Benefits of Assigning Random Seats in the Classroom

I used to spend hours overthinking my seating charts. Should I group by ability, common interests, or behavior? Would Susie work well with Johnnie?  After years of creating dreaded seating charts, I have embraced random seats. I found that by giving visibly random seats there are more benefits than I ever imagined.

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Why Give Random Seats

Giving random assigned seats in the classroom goes against everything I thought to be true about best practices in the classroom. However, I am all in with trying to build a thinking classroom in my Algebra 2 and Statistics classes.

About a year ago, I purchased the book Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K–12  by Peter Liljedahl. I slowly started implementing his suggestions in my classroom and saw immediate change in their thinking. I liked it so much that I implemented it on day one the new school year. 

Giving students assigned seats on the first day of school is something I have done for years. When I first started teaching, I did it for me so I could learn names, but the longer I have taught I do it for the students.

I know what you might be thinking––my students hate assigned seats. That is true that SOME students are confident and have friends in class, but so many students are nervous and do not like to make the decision on who to sit by on the first day of school.

By giving assigned seats on the first day of school, I watch the anxiety lift off of students and most give a sigh of relief.
I rarely have someone complain!

This year, I changed their seats everyday for two weeks so they could meet everyone in class. It was random everyday and I actually found that I learned names quicker when I had to search for their faces everyday. I call that a win-win!!

How to Give Random Seats

Depending on your classes and how many you have, some of these random group assignments work better than others. I have six classes throughout the day and each class has a different number of students ranging from 19 – 31 students. This makes it challenging to use some of these methods when I want either an even number of groups or a certain number of students in a group.

Use a random group generator APP

I recently learned about and I LOVE it! I cannot brag about it enough. It has a grouping feature on it and it is very easy to use. You can store up to three classes for the free version, but the annual subscription is totally worth it if you have to save more than 3 classes. The settings allow you to specify which students should never be in a group together *wow*!!

If you are on a budget and have several classes, you can also use for random groups and random name caller. It can group students according to the number of groups I want or the number of students in a group.

I have it bookmarked in my Chrome browser for each class so I can easily rearrange groups whenever I want to. Go to and look for Random Name Picker. Check out the demo and click on instructions when you are ready to create your own.

Regardless of what app you use, students need to know it is random. To assure students it is truly random, I have the first student who arrives to class pick a number 1-10 and I click the shuffle button that many times before I have them sit in their groups. 

Students must know the groups are random or they will start analyzing the groups to determine their role and why they are in that particular group. 

 Use a deck of cards to randomly assign groups

letters, deck, cards-5427745.jpg

You can also use a deck of cards to randomly assign students to groups based on either suit or number.

Given all of my classes have a different number of students, I keep a deck of cards for each class so I don’t have to sort and count between classes. This is a fun way for students to find new groups. Several of my colleagues love to group students using cards.

Use popsicle sticks with numbers on them to assign groups


I used to use popsicle sticks often to randomly assign students to a desk. I laminated numbers and taped them to each desk.  Then students drew a numbered the popsicle stick as they walked into the classroom. and put them in a cup. This worked well, but make sure you collect the popsicle sticks or students might color on them and {accidentally} break them. 

If you have your desks numbered, you can use those numbers to assign computers, calculators, or use a phone caddy to store cell phones that corresponds to their desk number.

Random seating chart in high school

How do you group students? Is it random? What method is your favorite? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below and share! 

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