Student Seating and Social Issues using Google Forms

By Stacey Dunning

Why consider social issues when creating seating arrangements?

Student seating and grouping has a significant bearing on how effective teaching and learning can be within the elementary classroom.  When creating a workshop model, a mix of heterogeneous and homogeneous grouping is used. We try to teach kids who are at similar academic levels together while giving them the opportunity to learn from and work with students who are at different levels of proficiency.  In order to do this well the students have to be able to get along without the teacher standing over them; we have to be able to teach that guided group and trust that the other students can complete their assigned tasks.

One strategy that I use to effectively plan those seated groups is to “ask” the students.  Asking for their input allows me to increase student buy in while staying informed on social matters.  

Seating Request Screenshot

How to use Google forms to collect student input for seating…

Students provide their input on who they would like to sit with via a teacher created Google form that is posted in Google Classroom.  Since my groups include four students each, the form gives them the option to submit three (different) names.

The form is structured using three basic guidelines:

  1. Someone I could help
  2. Someone who could help me
  3. A friend

The Google form is also formatted to provide drop down menus including all of the student (first) names.  This helps save on time (and embarrassment) when students do not know how to spell each others’ names.

How to use Google forms data to create seating arrangements…

The understanding is that they will not get to sit with every student that they name simply because other students may be asking to sit with them.  If they did not submit three different names, one for each of the guidelines, that will decrease the likelihood of them getting at least one of the students that they have asked for in their seating group.

Then I can see trends in the names that have been submitted.  When two students both ask for each other I make a bigger effort to seat these students together.  More importantly it shows me the students who have not been asked for by their peers. Those students are then seated with at least one of the kids that they named.

Why use Google forms data to create seating arrangements?

Using the Google form to collect this data is much more efficient than completing the same task with pencil and paper.  When using paper the information needed to first be inputted before it could be correlated. Now the information is automatically inputted into a Google Sheet complete with time stamps.

I can refer to this data all year long and find the trends much easier.  I even have something to say to parents when they ask if their child has any friends.  I can also assign the form quickly and easily whenever I feel a group shake up is needed.  None of this negates the need for teacher judgement when forming groups. There have been times where I know two students are truly not a good match even though they both request each other.  But it does help me to stay more informed of the changing social and emotional needs of my students in mind so that I can use more of my time for teaching.


Stacey Dunning

Stacey Dunning is a 3rd Grade teacher and Digital Learning Coach at Colt Andrews Elementary School.

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