessary to try an entirely new arrangement for a class. Having extra copies already made is a time saver.

How do you organize your seating charts? Is it working?

Does anyone NOT use pencil and paper for seating charts? Computer Program? Interactive Whiteboard System? We’d love to hear!

Amanda Heyn

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


  • Karen E

    I have been experimenting with an app this summer called “Smart Seat” that seems easy and workable. I can set my room as I want it, and not only add names, but also pictures ( hope it helps to get to know the first graders faster). Seat changes are easy and quick, andI will be able to print a master file for my sub folder…can’t wait to see how it works in real,life!

    • Cool! Let us know how it goes!

    • lbujaki

      Would love to try this app.  Is it easy to use?

    • Lisa

      I too used  copies of my seating chart, set by day in a three ring binder! Great minds think alike! i love the idea of color coding by day.  I would be interested to know how the app works out, love the idea of putting a photo with the seating chart to get to know the little ones better (k and 1).  I have recently subbed in a high school and they tried sneaking into different seats thinking I would not notice since I did not know names, so this could even come in handy for the older grades.
      Thanks, keep up the great work

      • So glad a binder system works for you too, Lisa! I agree that photos would be a huge help for the new kindergartners every year. At my school, teachers send their K’s to specials with name tags for the first month. During work time, I visit each table and have the kids flip their name tags around so I can practice saying names. It’s a quick, fun way to start committing all those new little faces to memory!

    •  I love the idea of adding pictures… visual learner!

    • Karen, that app sounds awesome! Thanks so much for sharing! 

  • Cathy

    I will be loving this week on AOE….over the weekend I realized that this coming week I need to get down to business and focus on final prepping for the year ahead. So having the “planning” posts will help immensely.

    My ‘student teaching’ cooperating teacher had a binder for her seating charts and they were organized by day as well……I thought that was great and did use one last year. I am definitely going to check out “Smart Seat” also….sounds neat!

  • Kdeterman

    I love this and use it myself. I did the photo addition as a way to learn names and faces as well. When I student taught in a high school, photos were the first item of business on the first day. Now that I have 30 classes a week, I start with the previous year book, a copy machine and double sided tape on a page protector. I put all the charts in page protectors for the next reason. A friend suggested that I put the kids names on mini sticky notes. This allows me to rearrange seating by merely moving them to a new position. Pop it back in the page protector and we are back in business. 

    I’m really glad to see all the great comments and ideas here on AOE. This is really helping to get the year on track.

    • It just occurred to me how much TIME art teachers spend on their seating charts each year. WOW! The beauty of it, though, is if the system works, it will give back to you all year long and will help you work more efficiently in your classroom. It’s worth the effort if you like your system. I personally never have the students change seats all year long. It’s just simpler this way. Of course, as Amanda mentioned, I will move kids for misbehaviors. How many times do all of you change seats in art class throughout the year?

      • Kdeterman

        Amanda you are right, it is quite a job when you are the new teacher to copy/cut out all of the 480+ students, but well worth it! Though not every kid is in the last yearbook, it will help you to associate names and faces faster thus cutting down on behavior issues. The second and third year I taught in the same school the photographs were used for kinders and new students.

        As far as moving to new seats, new seating assignments typically happen after Christmas break unless sooner is necessary. The kids are all excited to make a change then and usually I have behaviors under control. I teach K-5 and allow my 5th grades to select their own seat with a HUGE warning about choice and their work. This has worked out nicely and I reserve the right to move unproductive or chatty students at my will. I only have had to move a very small number of students in these classes. I also reserve 2 single desks to use for those who want to work alone OR need space to make a better decisions. They take up valuable space, but are so worth it.

        • Ahhh, that makes sense! I was thinking you were doing photos for each student each year. Great idea to do it for only Ks and new students after you get to know the rest! I love that you have two single desks. I only have room for one single desk in my room, but it is a huge help for those students that really need some extra focus. 

    • Denise

       I too use the post-it method as Kdeterman mentioned above—they need to be cut to size and trimmed down, but the ease of use when I change a seat or two works great! I also keep my seating charts right under/or on top of my attendance sheets.

    • I love the sticky note idea. It seems especially helpful if you switch students’ seats often. I’m curious, what grade level do you teach? I can’t imagine cutting out photos for all 430 of my students! I’m impressed! 

  • Thanks for sharing! Love the color coded idea!

    Our grading program, Infinite Campus, has a digital seating chart feature that I use. It is great because it has students pictures right above their names. I print off these charts to put in my sub folders, no one can mess with them when the sub has a picture of who is who. ;) It also allows you to randomize seats or move people around when needed.

