Make Assigning Seats More Fun with this Simple Trick

assigning seats

I have a love-hate relationship with seating charts. I love how they help me learn students’ names, but I hate creating the “perfect chart” only to learn that I put kids next to each other that should NOT be together. I love how they help my students have a sense of structure in the art room, but I hate the hours it takes to (re)write 24 different seating charts.

I found that when I was writing the first 6 or 7 seating charts, I paid attention to things like where everyone was sitting, who was side-by-side, and where people sat earlier. However, by the time I got to seating chart number 20, I was just writing down names.

I knew that I wanted to change how I was doing my seating charts… but how?

Introducing Random Seating Charts!

I know it sounds crazy, but creating random seating charts saves me a lot of time. Plus, they are as successful, if not more so than traditional charts, when it comes to putting the “right” kids together.

So how does a random seating chart work?

It is as simple as following these 5 steps.


1. Choose a category, and make a list.

First, choose a category, like “colors,” “shapes,” “artists,” or “art movements.” I like to keep my categories related to art, but you could really do anything. Then, make a list of things that belong in that category. For example, “red, blue, turquoise, yellow, magenta, brown, etc…” You will want an item for each seat in your room. So, if you have 30 seats in your room, you’ll need 30 items on your list. When you have enough items on your list to match the number of seats in your room, you can go to step #2.

Category: Colors



2. Create two matching sets of cards.


This step can be as simple as printing two matching sets off the printer or as complex as creating laminated cards. If you have more than one seating area, like a reading rug,  you could even print a third set. You can choose to keep the same set and reuse them all year or create a new set each time you change the seating chart.

3. Label the tables.

seating chart tags

You will use one set of cards to label the tables. Make sure they are taped down well, especially if you are changing seats for all of your classes. Or, you can even write directly on the desks with a Sharpie. I found the idea on Timeouts and Tootsie Rolls. The Sharpie method is great because you don’t have to worry about the table cards getting ruined or going missing. 

4. Hand out one set of tags to the students.

kids finding seats

As the students enter the room, I hand each of them one of the second set of tags. Their job is to match their tag to a spot on a table. As they find their spots, they set their tag on top of the other tag so I can check that they match up.

I do have one table that is “overflow” for my larger classes. I like to mark these tags so they can quickly be added or removed based on the size of the class. If anyone needs to move seats, I can do it quickly before I write it down.

5. Write down names while students are working.

seating chart

While students are working, I walk around the room writing down the new seating chart. I can see what is happening in the room while creating an effective seating chart. If you teach older students, you could assign this job to one of them. If I find kids sitting together who shouldn’t be, I quickly move them before writing down the names.

I promise this is an easy way to do seating charts. In fact, random seating charts have started to take away the hate part of my love/hate relationship with seating charts. The kids love finding their new seats. I love all the time I save writing seating charts. I love that my first chart and my last chart are equally thought out and successful. I love that all 24 of my classes can easily switch at the same time. I am sure that if you give random seating charts a chance you will love them too.

How do you plan seating charts in your room?

Are there any other good art-related categories you can think of?

Jennifer Carlisle

Jen is a middle school art teacher from Norfolk, NE who loves exploring and teaching art through traditional and digital art mediums.


  • Robin Webb

    I agree, random is better! I have my table groupings color coated. At the beginning of the year, I add shapes to each chair in that color. I create a second set on index cards. The first day, the students are randomly given a card. The kinders and 1st grades are great about helping others identify their shapes or colors. It also helps that knowing some particular students who don’t work well together, I make sure they get a different color table.

  • Mel

    Any ideas of how to keep the students names on the tables? I’ve currently got index card name tags held in a central holder on each table.. but it’s too much fuss passing them out and getting them back in.. and I can’t read them from the opposite side of the table (they are upright and I can’t see the back). I’ve been at the new school for three months now.. and only know the names of the naughty kids!

    • Jennifer Carlisle

      I don’t keep students names on the tables because logistically it just wouldn’t work for me. I write them on a seating chart that I keep on a clipboard. It takes me a while to get all the names… especially when Billy and Jackson look the same but there are two Billy’s and at least 3 Jackson’s.

    • Megan

      I teach elementary kiddos and I have them each make a folder the first day of art. They write their name really big on one side, then when they take their folder out each art class, it doubles as a place-mat and a name tag and helps me learn their names.

