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Grouping Pupils

Seating Plans are something that can take seemingly endless amounts of time and effort, particularly if you are going to include data for observers. I have often found that I have over-thought seating plans and they haven’t really worked, so I decided to take the thought out of it and develop a seating plan generator.

The first thing I decided to do was rank my classes based upon recent assessments, and use that to create groups of even ability. I split my classes into bands of 8, and put one from each band in each group. I realised that there was a systematic way that I could do this, and have a selection of different groups that still follow these criteria. I developed a set of group cards(see group cards 8 below) that I could assign to the pupils, that would allow me to group the pupils in 4 different ways, where if all groups were used, no pupils would work in the same group twice. I developed a spreadsheet(see blank groups 8) that showed the seating plans in these groups in a mode friendly for observers and a separate mode friendly for pupils when they change groups.

Group cards 8

Blank Groups 8

I have since developed it further to include an element of competition between groups. I used a points system to assign points to each group, each lesson. This led to more responsible behaviour, as a sense of “not letting the team down” set in. After complaints of unfairness, I added a random name generator to the spreadsheet, which allowed me to ask a targeted question to a random member of a particular band. I reward the winning group with school reward points at the end of each lesson, and enter each groups points on my spreadsheet. The winning group over a topic get more reward points, before switching to the next set of groups. My spreadsheet also totals up each individual’s points that they have earned in their different groups and gives an overall winner once all 4 groups have been gone through. This overall winner is rewarded even more and celebrated as a consistently good team member within any of their groups.

I have also developed sets of 7 groups and sets of 5 groups for smaller classes. For these, I was able to do more groups, and it gives you the opportunity to move on to the next group if the seating plan is not working.

This is something that has worked for me, feel free to try it, amend it and give me feedback.


  1. K M said on July 22, 2014

    Sounds great

    There is a website/app called ClassDojo which might be useful with the random name/points thing. I was surprised by how much some of my pupils liked this when I tried it last term. I used to load it to the website and onto my iPad at the same town – so the pupils heard the sound indicating positive/negative award. I used the random name bit as a way of randomly checking at set points in the lesson were students were focused. I picked a random name and observed for 10secs.

    • Hi K M,

      I have used classdojo before, but I feel that it could do so much more. I feel that it could be great if implemented by a whole school and that it is better for primary school at this point. My system will generate seating plans, and allows me to use targeted random (I know that is an oxymoron) questioning, by picking from a group of pupils rather than the whole class. Using points between groups rather than individually is something that I have found more motivating for my pupils.

      • K M said on July 30, 2014

        Good point about the targeted random questions – that is something which is lacking from Class Dojo. With the points thing I’ve done bits of both, used class dojo for individual praise at set points, but also used team awards to create some element of competitiveness.

  2. Hi Hywel, I love this idea and I am going to use these cards with my pupils from September. I made a set of 4 groups of 4 students, and I was trying to make a set of 6 groups of 5. I managed to create cards allocating unique combinations of numbers, letters and colours but I could not find a way to attribute shapes so that the pupils will not be in the same group twice.

    I will use a version of your own cards for my classes with 32 pupils, but I wanted to be able to create my own sets. Is there a way with Excel to create a combination of the 4 variables so that I have ‘grouping cards’ with unique combinations?

    Here is the 4×4 set I’ve created copying your idea! https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4424450/Groups%204×4.pdf

    • Hi Margarita, thanks for the positive feedback. It is impossible to have more distinct groups with 6 or 4 groups, due to the factors(in the mathematical sense) of 4 and 6. 8 groups is only possible up to 32, because above that there are repeats. I have a set for 7 groups of 4 (which could be extended to 7 groups of up to 7 if necessary!), and can easily create a set for 5 groups of 5. I didn’t want to get into too much detail about how they were created because it is fairly complicated. If you want to know how it is done on excel, follow me on facebook @MrHPugh and I’ll DM you my email.

      • Hi Hywel, thank you for getting back. I knew I was up for an impossible task, but by non-mathematical brain thought it could be done! Good that I teach languages and not Maths! You can DM me on Twitter, I have followed you.

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