Thursday, May 19, 2016

Flexible Seating

Without fail, every year that I have been teaching, I decide to try something new in April/May. It's always been something I've been looking into all year and am ready to bite the bullet and just try. I think it's because I am confident my current class can handle it, I've done all the research I can, and I want to test it out before a new school year.

This year: flexible seating. It's all the rage in education right now. The idea is no longer do you assign a kid to a desk or a table with other kids (which they will moan about and beg you to change). You also offer many styles of seating for the students to choose from.

You, as an adult go to Starbucks and pick between the comfy chairs, the small table, the large communal table, or even the high bar where you can stand or sit on a stool. So, why can't a child make a choice for where they want to work? Where they will work best? Won't they do better work if they are in control and comfortable?
I've always been flexible when it comes to work times. They knew they could use the rug, but when they had an assigned chair it was "their spot" and they often stuck to it. So mid-April I threw out the name tags, we had a class meeting and I told them the new plan. They were THRILLED and instantly showed me how well they can handle it. I bought some new options and got rid of some chairs. There are now a variety of seating options that suit all types of learners.

A little peak at our options:
I got these awesome scoop chairs at Kmart. Kids love using them now with clipboards. They fit a third grader perfectly (truth be told, I fit in them too - but not my taste - see choice!). I have tons of pillows and my old couch cushions too. Some kids work best when cozy and comfortable!

I also got a few sensory cushions, kids love sitting on them on the rug or on a chair. I set the expectations of no sharp objects and no feet on them and they are respecting them!
The big purchase for this overhaul was my hokki stools. The best wobble stool on the market, even though it's pricey, it's worth it! They naturally wobble as the kids move on them and they provide the movement some kids need to focus. One kid, who can be very hyperactive is so zen when using them! I can't wait to get 2 more for next year. I personally LOVE these for myself, too! (for my 3rd graders I ordered the 15" stools, which are perfect) 
The last big element was making 4 milk crate stools. I had seen this on pinterest and knew flexible seating called for these! It's plywood cut to fit (take the crates to Home Depot and they cut them to fit!), 3 inch high density foam, and then fabric wrapped around and staple gunned on. Super easy to make and a huge hit!
Overall, it's been an amazing rollout of this stucture. The kids get right to work; they choose a smart spot in the room and are happy and working. Sure there can be chatting since they choose who they work near, but we talked about "smart choices" and they know a teacher can move them if they aren't making a smart choice.

My basic ground rules are: get to work quickly, do your 3rd grade best quality work, be flexible and fair, and respect the seating options.

I found, it worked best to give everyone a chance to try something, that way there was less arguing and rushing for something. Also, once they had all tried it, they knew if it worked for them and the novelty wore off. There is very little bickering, very little miss use of seats, and 100% buy in from them!

Too often, in education, teachers don't give kiddos enough trust or enough choice. I feel like I have empowered my kiddos to make choices and be independent learners. A skill that will for sure be with them forever.

I plan on honing it more over the summer, the main goal - fewer chairs and more options!

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18 thoughts on the matter:

Kirsi Gembus said... {Reply}

I good Idea the flexible chairs, for german schools too!
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Carol Blackburn said... {Reply}

Wonderful! Love the flexible seating. In our grammar school my grandson was allowed to stand at his desk if he was tired of sitting. It was better than nothing but of course, as he got taller, he stopped standing because he stood out more. You've done a wonderful thing for your students.

Heather{Our Life In a Click} said... {Reply}

This is so fabulous! I really love this idea and see how it could benefit both the students and the teacher. Those stools are so cool. You are such a wonderful teacher!

Anonymous said... {Reply}

Can I be your student? :)

Dara @ Not In Jersey said... {Reply}

I'm pretty sure Zachary would love the wobbly chairs! He'd probably fall off a few times though!

Jill Foley said... {Reply}

I really love this...I've noticed that my girls choose different places to work based on their mood.

Gina Kleinworth said... {Reply}

Cool- good to try out at the end of the year so you know what you want to bring back for next year!

Kim Cunningham said... {Reply}

I love that you had a briefing. I think doing that takes away the need to fight for seats. I love that you are instilling the concept of trust. That you trust them to be responsible, to consider others' needs, to consider their own learning needs, and to evaluate the options. Good job, teach!

T. Robinson said... {Reply}

Love your ideas! I have flexible seating in my classroom too, just not as pretty as yours! ha! I have collected rolly chairs, tall stools, short stools, regular chairs, ball chairs. The kids select as they want a new chair. It's fun to to think outside of the box!

abrianna said... {Reply}

I was wondering how on earth sitting on plastic rates would be comfortable but when I saw you cushioned them, it made more sense. No back support though for most of the chairs which would not be good for me personally.

Had to laugh when you laid down the rules cause in co op,we had the opposite problem-had to tell elementary that we don't lie on the floor like we can at home. Our classrooms are too small for that and it would be a dangerous to lie down in class like we do at home.

Clairejustine oxox said... {Reply}

These flexible seats look like fun for the children :)

Patti Groetsema said... {Reply}

I so want to do this in my computer lab - but I want stand up tables with the swing bar for their feet.
I put 2 excercise balls in my room this year & they love the, especially those who can't normally sit still. It's amazing how it changes their whole demeanor.
Color me jealous girl - love this idea!!

Chere Mama said... {Reply}

Great idea! Your students look very comfy doing their work in their respective choices!

Kelly Kardos said... {Reply}

Wow!!!! I'm super impressed! How nice that your admin-is cool with this-I could never imagine this in LA schools-but yeah you! The best we can do for the wiggly kids is let them stand if they need to and do their work. Love the options-and 3rd graders are pretty mellow so I can totally see this working with them.

Cullen Hartley said... {Reply}

If this increases student learning, I can see the potential. However, what happens when the novelty wears off, you happen to have a really large class, or students begin arguing over their seats? Do students start to feel entitled to this class structure?

rebecca haegele said... {Reply}

Wow, great idea.

T'lia said... {Reply}

This looks like such a great idea!! Glad that it has worked so well!

Jeritta Gilbert said... {Reply}

I am beginning this year. What grade level are the students pictured?