  • Robin Webb

    Although I let students help pass out papers from time to time, I want to do it for the first couple of weeks. I say the students name as I read and hand them their papers (I have them put their names at the top of paper for easy reading). The first week of school I call the students individually to also connect names and faces. At my school the Kinders, and sometimes the 1st grades will wear a name tag for the first couple of weeks. The students feel really special when you know their names!

  • Gini

    I meet my students at the door and randomly assign the 1st four to any random table. This continues until all students are seated. Most teachers have a line order based upon the bahaviors of their students. I have used this for seven years and find it quite effective. It is quick and results in random seating every class. Students move around the classroom by table assignment and get to observe different areas of the classroom more closely. As my room has mini museum displays and vocabulary by media around the room, student exposure and inquiry is greatly increased. If an unpleasant combination arises, I move that student to a quiet area of the room, such as the back counter for a time out for that class.

  • Becky Smiley

    This year, I’m using SMART SEAT app with my iPad. Photos and names show up on the seating diagram. (I took photos of kids the first two weeks of school.). Rosters were downloaded via computer grading system in Excel. I can take attendance .as well. To change a seat or two, I just drag it to another seat on chart. It works well for my 28 classes. I’m able to keep notes for any student by clicking on their photo. Learning/matching names to faces is easier for the 600 students I teach. There’s a RANDOM scramble for mixing seats up, but I’ve not used it. For subs, I can print a copy of each class’ seating chart, too.

  • lux_arts

    if you don’t want to make cards, you can do this with 2 decks of playing cards (or 1 if your tables are already numbered). 4 kids per table, i have 8 tables, so i only need one deck and only ace through eight cards. shuffle the cards and hand them out as kids come in. i keep a couple of aces and 2s on the bottom of the stack so i can slide them out and give them to the kids i need to sit up front by me. that way it seems random and they don’t feel singled out.

  • Megan

    I teach elementary students – I have students come in the first day and pick their own seat then I will make a seating chart based on that first class.
    It helps show me and remind me of potential behavior issues and which students are not good sitting together. It has also revealed some good matches that I would have otherwise overlooked. I found it has helped me to learn more about my students as far as their personalities and behaviors.
    I try to do the seating charts day by day that first week…. so it is not all 25 classes at one time, then it’s not as bad (only 6 or 7 classes at at time) and it is fresh in my mind.

    • Megan

      for kindergarten I do something different though. I make them each a large folder and write their name on it (this takes some time but I do it before the school year starts). I do their seating charts before too and have their folders out when they first walk in… they have to find their name… works well for me, it’s a bit hectic – some don’t know their names yet! It does help me get to know them too!

  • Wanda Holmgren

    I have tried this recently when changing seats at trimester time and it works wonders! I teach elementary. The students don’t blame me for giving them that seat, they also can’t be mad at their friends for not choosing to sit by them, they just chalk it up the “universe” wanting them to sit there! There are some students I would NEVER have put next to each other, but it has been working surprisingly well! Thanks for the idea!

    • Alecia Eggers

      That’s fantastic Wanda! Good to hear! Sometimes the “universe” works in mysterious ways ;)

  • Sheila Kopaskam

    I teach art daily in two middle schools.My tables have color-names: Primary on one side, secondary on the other. I like the idea of a color/shape combo, but currently the seats are numbered — in the same order for each table (1 and 2 being on the side that faces the center of the room in case some seats are unused.). As I call names the first day, I write on the roster the code: R1, O2, etc. The second day I catch those who have moved and remind them that their SEAT is assigned, not just their table. Then I make the chart when I have time after the second or third day. I never worry about keeping the cards from semester to semester — just cut small scraps (about 2X3 – sometimes on colored paper) and number/letter them in a couple of minutes. I make a separate set for each class, have them write their names on them, and take them up, in case I forgot to write down the code, and to check that students did not re-assign themselves to sit with a friend.

  • Lara Dowling

    On the 1st day of art (or whenever I want to change seats) I meet my kids (k-8) in the hall and I tell them they can pick their assigned seat. The rules are that there can be no more than 4 or 5 (depending on class size) to a table, and that they need to make a good choice about who they sit next to. For elementary I also tell them that there needs to be 2 boys and 2 girls at each table. I let them know that if they don’t choose wisely, I’m just going to move them. And I do occasionally move kids, but usually give them a chance to see how they do. I also have a diagram of my room, and write down who is sitting where while they are working.