OER4Schools/activities/Horseshoe seating arrangement

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Title Horseshoe seating arrangement
Teaching approach
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This resource is part of the OER4Schools programme.


Blue horseshoe

This seating arrangement, where students sit with or without their chairs in the shape of a horseshoe (like the dots in the horseshoe picture) is best used during whole class dialogue for example during cumulative talk. It creates a more 'intimate' classroom environment that helps to provide students with the security they need to take risks with their talk. Everyone can see each other easily and this encourages peer co-operativity. Teachers can stand outside the horseshoe and guide the activity from there or they can join in with the seating arrangement and be an equal contributor. Ideally the open part of the horseshoe would be orientated towards the board if the teacher (or the students) are intending to write anything on the board during the activity.

You may need to experiment a number of times before you find the best way of arranging the desks and/or chairs. Desks would not be needed for a cumulative talk activity but they may be needed if the activity chosen involves students writing . Younger children may be happy to sit in a horseshoe arrangement on the floor and a space can be cleared by pushing the desks and chairs to the sides of the classroom.

Tips for using this arrangement:

  • make sure you have tried the arrangement out first before trying it with students and decide on the best orientation
  • give simple straight-forward instructions as to how the students should move their desks and/or chairs into the arrangement
  • explain to students that you are using this seating arrangement as it will make it easier for everyone to see each other and contribute equally
  • encourage students to glance around the horse shoe shape as they speak, addressing their comments to the whole group
  • factor in time to both set up and dismantle the horseshoe arrangement- the time taken to do this should decrease as the students become more familiar with the layout and move around the room more efficiently