Seating Arrangement

For every class this year, my 8th graders have been sitting in desks (with chairs) that are arranged in rows. Last Monday, I raced to get there a minute or 2 earlier (we have only 15 minutes between sessions to get our class ready) and I carefully moved the rows aside to create a space in the middle of the room. I used one desk to create a prayer center and arranged 13 chairs in a circle around it.

When the kids arrived they were surprised at the new arrangement and asked if it was like this already or if I did it. I told them that this is how I preferred to have them arranged. They really liked it and I thought it created a much better environment for faith formation, especially our prayer moments. They told me they would like it arranged like this regularly.

I don’t mind doing that but it does involve a good deal of racing around before class and I have to stay longer afterwards to put things back the way I found them. For me, it’s worth it because I think that the learning environment has an effect on how we learn and how we behave.

About Joe Paprocki 2736 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

10 Comments on Seating Arrangement

  1. Sounds like a great idea Joe and worth the added effort.
    If you are prepared ahead of time you could change it up from time to time depending on the liturgical season. Cover the table, desk with green for ordinary time purple for lent etc. All you would need is maybe a placemat, a picture, bible (seasonal objects that you could talk about) and if permitted, burn a candle.

  2. Actually I did go out earlier this year and purchase fabric to use for the prayer center, reflecting the colors of the liturgical season and I change them accordingly. All told, I believe it cost $8 (I bought remnants or scraps or whatever they’re called!) I remember laughing to myself as I waited in line at the fabric store that I was probably the only guy that day who went to the fabric store before going home to watch the Bears play!

  3. Great idea, however the School where I teach 7th through 8th grade (I have them for 2 straight years!) does not take kindly to the moving any furniture. That said I have used the colors of the Liturgical Year for my chice of Sweater color!

  4. Hi Joe. I guess I’ll be finding out soon enough if the school where I teach RE is not taking kindly to me moving the furniture! I did try to be extra careful to put everything back where it was originally but you never know!

  5. When I started teaching 8th grade this year, the first thing I did was to get rid of the desks and use round tables with even amount of students at each table. They love this. A couple of weeks ago, when 2 boys were killed in a accident in Riverside, I put the chairs in a large circle and we spent the entire class talking about this tragedy. Some of my students knew them well. My students and I both have gained a lot of respect for each other.

  6. The seating arrangement is something that we discuss and experiment with endlessly. I love getting rid of the desks altogether – especially with the junior high kids.

    The debate is often about if we are to emulate ‘school’ or try to share our faith in a more creative, effective way. I would love to hear about others experiences in this area.

  7. Brad, I side with those who espouse making religious education feel less like “school.” I think that the more we create a different environment, the better chance we have of reaching them.

  8. You can, if you have enough time, have the students help arrange the room. I have seventh graders every other week and we are in the teachers’ lunchroom. Now the kids arrange everything as soon as they get there, even if I am not there yet. They put it back too!

    I have a class of 16 boys and five girls and the boys are glad to expend a little energy before class.

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