Monday, June 11, 2018

Ten Things You Should Know About Flexible Seating

 Hey Friends!

I have been seeing a lot of questions on social media asking how to implement FLEXIBLE SEATING! Have you been wondering whether to jump on the bandwagon and give it a try in your classroom?  Well I'm here to tell you that I tried it last year and I liked it!  But I did learn a few things along the way, so here are ...


1. What is flexible seating?

Flexible seating is an alternative approach to seating in the traditional classroom.  It basically means that your students have different options when it comes to seating.  No more conventional rows of desks or even tables.  Flexible seating gives students the opportunity to station themselves in a place where they work the best.  Maybe that's sitting with a group of people....maybe it's sitting alone.  Maybe it's sitting at a traditional desk....maybe it's sitting on the floor or a wobble stool.  That's the thing about flexible seating - sometimes referred to as alternative seating - it's ever changing.

2. Is it expensive?  

Not at all!  You don't have to go out and spend a ton of money buying all new seating and tables for your classroom!  I implemented flexible seating for the first time this year and I spent very little money to do it. can buy wobble stools and make crate chairs and buy yoga balls if you want to, but you would be surprised how many things you already have in your classroom and home that you can use for flexible seating.  I made the decision this year that I wanted to try this, but I didn't feel like breaking the bank to do it.  So I did what every other teacher does....I started looking through my stash.  (You know you have one too.....we are teachers.....we never throw anything away!) I discovered two little red stools, an old red table that could seat two, I dragged  a couple of desks out of the storage room and hit up garage sales.  My friend Michelle ❤️gave me an adorable purple table...I cut down the legs and voila, I had a perfect table for floor seating. In total, I probably spent about $40 (2 yoga balls from Five Below, 4 cushions, a chair and tiny table from a garage sale).

3. How do I introduce Flexible Seating?

I decided that my firsties needed a "home base" on the first day of school.  I wanted to explain how flexible seating worked and not have chaos from day one! I made name tags and laid them around on different tables in the classroom for the first day.  That was the only day my kids had assigned seats the rest of the year.  After everyone had arrived, we met at the carpet and I set my expectations for flexible seating right away.  I explained to them that they would be able to choose a different seat each day and that every one would get a chance to sit at the cool yoga balls, stools and tiny tables.  I explained to them that if they didn't get the seat they wanted, it was ok because they would have another chance.  

 Normally, I make all my anchor charts WITH my students....but this time I decided that I would make the rules for flexible seating.  I wanted them to know that, although they had choices every day, I was ultimately the one in control.  They knew that if they made poor choices~ Ms. Schwab had the right to move anyone at any time for any reason.

We also had a pocket chart with all the flexible seating options in the chart.  In the morning, each student would place their name next to the seating option that they chose for the day.  At the end of the day we met together at the carpet to discuss where each child sat.  I asked questions like "Did you like your seat today?  Why?  Why not?  Did you feel like it was a good place for you to learn?  Did it help you pay better attention or not?" Each day the kids would choose a new place to sit, until they had tried out all the seats.  After that, we stopped meeting and discussing it.  They just simply came in and chose a seat for the day.  

4. Did the students fight over where to sit?

Nope....they really didn't.  I told them that they must choose a new seat every day until they had tried out all the different options.  They could not go back to the yoga balls day after day. (You KNOW they were going to try to do that!) Some days they would sit with several friends, some days they would sit with one friend and some days they would be sitting alone. As the year progressed, kids sat with different people every day.  They made friends with EVERYONE  in the classroom.  Sitting with different kids each day really kept the "cliques" from forming and for the most part, everyone got along very well.  

5. Some kids sat alone? Didn't they feel punished or isolated?

I wanted to offer lots of different options when I decided to go with flexible seating.  I wanted my firsties to have the option to sit in a group, with a friend or alone.  I wondered how kids would feel about sitting alone.  Would they feel sad or isolated?  In the past, usually only kids who had misbehaved had to sit alone, so would they feel punished sitting by themselves?  On the contrary!  I soon found out that many children preferred to sit by themselves! My students trickle into the classroom, in the morning, for about 30 minutes. They don't all walk in at the same time.  I was surprised to see students actually choosing to sit at one of the tables by themselves when they walked in.  Not all students.....but many.  They just picked different spots every day.  Often the yoga balls or cool stools would be available....and yet students would choose a desk or table alone.  I guess we all need our space now and then, right?

