Flexible Seating Implementation

For the past two years I worked with teachers who had flexible seating. I loved going in their classrooms because the atmosphere felt different. There was a different energy. The students took so much ownership of the classroom and their space. 

When I made the choice to go back into the classroom, I couldn’t imagine not doing flexible seating. Flexible seating aligns with my educational mission statement and values. I am a big advocate for student-led everything and students taking ownership. Why not give them ownership of where they sit and what they sit on?

With that being said, I don’t think flexible seating is for everyone and that is okay. There are a plethora of articles that support how flexible seating can impact student achievement but it certainly is NOT the only way to impact student achievement. I believe teachers and students can still be successful with desks and chairs, it is more about a mindset. Edtopia has a wonderful article that talks about research findings with flexible seating and the pedagogy that goes along with it. It states:

"So will lugging new furniture into your room improve student outcomes? Do Hokki stools and throw pillows drive up test scores?

The answer is no.
Barrett thinks it’s the old dictum that form follows function at work: Flexible classrooms are successful because they go hand in hand with a change in pedagogy. That conclusion never fails to emerge in teacher-led discussions on Edutopia. Flexible spaces, educators agree, alter the fundamental dynamics of teaching and learning, giving students more control and responsibility, improving academic engagement, and undermining the typical face-forward orientation of the traditional learning environment."
I had a pretty strong why behind diving into flexible seating. I was and am committed! But trying something new always has growing pains along with a series of trials and errors. Here are some problems I've hard and some are problems I'm still working through:

Pencils/Pencil Pouches
The first week, pencils were everywhere. EVERYWHERE! On the floor, in their bins, scattered on tables, and in the table caddies. It drove me crazy!

We did have a procedure. The two sharpened pencils each child ensures they have each morning, which I refer to as their wild animals, are supposed to go in their pencil pouch, or cage. 

Since we had table caddies on each desk, we were setting up notebooks and needed access to glue, scissors, and crayons easily, students also put their pencils in here. It wasn’t a big deal except they forgot whose pencil was whose and where they put their pencil. At the end of the day I’m pretty sure each child ended up with 5+ pencils.

Well.. I took the table caddies off the tables and put them in their permeant home. When we need them, they get them then they go back to their home. That helped the pencils not ending up in the table caddies.

What has also helped fix this problem is rewarding students who have their two pencils in their pencil pouch at the end of the day. 

This problem has gotten significantly better. A lot of students don't put their pencils in the pouches and just leave them in their book bins. That isn't a battle I'm going to fight since the pencils aren't on the floor and they are easily accessible in the bin. I’ll take that over pencils crammed in backs of desks!

When can they choose their seat?
My students can choose a new seat everyday and even move throughout the day. They don't have assigned seats. This creates the question of when should they choose their new seat? Each afternoon? Or in the morning?

I tried both but in the mornings works best. As students come in, they choose their seat for the day. It has encouraged students to come to school earlier. 

I don’t think this is the fairest because some students can’t help if their parents drop them off late. However, students change seats all throughout the day so they do have plenty of opportunities to seat where they’d like. 

One students, who usually comes right when the bell rings, came extra early to sit on our huge bouncy ball but it was already taken. She was a little annoyed but I told her to explain the situation to the student who already claimed that seat and see if he’ll let you sit there. She did and he let her. Win-win. That student who gave it up is the first one to my class everyday so he choose that seat the following day. While it might not be fair, that is how the real world works right? First come, first serve to seats at meetings.

Book Bins/Drawers
My students have a book bin and a drawer on a rainbow cart. We keep reading/writing supplies in the book bin and math/science supplies in the drawers. 

The first week of school, students forgot nonstop where things were. I would ask them to get their math notebooks and many of them forgot where to find it. I thought that would be the case all year but now that problem has since disappeared. 

However, the drawers are annoying when the entire class needs to get their math or science supplies. A line forms and it just isn’t as fast as the bins. I don’t have a solution to this problem. Bigger drawers (like this) instead that can hold multiple student’s stuff perhaps and one child can go get the supplies and pass it out? I think that would take the same amount of time though and then each child wouldn’t have their own space. 

I love the book bins so much that drawers don’t compare. I don’t have the space though to get more bins for math/science. It isn't a significant problem, just an annoyance. 

Yoga Balls: Seats not Toys
My students LOVE sitting on the yoga balls. They also really love bouncing on the yoga balls. How much is too much bouncing? It is a hard thing to measure. 

I personally can't bounce and focus. So it’s hard for me to be okay for students to bounce and work. Small bounces are okay but sometimes students like to aggressively bounce. We have talked about how this isn’t okay because it can be distracting to others. 

I love having the yoga balls as a seating option and I see the benifits they have on my students. I have one boy who always has to be moving, these are perfect for him! He bounces and works with no problem. But some students don’t want to work so they bounce. It’s a weird battle. It’s one I’m still navigating.

I don’t think this should deter people from taking the plung. But if bouncing will bother you then proceed with caution!

So much choice, So much movement, So much indecisiveness 
With a lot of options, it makes decision making harder.

The first day we did read to self and I told my students they could sit wherever they’d like. They could use the scoop chairs, lap desks, wobble disks, etc. Ya’ll.. I don’t think they knew what to do with themselves! It was like taking them to a candy story and giving them free rein. Multiple students hopped from one seating choice to another because they wanted to try them all out. We had the conversation to stay in one spot unless that spot is hindering you from doing your best. That helped but really they were just excited! Now that it has been two weeks, they are more decisive and they stay in their spots focusing for 30 minutes! I was prepared to build our stamina and have a chart but these third graders love to read!

Other than these challenges, flexible seating has been going very well. I have only had to move one student from a yoga ball to a chair. He fell off it twice due to not sitting on it correctly. I told him that for his safety, it is best that he sits in a chair the rest of the day and he can try the ball again tomorrow. They have also been doing a great job of sitting next to people they want to sit by but not who they talk to. I am assuming I'll have that problem eventually but so far I have been extremely impressed by their choices!

If you want to learn more about our flexible seating choices you can click here.


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