Random Seating Chart w/Excel

I’ve had some requests from the #MTBoS community to talk about my Random Seat Generator I’m using this year.  Here ya go:

Here are how the desks in my room are arranged:


We have these triangle desks because we’re recently a 1:1 school and they leave room for a laptop at the “peak” of the desk and a book in front.  They also make it easy to arrange in groups of 2 or 3.  I really like them.

I almost never do seating charts for crowd control reasons.  But last year, students defaulted into their own fairly permanent seating arrangements.  It didn’t turn into a discipline issue but it did turn into an equity issue (uneven dispersal of interests and proclivities around the room).   This year I wanted to force them into alternate seating arrangements but not have a traditional seating chart in each class.

I have placed numbered stickers on the top corner of each of my desks (found the stickers at Michael’s for really cheap):


I’ve entered all of my class rosters in Excel.  I’m using the same Excel file, but adding my classes along the bottom in tabs (we have a color coding system, and I have a co-teacher in my Yellow period):

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 7.19.40 PM

For this blog post I’ve created a Sample Class so I don’t broadcast my students’ names to the entire planet.


I have columns for each of the following categories:
Desk /  Student Name / Random Number / Plickers Card (note that if you don’t use Plickers you can use any piece of information you want included with the students’ names)

The Excel formula =rand()  generates a random number between 0 and 1.  This goes in the Random # tab for every student.  I then highlight the last three columns (Name, Random # and Plickers Card), go the Data tab, press Sort, then arrange by Column C (the Random #) column in order.  This arranges them in the previous random #’s order and also randomizes the number again.  So every time it is re-sorted, it also re-randomizes the number for next time.  Take a look and see:


After a week of school students are in the habit of looking at my board whenever they enter the room and see where they are supposed to be sitting.  I have had almost no complaints — plenty of days they get to sit with friends and they realize that if they’re not thrilled with their seating arrangement on Tuesday, Wednesday is certain to be different.

Again, this is not for crowd control measures.  This is so students can be exposed to all manner of opinions and abilities in mathematics and get the widest range of possible viewpoints as we work together throughout the year.

Notice my desk numbers (left column):

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 7.19.33 PM

My desks are all in groups of 3 except for a single group of 2 (desk numbers 13 and 14).  In this class of 15 students, I just choose the 5 groups of 3 desks.  I have other classes of 16, where I include desks 13, 14, 15, and 16 for two groups of two.

I have a colleague who doesn’t have a projector, or doesn’t want to use her projector for the seating chart at the start of every class.  Her students are now used to walking past her desk to look at her laptop screen on the way in.  You don’t have to project the Excel file.

Whaddya think?  Comment below if you’d like to ask a question or give feedback!!



2 thoughts on “Random Seating Chart w/Excel

  1. Dave Sabol

    I have a similar thing going, but I have them in groups of 4 desks and a separate tab roster that populates the chart. When the roster shuffles, they get populated in the groups differently. I guess the difference is that they are a part of that group of desks, they can sit where ever they want from day to day (and I encourage changing day to day to change perspective).

    1. jbezaire Post author

      Dave, I like that idea. I teach 7th grade and that might prove to be too many moving parts for a typical 12-year old? I might give that a shot, have the set groups of 3 a week or so at a time but let them allow their particular group of three to decide where/how to sit. Thanks for the idea — will let you know if I get brave enough to try it 🙂


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