Let’s talk about why teachers are investing in flexible seating! What’s all the buzz about?
Research shows that our brains form maps from the body’s “relationship scenery”. That means that changing a learner’s position in the room throughout the day can provide more unique “learning addresses”, which can contribute to better recall of learning. Further, engaging students in a variety of learning postures throughout the school day also leads to less stress on the body and lessens fatigue. Flexible seating can also create a more welcoming, calm classroom environment and foster peer communication and collaboration. All of this can lead to better learning outcomes for our kids!
So, how can we make flexible seating successful in our classrooms?
Introduce Options Gradually and Set Clear Expectations
Giving too many seating options all at once can be a lot for students to take in and remember! Introduce flexible seating options slowly, and go over specific expectations for safe and appropriate use. You may want to create a class book or anchor chart for students to reference. Hold students to those expectations consistently and wait until they are ready before making more options available.
Make the Seating Match the Task
Remember that your students still need to be able to clearly see and hear you and each other during whole group lessons and plan your seating accordingly. In my classroom, the back half of the room has flexible seating options, but the front half still has pairs of traditional desks facing my projector screen and a carpet area. We start out most lessons at desks or on the carpet and transition to the flexible seating options for partner work, group work, and independent practice times. If you are going all-in on flexible seating, try sitting in each spot in the classroom and note what and where you can and cannot see well.
Help Students Develop Strategies for Fair Sharing
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With choice comes responsibility and sometimes disagreements. Before introducing flexible seating, be sure students have learned strategies to work out seating issues without interrupting your teaching or their workflow. This is a great topic to sit down and have a class meeting about! Hear the “what ifs” and ask your students to come up with solutions. Act out common seating problems and solving them appropriately. Talk about the feelings they might have when they want the same seat as a friend but only one is available, appropriate ways to express themselves, and fair ways to share. (My kids were big fans of using 10-minute sand timers.)
As an added bonus, you are teaching your students important life skills for working out disagreement, coping with disappointment, and accepting that things might not always go their way. You may want to create an anchor chart with their ideas and post it in the room for easy reference.
Don’t Break the Bank!
You don’t have to spend a lot to make flexible seating work in your classroom. If you get creative you can repurpose what you have. My students love having the option to work on our classroom rug with clipboards or using a lap desk. I was also able to cover the top of a bookshelf I already had in my classroom with contact paper to create designated standing desk spaces. I lowered one of my preexisting classroom tables and added some inexpensive, fun cushions for seating as well. My only flexible seating splurge was on a handful of yoga ball chairs.
I’ve seen colleagues use gardening kneeling pads, yoga mats, vinyl seating spots, and bath mats to define floor space as flexible seating space as well. I love that these options are both affordable and easy to store! If your classroom space is on the smaller side, you know this is key!
You might find additional flexible seating options in garage sales or at thrift stores. Ask your friends and family too. They might have great flexible seating items sitting unused in their attics or basements and be glad to have you take them off their hands! (Think bean bag chairs, cushions, small tables, and stools.) If your dream flexible seating items are costly, Donor’s Choose can help donors who want to help make your flexible seating dreams come true to find your classroom and contribute.
Take Your Time, Reflect, and Adapt
You don’t have to go all-in on flexible seating on day one. A few small additions to your classroom can make a big difference! Start small and observe your students. You’ll learn what works best for your teaching style and their learning as you go. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to make a change. Revisit and revise your classroom expectations for flexible seating and which options are available to your students as you need to.
Lastly, don’t forget to ask your students where they learn best! You can find a free editable Google Form here to help students to reflect on your classroom’s flexible seating options and share their thoughts with you.
As always, thanks so much for reading along. I’d love to hear your flexible seating tips and tricks in the comments!