Have you heard of flexible seating? Many teachers are transforming their classrooms in an effort to make their learning spaces more student-centered. When I started posting to Instagram and Facebook about my class moving to flexible seating, I was flooded with all kinds of questions from curious and intrigued classroom teachers. I have compiled all of these questions along with answers from myself. I hope that these help you out if you are wanting to learn more about flexible seating!
How did you introduce flexible seating to your students?
I decided to implement flexible seating after coming back from winter break. I spent a lot of time researching and thinking about this process. I wrote down specific things that I wanted to make sure I
explained and demonstrated to my students. i.e. how to sit on the stability/yoga balls, what to do if you wanted to move spots in the middle of an activity, etc. Everything that I could think of as being a potential issue had a plan and response. It is crucial to set up rules/procedures/norms for your students before they begin. I made an anchor chart with the most important rules and for the first week of implementing flexible seating, we revisited this anchor chart every morning. It is also important to stick to these rules, be firm, be fair, and be consistent. The kids need to feel that it is a privilege to have this type of set up and they need to know that you mean business.
Did you have any challenges with students choosing to sit next to their friends and getting distracted?
The benefits far outweigh the challenges when it comes to students sitting next to their friends. Going back to my rule from the anchor chart…”Mrs. Olson has the right to move anyone at any time.” My students enjoy having the opportunity to sit next to a friend but also realize that there are no warnings involved. If they aren’t working, I get to move them. It has an interesting way of being its own built-in incentive program.
Did you encourage the class to try out each seating option before setting them completely free to choose or did you just set the expectations and then you let them choose?
When introducing my students to flexible seating, I encouraged them to try out each spot within the first week. I stress the importance of self awareness. The students are responsible for finding what feels best for them and what kind of seating will make them the best learner that they can be.
Do you have quite a number of workbooks?
No. We do have several notebooks and folders though. These are stored on crate shelving.
Where do you put all of their stuff?
Most of the supplies from their desks went into crate seat shelving. Crayons, scissors, glue, pencils, highlighters, and markers because community supplies. We didn’t start the year with community supplies but the kids don’t seem to mind having to share. My students do have an art box that stores their own personal art supplies needed for art class. These supplies are not shared.
Do you find that it takes time to pass them out and then collect them?
I place a lot of responsibility on my students when it comes to passing out and collecting supplies. This doesn’t seem to be a lengthy process. I actually find that the time spent passing out and collecting notebooks/folders is shorter in comparison to them trying to dig through their unorganized desks to find something they need. Good bye messy desks!
Where did you buy everything that you use for flexible seating?
Round colored tables are from Classroom Direct
Standing desks are from Hertz Furniture
Stability/Yoga balls are from Oriental Trading Company although I have learned recently that they have been discontinued. You can also buy them at Sport Smith.
Colored bath mats are from Target.
Crates are off Amazon. Click below for affiliate link:
Sterilite 16929006 Storage Crate, Black, 6-Pack
Material for crate seat tops are from a local fabric store.
What did you do with the old desks/tables?
The only piece of furniture that we had to get rid of was one of our tables. We were lucky to be able to trade a table for 5 standing desks from one of our fourth grade teachers in our school. I encourage you to think about the teachers you teach with. Do any of them have different seating options than you? Consider approaching them about swapping out some of their seating options with some of yours. It ends up being a win-win situation for both classrooms!
Did your school finance the seating?
My school supplied the tables and desks. I supplied the actual seating options.
Do your kids argue over seating?
The first week of flexible seating was the toughest. The new seating options in my classroom were the most desired because of their novelty. After about a week, my students were choosing seating that worked best for them as a learner. I tell my students that if anyone is fighting over a seat, I get to choose where they sit for that activity. That seems to do the trick. If one area consistently becomes an area that kids argue about, I will put that area in “time out” for a day or two.
How did you introduce this to the parents?
I use the Remind app to communicate with my parents. As soon as we started using flexible seating in our classroom, I started the conversation with them. I have sent my families pictures of the seating in action along with little updates. I encouraged my families to ask their child about how it was going in our classroom. The parents have been very supportive of this new journey.
How do you manage chatty groups?
I am finding that my students are the most quiet that they have been all year. I’d like to think it’s because of two things. 1.) They are working hard and don’t want to be moved due to unnecessary talking with their neighbors. 2.) They are sitting in a place that allows them to focus and work hard on the task at hand. My seating options are spread out all over the room so the kids are not sitting really close to other groups anymore.
What about procedures when you have a sub?
In my sub notes I have a small explanation about the seating. I also have the anchor chart rules hanging up in the classroom. My students know that the sub has the right to move anyone at anytime as well. I have not had a sub in my classroom since starting flexible seating but I will update this section of the blog post as soon as I do!
How do you do testing?
Testing works out great with this type of seating because my students are spread out even more than they were before. We have a crate shelf that stores all of our folders. The kids use these folders as privacy/test folders. We don’t seem to have any issues with testing.
What does the start of the year look like?
Because I started the flexible seating option in the middle of the year, I can’t answer that question quite yet. I will definitely use this same system next year. I do plan to start the year right away with the different options. The key is MODEL, MODEL, MODEL.
