Case Study: Preferential Seating

From the files of Pam Hyink

Someone recently said that every child in the classroom could benefit from preferential seating. This might be true, but in our current system of education, we reserve preferential seating as a classroom accommodation for those who stand to benefit from it the most.

JASON: I once gave a teacher the recommendation of trying preferential seating for a student in her class that I was working with. She was very agreeable and said she was familiar with providing preferential seating. A few weeks later, when I asked the teacher how things had worked out for our student, she indicated that she had moved our student to a designated location in her classroom near her desk but she saw very little, if any, change in the student’s academic performance. When I visited the classroom to see if I could determine what might be the problem, I discovered that the child was actually located in the worst location he could be in for his auditory processing needs. Even though our student was seated near her desk, she failed to mention that she tended to do most of her teaching from the blackboard located across the classroom and not the one in the front of the room near her desk. So, consequently, our student was located in a position that allowed for an entire classroom full of distractions to exist between him and the teacher.

Additionally, in putting our student by her desk, she had positioned him where he was constantly being pulled off task by interruptions when other students came up to the teacher’s desk to get questions answered, sharpen their pencils, get a Kleenex, wad up paper and put it in the trash, etc. Because of his auditory processing problems, his auditory system wasn’t able to tell him what distractions to disregard and which ones he should pay attention to. Consequently, he attended to everything in the earlier part of the day but as the day went on he got fatigued with trying to keep track of his surroundings and soon started tuning out everything, including the teacher. Once we worked out what would be the best seating for Jason, his grades started improving within the next two weeks. Jason now successfully works for a top computer company after graduating from college.

TINA: My friend asked me to visit her classroom. She had been given instructions to provide the classroom accommodation of preferential seating for one of her students. The instructions were very general and basically said that she should seat Tina near her at all times. She said the hardest times for Tina were when they had circle time for reading and story time. When I visited the classroom it was easy to see that my friend was doing exactly what she was asked to do. However, when they were doing circle time and Tina was seated next to the teacher that meant that Tina was facing out toward the opposite part of the circle and away from the teacher – just what Tina should not be doing. Once this situation was brought to the attention of the person who provided the preferential seating recommendation, that person was able to revise the recommendation so that the preferential seating recommendation could more clearly and effectively accommodate Tina’s auditory processing needs. Consequently, my teacher friend no longer needed to spend extra time doing one on one instruction with Tina – Tina was able to keep up academically, just like the other kids.