Well, it has been almost a full school year with flexible seating and wow, what a difference!
As with anything I have made changes and tweaked things along the way to make the seating work best for our classroom. It has been interesting to see what seats students gravitate toward, and how different seats are popular for different activities.
Here are a few things I have learned using flexible seating this year.
- I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE having different options for students. More options for seating means more happy students. I truly believe students are better able to focus and get to work when they are able to pick where and what kind of seat to use.
- Sometimes seats are used in ways I hadn’t thought of before. When I first got green adjustable floor seats from DonorsChoose, I placed them around a lowered table and assumed that is where they would stay. In my mind, I had a Pinterest worthy classroom set up, with designated sections around the room with seats that belonged to that space. After being more flexible (pun intended) about where seats were used, our green and purple adjustable floor seats have become the “it” chair for math on the carpet. Silly me. I figured since there was already a carpet, there was no need to have seats used there. Wrong. Students teach you something every day.
- Just because you set up the room a certain way doesn’t mean you have to wait until the next year to change it. About halfway through the year I was ready to lose my mind. My cute Marimekko for Target tent was constantly in the way. Our low bench was not the center material holder as I had envisioned, but instead a black hole for photocopied papers. And the low table tucked in the corner of the room with floor seating was being underused. It took my aide, Nancy, to look at me one day and say, “Why don’t we just move some things around?” Wait? You can do that in the middle of the year? You mean, I don’t have to come in each day and wish my classroom looked different? I can actually move the furniture? Duh! It took someone else to say it, for me to give myself permission to say, this isn’t working, but I can change it! And change it we did. We now have a room that feels more open with a better use of space and seating. I have noticed an increased use of some of the seating options as a result, win!
- Too many chairs is not a good thing. Each student has their own desk and regular chair. Flexible seating options are located in the center of the room at a common table. When you want to use a flexible seating option (wiggle stool or yoga ball) at your desk, all you need to do is swap your regular seat for the flexible option. Well, this doesn’t exactly happen. Despite my best efforts marking the ground with x’s so students know right where to put the chairs, it doesn’t always happen. Instead unused chairs are put next to desks, haphazardly left to the side, leaving me to find where to place them. Honestly, it makes getting around the room a bit of a nightmare sometimes. So, although I was told not to get rid of the sturdy, “good” chairs in my room, I think that is just what I am going to do. Especially with the addition of more yoga balls (thanks Auntie Gail!) we need to make a change. Eliminating extraneous seats will make a big difference.
- Setting exceptions for seating was a must! We spent quite a bit of time at the beginning of the year going over each type of seat, how to use it appropriately, and trying out different seats to find what would work best for students. Taking the time to go over these ground rules set the tone for the year that I believe has made using flexible seating so successful.
Overall, I am in LOVE with flexible seating. So much so, I have continued to buy more seating options as I have come across them throughout the year. In addition to the DonorsChoose seats (wiggle stools and green floor seats, both of which are HUGE hits in my classroom) I have bought an additional four purple adjustable floor seats, two little pink stools, a tall “teacher” spiny stool, and my Aunt Gail got me some more yoga balls. Flexible seating has been wonderful for my students, and I can’t imagine teaching any other way. For students who find it hard to sit still, they can wiggle while they work. If they want to change locations and take a break from their desk, they can grab a bean bag or floor seat and cozy up to learn. Need a hard surface to write on? No problem! Students can grab a seat and a tray and get to work.
Flexible seating options have provided students with the power of choice. It has not only transformed the physical space in my classroom, but the way I teach and the atmosphere for learning. There is no need to have everyone sitting at their desk to learn. Students are empowered to choose a space best for them to learn. Providing seating options for students has made this school year one of the best ones yet!