    • Our district just switched to IC last year. Thanks for reminding me to check out the seating chart feature! It looks really simple to use! 

      • Kirsten Westerfeld

        I’m hoping some of you will see this! We are just starting Infinite Campus this year and I’m very overwhelmed with setting it up for 700 students AND entering grades for them regularly. Do you have any pointers? Have you found any source of info for tips?

        • Hi Kirsten,

          In my district, our tech personnel set up classes in IC for us. Setting it up for all of your students by yourself does sound stressful! This may be a great question to post in the Facebook group “Art Teachers.” If you’re not already a member, you’ll have to join. It’s a great resource! There are thousands of art teachers willing to help with questions just like this. Best of luck!

          • Vicky Siegel

            Our secretaries roster all our students for us. I’ve just recently learned how to create seating charts with student photos! It takes some experimenting, but I’m sure there are tutorials out there!!

    • Bgrafer

      I’m glad that you mentioned this.  We are switching to IC and starting our training 2 days before school starts.  Can you print off the seating charts?  Not sure I want to use all the ink for the version with the photo of the student (we are given 1 ink cartridge for our printer per year) so I hope there is a non photo version also! 

      • Yes, it will automatically print without students’ pictures. That is the default. If you would like their pictures included you simply check a box. Best of luck as your school transitions to Infinite Campus.

  • Msueteems

    I do all of the above but add photos from our software grading program. I also highlight in different colored markers student names with allergies, gifted, those with IEP’s, and 503 plans. When seeing 400+ students a week, I need a quick visual reminder of specific needs.

    • What a great idea, Msueteems!  I am definitely going to try highlighting this year! I always have a difficult time trying to balance my fear of labeling kids with the fact that many of them DO need a little extra TLC in the art room. I sometimes forget that certain students have special needs when it comes to academics because they are such talented artists.  I’m left wondering why they didn’t do well on a reading or writing activity in the art room. Highlighting sounds like a perfect way to remind myself of who needs extra help or who could be pushed further. Thanks!

      • Another great option is to put your seating charts under a plastic binder sleeve. Then, write notes to yourself on top of that student’s name on the chart, such as “is behind on 2 projects” or “needs to glaze clay” – Then you won’t forget and it’s visually there to remind you, and erase it with ease when you don’t need it anymore. Some teachers mark grades this way, too.

        • Do you write with an overhead or dry erase marker, or with something else? What a cool idea! 

          •  Was thinking of doing this exact thing this year… page protectors and then using a vis-a-vis (wet-erase marker) on top to write notes about specific kids… also thinking that when the notebook is open, I can use the BACK of the previous page in conjunction for extra notes!  So, visually, I’d see the blank back of the previous page and the seating chart of the current page at the same time when the notebook is laid open… I’m thinking I could keep track of star artists, behavior problems, questions the kids have asked me that I need to answer the following week, etc!

          • Kristina Brown

             Ooh – and maybe a 4×6 printout of the class picture with names written on top?

    • Sasmith

      Wow, neat!  I need pictures!!

  • Amy

    I would love to know how your “rotating schedule” works we can never seem to schedule well. Can you please hare some tips.

    • Hi Amy, I would be happy to share our schedule! I hope I can describe it well because it’s a bit wonky.

      Our schedule is set up to prioritize common planning time for teachers. We have four classrooms of each grade level that all attend specials at the same time. So, for example, all of the fourth grade classes attend specials at the same time in the morning. The specials at our school are Art, Spanish, Phy Ed, and Music. Each grade level cycles through a four day schedule. To make things more complicated, Spanish and Phy Ed happen twice per cycle and Art and Music happen only once. This means, on Spanish and Phy Ed days one class will start in Spanish and another class with start in Phy Ed and then they will switch half way though specials time. 

      A typical schedule for a fourth grade classroom might look like this:
      Day 1: Art
      Day 2: Spanish and Phy Ed
      Day 3: Music
      Day 4: Spanish and Phy Ed

      In the art room, it means that I see one classroom of each grade level each day. It also means that not every Monday is a Day 1. If a Day 2 falls on a Friday, then the next Monday is a Day 3, Tuesday is Day 4, Wednesday is Day 1, and so on…

      I am trying to attach a photo of the schedule so you can see it. 

      I hope it makes sense! If not, please let me know! 

      • We have something similar. I like the consistency for both the art teacher and classroom teachers.

  • Art Teachers Hate Glitter

    I do No. 1 & 2 as well, but it never occurred to me to color code my paper! I always color coded my labels. The paper would be so much easier. I hang my seating charts from magnetic clips on my file cabinet. Each day has its own clip, and on that day, that clip of charts gets moved to my white board.