6. What kind of seating did you have?

My idea of flexible seating wasn't only "wobble stools, yoga balls, crate seats, carpet squares, etc".  In my mind, I wanted the kids to have OPTIONS of where they would sit. I wanted them to all have some kind of base everyday that had a table of some sort.  I really didn't want them sprawled out all over the floor......I knew my control issues wouldn't be happy with that (although there were many times that they did do projects on the floor).  I got rid of three tables (4 seaters) from my room and a bunch of chairs.  In replace of that I had several single desks with normal chairs, two tables of four with both chairs and stools, a low table for sitting on the floor, a couple of tables for two with yoga balls and regular chairs, a small table for one on it's own carpet for sitting on the floor.  So, everyone had a spot every day with a table.  BUT...they also had the option of moving to the carpet and using a clip board, sitting in lots of other spots (bean bags, mini couch and comfy chairs) for independent reading and other work. 

7. Where did they keep their "stuff"?

This was a dilemma for me at first.  I was used to my firsties having seat sacks on the back of their chairs to hold all their books, etc.  I also used to have totes on the top of the tables with their scissors, glue, crayons, etc.  None of that was going to work with flexible seating.  So I changed it up! (I had to learn to be flexible too!) I used a small shelf to hold all of their books, notebooks, interactive notebooks, etc. I had the kids use plastic supply boxes to store their personal supplies like crayons, pencils, scissors, etc.  Every night we stacked the supply boxes on my guided reading table and they would pick them up when they came in the next morning and take it to their new seat for the day.  It worked great for us! You can sort of see the shelf behind these two firsties....books stacked neatly.  

8. What did the parents think?

I honestly never had one parent complain or say much of anything.  We have "Meet The Teacher" night before school begins and so everyone had a chance to see the room and I explained to them how flexible seating would work in our classroom.  I also put a letter to the parents explaining every thing to them in the children's back to school folder. Everyone seemed to think it was pretty cool....and that was the end of it.  If you don't have some kind of meet and greet before school, I would suggest sending home a letter to parents explaining what you will be doing, the rules, etc.  Here is a copy of the letter that I gave to the parents:

9. What did your administration think...what about the other teachers?  

They all thought I was CRAZY!!  LOL.....  Well, sort of. I was the only teacher in my building who had implemented flexible seating, so it was new to everyone.  I had a lot of teachers coming to my room at the beginning of the year to check out the set up and seriously thought I had lost my mind.  BUT....they were also intrigued.  They basically said "You be the guinea pig and let us know how it works out...then maybe I'll try it."  As the year progressed, I had nothing but good things to say about it and some others added some wobble stools and yoga balls to their classrooms.  I'm not sure if anyone will go "full force" flexible seating besides me next year.....can't wait till September to find out!

10. I'm still not sure....convince me!

Believe me when I tell you, this was not an easy decision for me!  First of all, taking those tables out of my room and putting them in storage gave me heart palpitations!  I put big signs on them that said "Property of Room 12 ~ DO  NOT  TAKE!" If your school is anything like mine....once it leaves your room, you KNOW somebody is going to snatch it up.  I thought "Oh my gosh...what if I hate this and my tables are gone???" But I took a leap of faith and went for it.  And I'm so glad it did.  

My kiddos that needed to move around (you know the ones that you are always telling to sit down and stop wiggling???) picked the perfect spot for them.  A place where they could move and not be a distraction to the class.  My quiet students who liked to have some alone time were able to find that in our classroom this year.  My firsties made LOTS of friends....not just the few who sat beside them at the same table every day.  We learned how to wait our turn and be cooperative with each other.  We learned that it was ok if we had to wait another day for the yoga ball chairs....because another friend was waiting for them at a table for two.  We learned how to be responsible for our own materials. How to put things away on the correct shelf so we could find it the next day.  In all, it was a great experience.  I'm excited to hit up the garage sales again this summer to see what other great seating options I may find!  So why not give it a chance? What do you have to lose....other than maybe a table or two??

So are you ready to get started with flexible seating yourself?  Here's the perfect start up set to help you out!  This huge FLEXIBLE SEATING BUNDLE includes a Choice Board (pictured above)  to help your students pick their seat for the day, a Parent Letter to explain the exciting news about flexible seating to families, a Rules Chart, and a Student Log to keep track of their choices at the beginning of the year.  You can take a better look at this set here.