Seating children on the circle time carpet is like seating family and friends for a wedding. The only exception is that if there isn’t enough room or you can’t work it out, you can’t uninvite children. They’re all coming.
Over many years of seating children, I strategized many seating arrangements on my circle time carpet, which was a plain blue carpet you’d find in Lakeshore. Although there were no guides, I used colored tape and my imagination to devise any seating arrangement I wanted.
For sixteen children, I used tape to make a square grid. Therefore, children had boundaries, and saw the extent of their area. Most adults – not all, but most – understand personal space. However, children are learning, so the tape gave children a visual boundary.
Now, there were some challenges. For students that are fidgety, they plucked and picked at the tape. You know what’s more exciting than pulling tape off the carpet? I don’t know. My kiddos never seamed to tire of it. They pulled off tape and happily waived it in the air like victory tape of a marathon.
The next step was to put strong, clear tape over the color tape. This made the tape stronger, stay longer and made it harder for children to pull off.
Still, there was a lot of maintenance and got to the point where I was repairing the grid every Friday. Although I wanted to make a change, I wanted to keep some kind of organization. So, I devised the next layout.
Around the Outside
Another setup was tape around the carpet. This worked well. Once the tape was down, I used a Sharpie to write all the children’s names. Although the children knew how to sit along the outside, by sitting on their name, they wanted to make sure it was covered by their body (and, therefore, wouldn’t scoot into another child’s space).
This layout worked well… most of the time. What I was concerned with were the children seated closest to me, because they had a hard time seeing my lessons. Plus, children were facing different directions and not toward me.
I wanted a way to have them face me, but also keep the seating around the outside.
Around the Outside or On the Inside
Having the children sit around the circle worked well, but not all the time. Sometimes it was better to have the children sit in rows, so they’re up front towards me. So, I used tape to make rows, then Sharpie the names. I no longer put names on the outside, since the children got the idea and gave them choice of where they wanted to sit and who they wanted to sit next to.
This was the best layout for me. Before entering the circle time carpet, I told the children to “Sit on the outside” or “Sit on the inside.” They picked up quick and were able to discern if they sit on their name or along the edges of the carpet.
As the year went on, I didn’t always have to keep the tape down. Some years, the children were able to sit in their space without the aid of color tape. Other years, I needed the full grid. The arrangement was flexible. I asked myself “Which layout best supports my class?” Child-centered teaching should always be your approach.