Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Flexible Seating 101

In mid September I did a stupid thing.  I removed most of the chairs in my classroom and replaced them with yoga balls.  All 24 seats worth of squeaky, bouncy, blue balls.  I was so excited!

I naively assumed that I was offering flexible seating to everyone. I was not.  I was offering alternative seating, while giving them a chance to sit in a regular chair, if absolutely needed.  Every time students got too close to each other or to the legs of the desk, this horrible squeaking sound pierced the air!  I started to get sea sick when I was looking out at the class as they worked.  Something had to be done!

After having some candid discussions and doing more research on flexible seating arrangements, I changed my way of thinking.  I decided to rearrange my classroom completely.  I had all of these yoga balls, several wobble chairs, and balance pads that were not being used.

I moved my u-shaped table to the middle of my classroom and returned the crate seats to their original location, around the table.  Students now had a choice to sit on the crate seats.

I made a small group of 5 wobble stools and a small group of 2 wobble stools.  I created a table group of 4 chairs with balance pads on them.

I created a group with regular chairs.

I made a set of private islands so students could choose to sit by themselves.


I also made two standing desks.  These were made out of our regular desks and bed risers.  I happened to have two tall stools students can use at these desks.

My new rules are that you come in my classroom and make the best choice of a seat for you that day. There are 29 choices of seats to use (24 desks and 5 spots at the table).  If you have sat at a certain spot once, move and let others have a chance to sit there.  If nobody wants it, you are welcome to have it back.  Once you choose a spot, you are there for the rest of the block.  No seat hopping.  If you make the choice to sit with your friends and talk, there is no warning or arguing.  I will move you immediately.

I teach STEM (Science and Social Studies) to three blocks of students each day.  This means that I have 3 sets of up to 24 students that come in, choose a seat and get started with their block.  So far, this arrangement has worked with every single class, every single time.  I have had to move a few students here and there, but all in all, it is the best choice I have made for my kids.  They choose where they feel like they need to sit that day and really don't take advantage of it.

When we have group work, the students go sit around on the floor, choose an area to sit and work together, or stand together near the standing desks.  It really doesn't phase them.

In the future, I would love to add some bean bag seats and other seating options away from desks.

What can you do to create alternative seating?  Find different ways to create more choices of stools, seats, and locations than you have students.  Let them have free choice of where to sit and what to sit on.  Empower them!

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