  • Svnasiegs2

    I love the idea of colored paper for each grade level.  I staple my days’ seating charts together, and put them in a folder.  After the day, that packet goes to the back of the pile, and the next day is ready.  I do change seating charts every quarter.  It is a lot of work, but less behavior problems in the long run.  When I have new students and new first graders I do not know, and then realize some of those behavior students should not be all at the same table, it is nice to have a change.  I do have 32 classes a week, but it is worth it.  You know who should not be by the sink, or who should be facing the directions where most of your directions come from, or who should not have someone sitting behind them or next to them, etc. I try to have 2 boys and 2 girls at a table, and at least one leader who can follow directions and clean up tasks.  I usually whisper to the kids that they know I can depend on them to be a great helper at their table (like with a student with special needs).  Of course, this is hard with new first graders, but hence the new seating chart after 9 weeks! This is the perfect week for these new ideas!  I also have a paper broken into 9 sections after each class chart.  On there I write the date and any quick notes- like behaviors or pokey students, etc.  That way if parents ask about behavior or when report card time comes, I have documentation.  It doesn’t take extra time.  Just quick notes to myself.
    Last year admin. did our schedule with NO input from us.  You can guess we had a horrible year (new Wisconsin law changes, so our district took it to the extreme to make it miserable for us!)  Anyway, the music teacher and I worked on the MAPEL (music, art, p.e, and library) schedule for 6 hours today, only to have one administrator change my days at his school.  So tomorrow- we will spend at least 3 more hours to finalize everything, but… at least they allowed us to help and make a reasonable schedule!!  Oh… and I LOVE this site!! :)

    • Hi Svnasiegs2! I just wanted to let you know that I’m a Wisconsin teacher too, so I know what you’re going through. It sounds like you’re managing to stay positive in light of all the recent changes to our school districts, which is awesome. For me, the thought of new kids coming to see me in a month will always make me smile no matter what. I hope all of the awesome resources on AOE will help pump you up for a new year, even if it will be a challenging one! 

  • Great ideas! I also arrange my seating charts by the day.  I write them in pencil so it is easy to re-arrange or remove/add students.  They are also arranged in order of class times for the day. this way I simply flip a page as the classes roll in and out! I have several copies, plan book, sub plans… my main copy hangs by a clip in the front of my room where they are easily accessible. I also leave special notes on the charts such as medical info, severe allergies, diabetic , etc…  when necessary so a sub is aware of any medical issues that may need their attention.

  • cheddar130

    I teach K-5, 600 students/week. My first class for every grade is to have students make a “baseball card” style info card… I trace a credit card (for a frame) on pastel colored index cards (different color for each grade level), and I write the students name large across the bottom. Students draw a picture of themselves in the frame, then write or draw info about themselves on the back. I laminate all the cards. I do make my seating charts on paper – but also use the cards. I pass the cards out at attendance and everyone keeps their card visible at their tables. It helps me to walk around and know every name immediately – and how to spell some of them when I need to write it on their project! After I know everyone, I have older helpers punch 2 holes in the top of each card and we string them up by class all around the room. It’s very colorful and every child always has a piece of artwork on display! I keep the seating charts attached to the attendance sheets though – especially helpful for subs!

    • Bhaagen

      This is such a great idea – I am going to do this too!

      • This is a great idea, especially if you are a brand new art teacher to the school. Learning all 500-1000 names is daunting at first. Once you’ve been somewhere awhile, it gets easier. Thanks for sharing!

    • Patty Palmer

      Love this idea! I struggle with names, too, so this idea is brilliant!

  • Bgrafer

    I keep my seating charts in a clipboard that has storage inside of it.  For me it is easier to use as I often walk around  with the seating chart and grade artwork right as the kids are finishing it (this way I can ask the students questions if I need to).   I write the grades lightly in pencil next to the students names.  This  year I’m going to try to use a second set of seating charts that have a page protector and a vis-a-vis marker to record the grades.  I was falling behind in my grade recording last year.   My seating charts are on colored paper by grade level as well since we have 37 sections (2 full schools) it does make it easier.   I also add lines at the top so each seating chart can be identified by day, time of class, and name of class.  Unfortunately with two boys I sometimes need to be out for several days when they have a fever and you don’t always have the same substitute for each day.  Having the extra identification at the top has helped a few subs when the sub  before them has somehow gotten into the wrong day of seating charts an messed up the order. I’m very glad to see that I am not the only art teacher who puts in so much work to organize their classroom.  Many of my friends think that all the extra organizing is unnecessary but I can’t function in chaos and teach over 1000 kids a week and be sane by the weekend!