Do your kids have a hard time with not having a space to call their own?
So far, my students are loving their seating options and don’t seem to be affected by not having a specific space. If I do have any students that express this to me, I plan to provide them with a desk of their own. Each year is different. Each classroom is different. Each student is different. Bottom line: Students need to be successful in the classroom. If they need their own space then we, as teachers, need to make adjustments and make that happen for them.
Do your students all come in at the same time?
My students come to class at 8:10 every morning. They are responsible for moving their name on the SMART board for attendance purposes, turning in their BEE binder, putting away their reading bag, reading the morning message, and then choosing their spot to sit. I thought it would be a chaotic start to the day as they rushed to find their desired spot to sit but they are spread out pretty evenly. It has also improved their sense of urgency for making it into the classroom on time since they want to choose their first choice of spot to sit for their morning work time. Again, win-win for the teacher to have all her students in the classroom before the bell rings!
Do you have a rotation of seats?
I do not believe in having assigned seats with the flexible seating option because I think it defeats the purpose of the whole concept. It all comes down to choice. That being said, after I deliver a whole group lesson from the carpet, I release them by rows to make a seat choice. If I started the day by allowing the purple row to choose first, they will not be the first row of students to choose the next time.
What has worked well?
Some of my favorite benefits of having flexible seating has been organized supplies, no more lost assignments hiding in desks, no more wasted Fridays spending time to clean out desks, the increased sense of pride and community, and the level of productivity that my students give me. I have seen a decrease in the number of missing or late assignments. I am also seeing more happy and engaged kids!
What has been the most difficult part of transitioning from traditional to flexible?
I think that the hardest part has been me getting over the fear of it not working out. I have a little bit of a Type A personality. I don’t think I’m alone with that one. Right teachers? I worried about the same worries so many of you have expressed to me. It took a few days for me to realize that this was a good decision for our classroom.
Which kinds of seats do you see the kids liking the best?
My students’ favorite spots have been the floor using the bath mats and the table with the stability/yoga balls. I visited with another teacher friend of mine and I asked her this same question. In her classroom, the balls were rarely used and most of her students loved working on the floor with a clip board or at the table with the bath mats. I think it all comes down to the make up of your classroom and students.
Do you have the same number of seats as you have students?
I have 7 extra spots in my classroom. This does not include the clipboard and floor choice because this can be an unlimited number. I think that this point is important to make because if you move a student out of the spot that they are working in, you will need to have another option to place them in. Another reason to have some extra spots is because not all students are going to work well in all of the spots. So, if you have a student, for example, that does not like to work from a standing desk, it would be a shame if this was the only and last available spot to choose to work. I would say that the flexible seating system would be failing that student if this happened.
What if I don’t have a very big classroom?
Although some of my pictures make my classroom appear to be large, it really isn’t. I think that flexible seating has actually provided my classroom with more space because the kids are sitting in groups. When it comes to furniture in my classroom, I have a total of 3 round tables and 5 standing desks. I do plan to pull in a couple of desks to place in quiet corners of the room as another option for those who prefer to work in a quiet place by themselves. There is still quite a bit of room for natural flow of traffic.
What is the least favorite seating option in your classroom?
For the first half of the school year, my students sat on crate seats. This is their least favorite option at the moment (I am 2 weeks in) but I also attribute that to the fact that they have used crate seats all year and the other options are new. Time will tell.
What do the kids have to say about flexible seating?
This was a question that I got within the first couple of days of trying out flexible seating in my classroom so I decided to write down comments (good, bad, and ugly) that were made by my students.
“This is awesome.”
“Mrs. Olson, how did we get so lucky?”
“Does this mean that we won’t ever have assigned seats again? Won’t it get crazy?”
“I like to stand when I work. It’s so much better than sitting all day.”
“Last night I told my mom and dad how cool our classroom is!”
“Can I bring my parents into school to see our classroom?”
“Will my teacher do this with us next year?”
What seating options do you have in your classroom?
So far I have 5 standing desks, 5 stability/yoga balls at a table, 6 rugs at a table, 2 sensory squish cushions (not sure what they’re called!), 3 regular chairs, 6 crate seats at a table, and a class set of clipboards. I plan to submit a request for 6 hokki stools from Donor’s Choose. I am also considering bringing in a couple of desks for my students who prefer to work alone in their own space.
How do you do direct instruction?
The majority of my direct/whole group instruction is done from our carpet. I do give assigned spots on the rug because I prefer to strategically place my students next to a good fit, turn & teach partner. We do a lot of turn and talks.
How can I save money doing this in my classroom?
Have you heard of Donor’s Choose? If you don’t have financial support from your district’s administration nor do you have other classrooms to trade with, I would definitely try out Donor’s Choose. The application process is pretty easy and projects are funded daily!
I would also consider reaching out to your families and local businesses. They may have bean bags, couches, yoga balls, clipboards or maybe even be willing to donate money towards the purchase of these items!
Here are some links to other resources about flexible seating:
Feel free to pin this image to your Pinterest board so you can refer back to this post later too!
If you have any other questions that you don’t see answered in this post, feel free to leave them in the comment section below and I can edit this post to get your question answered!
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