It is extremely important that your students have assigned seating on the first day of school. Don’t believe me? Here’s why:

Assigning seats reduces anxiety

Giving students a place to sit helps them to feel at ease. They do not have to worry about where they should sit or whether or not anyone will want to sit near them. They don’t have to worry about how so-and-so and what’s-her-face will interpret their decision to sit next to he’s-so-not-her-type. 

Assigning seats says, “Here, you belong”

As a student enters your room for the first time and you tell them, “You belong here [in this assigned seat]”, you are communicating, “Here [in this class], you belong”. Your silent voice begins to drown out the voices of any less welcoming classmates, and it will continue to grow louder and hit the sound waves as you prove to students that yes, you are special. I accept you. You belong here!

Assigning seats establishes your authority

Furthermore, assigning seats on the first day sets the precedent that you are the authority in your classroom. It is easy to let structure go as the year goes on, but it is nearly impossible to put it into place if it has not been there before. You are going to love your students, you are going to connect with them, you are going to make them feel comfortable and accepted and valued and smart and important. But today–the first day of class–you are going to let them know that the buck stops with you.

Zero prep seat assignment

To make it a little easier on yourself and a little more fun for your students, try using my method. My method doesn’t require me to create seating charts until the students have stopped shifting between courses and my roster is set…you know…somewhere around second quarter ;-)!

I say Zero Prep but that’s not true– you do need to do some prep work at home, so that the assigning itself is no-prep. I created bright colored cards with fanciful creatures on them to “assign” seats to students on the first day of school. You can use mine or create your own version!

You will need to create two identical sets of cards: one that you hand out at the door, and one that is taped to desks, chairs, or places on the rug. In each set, you will need as many cards as there are students in your biggest class. In my classes with 35 students, I need two sets of 35 cards.

Prep step 1

Instead of creating 36 unique character cards, I create 6 characters and copy them on 6 unique colors of bright paper. 6 characters x 6 colors = 36 unique cards! Then, make a second, identical set.

Prep step 2

I laminated all of my cards so that I can use them with all five classes, year after year.

Prep step 3

Tape the first set of cards to the seating locations in your classroom (on desks, chairs, etc.).

Time to assign the seats!

As students enter the room, hand them a card from Set 2.

Instruct students to sit at the seat that has the identical card taped to it. For example, if you hand them a pink unicorn, they must sit at the seat with the pink unicorn taped to the desk. If you hand them a blue unicorn, they must sit at the seat with the blue unicorn taped to the desk. If you hand them a green zombie…well, you get the idea.

When to assign seats for real

In all seriousness, I use this method to assign seats for the first week of school (which for me is always a three day week–Wednesday through Friday). By that time, I have gotten a handle on personalities in the class and feel like I have the information I need to assign traditional seats.

Even if you will not assign seats–I encourage you to give students a place to go on the first few days of school. If you are deskless, place the cards on chairs or on spots on the floor. Take the guesswork out of entering the room until your students feel comfortable navigating the space and their peers on their own.

Use the cards for all.the.things.

After the first day, you can use these cards to form groups for any activity. You can use just one of the sets and ask students to get into color groups or creature groups, or you can use half of each of the sets and ask students to find the other person with their exact match. I laminate my set of cards so that I can re-use it each year and throughout the year.

Get my cards for free!

My students love my whimsical cards, and I know that yours will, too!

The cards are a free download in Spanish and French (thanks to Lisa Brown for translating!), and they are available as pretty PDFs and slightly-messy-but-editable Word and Pages files.  I chose these characters because they are all cognates in Spanish, and they are fun for the students. 

40 replies on “First Day Seating with character cards

  1. Hello and thank you for this! I am using your idea with two sets of laminated Loteria cards. I am looking forward to the new school year and have a suitcase full of new ideas from the TPRS community posts. 🙂

  2. Ciao Martina,
    I love this great idea. can you share the card’s template because I have to change language? Thanks for sharing great ideas 🙂


  3. Cool! When I first looked at the cards I thought to myself, “cool, but I wonder if my high school age students would feel insulted by something so clearly designed for younger kids”. Then I remembered how last year, after one of our class stories included a princess, no less than five sophmore girls separately came up to me after class and indicated that they were secretly hoping to be chosen as the actress to play the princess. Yes, I’m going to use this even with my AP class.

    1. Haha! Yes! I remember being obsessed with The Powerpuff Girls when I was in high school. There’s something “cool” about little kid stuff. At least, I thought so…but then again, I wasn’t cool at all. So never mind.

  4. Sounds good, thank you for the idea! Just so I am clear–do you collect the cards from the students at the end of class so that you can hand them a (possibly) different card the next day, or do you make your seat chart using however things arrange themselves on the first day? Merci!

  5. This may be a silly question, but do you give them the English word at the door and then they have to go find the Spanish word on the desk? Or do you do Spanish/Spanish? Thanks for a great idea!

    1. Spanish/Spanish. All of the cards are cognates (even though most wouldn’t recognize ‘fantasma’ as such), and they all contain pictures, so kids can understand.

      1. Love the idea! Thank you, Martina! A few more cognates that come to mind are: el elfo-elf, el gigante- giant, el ogro- ogre, and as Ada C. commented on your blog: el vampiro- vampire, el gnomo- gnome, el cíclope-cyclop, and la momia- mummy.

    2. I haven’t done this yet but was thinking to give them the Spanish card and put the blank one on the desks. This would also be beneficial if you teach more than one language.

  6. HI! Just joined. I like the idea, but is there something else besides cognates on can use? I teach Chinese and virtually NOTHING sounds like English. I could use numbers but that is a bit boring. I also thought of colours as something the students already know but again, not all that interesting.

    I am jumping in the deep end as this is the last of four terms for the year and my class is a year ten class with almost 3 years of language study (traditional method up until now).

    1. If I were taking a Chinese class, I would probably want my teacher to use nouns that would help me in the classroom and on the street (car, money, teacher, pen, etc).

      I also think that the literacy part of it would be super helpful. I feel like there would be so many characters to learn, and getting familiar with a few high-utility words would be useful!

  7. Love this method! But, question… how do you flex for classes?
    Period 1. I have 36 students and use all my cards.
    Period 2. Say I have 22 students, and hand our 22 cards and they are seated all over the classroom, rather than in a group? Some students might even be alone in the back of the class?

  8. I love this idea for our short week this week. Have you made these in French yet or have you posted an editable template to change the language?

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