    • GREAT idea to grade as you walk around! I am definitely going to try that this year. What a time saver! 

  • Susie Belzer

    This is very similar to what I did last year.  I used Microsoft publisher to make my chart and print off copies.  Printing them on different color paper is totally smart!  I had not thought of it.  I also put my charts into plastic inserts so that they last longer.  If I need to make changes I just slide the chart out of the plastic sleeve, erase, and then slide it back in.

  • Cookie True

    Hi Jessica! Wonderful and inspiring ideas … Please though think of the thousands of art teachers (dare I say the majority of art teachers) who teach from an art cart. Any ideas for us would be so appreciated. Sometimes we feel like we teach alone…..

  • Bhaagen

    I color code my classes and all seating charts too .   I use rainbow order- 1st class is red, next orange etc.   I also use a file folder system to get kids working faster. I have a folder for each grade level  each day. The Holder is on the tables and when the kiddos are working a second day on the project the artwork manager at the table passes out the work from the correct folder. This way the first students in the room are working while the last are still coming in!. It takes a bit of set up ( I have a 4 day rotation) and a lot of 2 pocket folders, but it is soo worth  the trouble!

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  • Romain-little

    I like to use a file folder and stickies. Also colour coded but I make one class set of stickies then just move them as needed. I draw the layout inside the folder and write the class code on the outside.

  • Dustyn Allen

    I use an iPad app called Smart Seat. It doesn’t organize my room graphically exactly, but it gets it very close and helps. I can import the student roster and pick and chose where students sit and i can even randomize the seats. Its printable, emailable, and I can set up many classes. I only teach 7 periods a day so I’m not sure on the exact number of classes. 

  • Anna Bitzinger

    Thank you! I will be following these tips tonight as I make up seating charts for 22 classes at a new school! The seating chart will definitely be changing when I figure out how the chemistry all works. 

  • Tiffany

    Wondering if there is a solution to this problem.  I have some pretty tough classes this year.  I teach 1st-8th gr art.  I dread the first days of class because someone always has a problem with where they sit and who they sit next to.  I’ve tried seperating buddies, sandwich “good” kids with the “bad”, ect.  Either way I go, I spend way too much time dealing with students who now won’t do anything and are being disrruptive.  Any other ways I should try?  My 1st-4th grade classes I see every 6 days so its a crap shoot as to who are friends and who can’t stand each other this particular day.

    • Hi Tiffany, 

      Sometimes figuring out those difficult classes is the worst! We’re on a rotating schedule too, so I know what you mean about the inconsistency. My advice would be to set up a meeting with the classroom teacher if he or she is willing. The teacher may have a better sense of which students work well together on a daily basis. Other tips I would have would be to keep kids who “stir the pot” facing the front of the room, or facing away from other students that they don’t work well with. 

      Hope that helps! Let us know how it goes. 

      • Tiffany

        Thanks! Found out that I now get to add kindergarten to my mix making 27 classes! I’m excited though because there were some great kindergarten lessons posted that I can’t wait to try! Happy first day back guys!

    • John Kubala

      Probably too little too late, but have you tried Happy Class? http://cooltools.kubala.name/2013/11/29/automatic-classroom-seating-chart-maker/

  • Tmallett

    I went with the daily seating charts, but will do color codes for grades next time. I put each day in a folder with a clip magnet to hold it and attaches to the whie board ….all lined up Mon. -Fri.

  • Jess

    Instead of pencil I write names on very small post its. The page marker sized ones. I keep them inside a page protector so none are lost. They’re easy to mive around too! It’s neat and easy!

  • sandy

    Rather than making a true seating chart, I cut cardstock into 2×3″ cards, with the name of every student in the class printed on it. Before each class arrives, I pull out their stack of cards and lay them out on the tables on which I’ve labeled with a table number written in pencil. This way there is no question where their seat is when they arrive. Throughout the year it is easy for me to move a student by simply changing the table number on the cards. These cards have become quite useful for behavior issues. Last year I implemented a new reward system. During the class I remove the card of a misbehaving student and place it back into storage. At the end of class, any cards left out on tables are collected and dropped into a “hat” for a drawing from the reward box. It works really well,.

  • John Kubala

    I don’t use pencil and paper. I find it a mind-numbing task, however very necessary. I recently found a tool called Happy Class. You can read my thoughts about this great site at http://cooltools.kubala.name/2013/11/29/automatic-classroom-seating-chart-maker/

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