Have you heard if it?
Well unless you have been under a rock how could you not see this as a wave that is slowly taking over Pinterest. Everywhere teachers are proclaiming they are using flexible seating. But without repurchasing brand new furniture for your classroom, how can you dip your toe into this idea? Or how can you jump right in?
I have been slowly moving towards flexible seating. It all started with a girl named… well let’s call her ‘Ava.’
Ava was a great student, one of my best. But Ava always stood when she worked. In fact, Ava did her best work while standing at her desk. Now, I could have told her to sit down, the line I had told countless other students throughout my career. But I didn’t. And that changed the game for me.
It was that realization that some kids, even our good kids want flexibility and choice in how they work. Not every student works best sitting in a chair in front of a desk. Well after this experience with Ava, it grew.
I began to let more students sit or stand at their desk while working. Some I let stand at the back counter, others I let sit or lie down on the carpet. I let one student sit under my desk.
With every new “can I work here??” question that I was asked I kept saying yes to most of them. Always with the response “will you work best there?”
And for the most part, they did.
It didn’t take new tables, yoga balls, fancy chairs… all it took was my ability to say yes to alternative workspaces within my classroom. Now jump ahead, and I now have a few alternate spaces for students. A few new chairs and options for seating. I add a few more each year (and take some away if they don’t fit) So let me walk you through what flexible seating looks like in my classroom.
I wanted more alternative spaces for student work. I didn’t need or have extra room for desks. So I swapped the desks for tables.
Tables seat 6 per table group and each person in my room does have a home base. A place to call their own.
I am also not concerned about “seeing the board” from these tables. This means they can be placed anywhere. All of my whole group instruction is done from the carpet in my room, so the layout of tables is less of a concern.
My students eat in my classroom for lunch so since I find it grow to have food on my carpet or other soft furniture. Food is only consumed at tables.
All my tables are the same height.
I am lucky that I have a back counter that is standing height, so I do not need any standing height tables.
I teach 10 – 11-year-olds
Some think that they are too old for the carpet.
But they are not.
If I don’t baby them when they are on the carpet, then they are okay with it. I also am not concerned if they don’t like it. It is expected you join us there for whole group instruction.
The carpet also serves as the main location for flexible seating. Students sit together, share ideas, work, and read in comfort.
It does become the hub of the classroom.
For some students, they like to work in isolation.
For these students providing locations for them to hide is essential. Hiding under a table covered in a tablecloth. Hiding under the teacher’s desk, or making a fort out of finding objects.
All of these easy makeshift ways are options in my room. Options that don’t cost me more than a few dollars for tablecloths and picnic clips.
For these students, you do need to check in on their work completion more than others, and if they take advantage then they lose the privilege (and return to their desk)
Over the years I have collected a few chairs for my room.
I have two ottomans that I picked up at the second-hand store value village. I also picked up some shower curtains and sewed two covers for them. The ottomans don’t match in colour, but they are the same size. When covered the ottoman looks the same. I also threw in a bed bug cover in between the layers and the sheets themselves are removable and washable. I am not great at sewing, but I figured it out.
Then I also picked up two Muskoka chairs at Value Village. I guess someone messed up when trying to put them together because
there were pre-drilled holes in the wrong spots.
But that didn’t matter to me. I grabbed them for $12, and my friend Sarah put them together with me one August. They have stood up well to all of the wear and tear kids can put them through.
Finally, I picked up some kids white plastic outdoor chairs from IKEA.
These chairs are stackable and easy to move around the room.
They wipe easily and are the perfect size for a junior student.
To start flexible seating you need to have rules.
To start, I never start the year with flexible seating open and available. This is something we work our way up to.
We start by talking about the rules
#1 Wherever you sit. You need to work.
We review what this looks like
- Stay in one place
- Avoid distractions
- Work the whole time
We then look at the four different areas in our classroom for flexible seating, we discuss the benefits and negative attributes of each step, and we look at what needs each student has as a learner.
- Is it a quiet workspace
- Are they easily distracted
- Do they work better sitting or standing
We then choose two spots for each student to try out. They then try each place and rotate through the list we made. We evaluate what works and what didn’t. We review the list and make a final one that we use.
However, this isn’t the only way we have organized this.
Other years I have numbered the table groups and simply rotated each group through the flexible areas. Both ways worked for each group of students. Sometimes some rules work better than others. Flexible seating doesn’t have to be fancy. But it is worth it.
Give it a try, dip your toe in!
Let Ava remind you that some students work better with a bit more choice and flexibility. It might even make management in your classroom easier.