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Functional, Flexible Classroom Seating Options

By Lindsey Petlak on November 6, 2015
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Whether your classroom is big or small, and no matter what grade you teach, seating and student space is always an important factor to classroom management and student success. I remember growing up and sitting in perfectly straight rows that were never rearranged. I also remember many different arrangements I’ve tried over the years in school buildings big and small, old and new, and with all grades kindergarten through fourth.

Through those trials and errors and successes and failures, I’ve come to learn something: flexible seating options are lifesavers. Students learn differently and have different bodily-spatial and kinesthetic needs. Classrooms have to use common spaces for a variety of purposes, and students listen, learn, and perform work in many different ways. Combining my own experiences with research-based best practices and advice from fellow Top Teaching bloggers, I now implement several different forms of open seating for my students throughout the day. These may not all work for your classroom and student body. They may not all fit into your teaching style. That’s okay. These are just suggestions that have been successful for me, and I hope you are able to take away at least one new option to potentially try in your own classroom.

 


 

Group Seating

I’ve talked about our executive functioning group tables in both my executive functioning blog post and my "5 Classroom Items I’m Glad I Ditched" post. For numerous research-based reasons, and for a variety of purposes in the classroom, we have common area group seating tables. Our hexagon tables may even be split in half for other group work seating options. Students now use the tables more as collaboration spaces, or for work other than typical seatwork. Because the tables split apart and are fairly lightweight, it's easy to move and try new classroom arrangements based on student need or ideas throughout the school year. To learn more about classroom setup, read Kriscia Cabral's posts about setting up your classroom with your students in mind and flexible, open seating plans.


 

Individual Carpet Squares:

My fourth graders need (and have earned) a bit more freedom with their space during group and independent centers time, so, I've taken out the centrally located huge rug and have single industrial carpet squares (from my local dollar store) that students make use of during group time or any other floor time during the day. These really define personal space, are much easier to clean, and can be put away and stored easily and instantly to clear the high traffic areas. Students may use one square to sit upright and work, place two together to lay down and read, or two side-by-side to partner read or work with a buddy. The best part is, if one snags or gets disgusting, it’s one square that needs to be cleaned, thrown away, or replaced, instead of the entire carpet.

 

Cozy Reading Chairs

I’ve tried to make my entire classroom, and specifically library reading sections, homier. I had a couple of old IKEA chairs that I used to have in my home office. While they aren't in perfect condition, they are definitely functional. I decided to bring them into the classroom to create a cozy reading nook. We also have a built-in bench area in the entrance pathway to our room. Kids love sitting there to read and work. It's a cozy little nook for them with a bit of privacy.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much the kids love these spaces, use them for independent reading time, and cherish the opportunity to use them for seating. It has been a great way to reuse these chairs and give them new life!


 

Lap Desks

I put inexpensive plastic lap desks on my classroom wish list this year. They have been SUCH an asset to center work, partner reading, and much more. For under $7 each (regularly $6.99, but watch for 50 percent off and/or coupons for a better deal), 10 students can now be around my room, with lap workspace and caddies on the side of the desk for work materials. They are portable, lightweight, easy to clean and store. I would HIGHLY recommend slowly building up a stash of these for your room, no matter the grade or size of your classroom!

 

Small Group U-Shaped Table and Perimeter Tables

We use my U-shaped table for its typical purpose: small group instruction. However, I also have noticed students flocking to sit at this space during times that are not small group, teacher-led instruction. Students choose this space when they need some extra space and/or quiet area to work. We similarly have smaller tables around the room, available for workstation use and/or private learning spaces. It is great to see different areas and pieces of furniture take on multiple functions throughout the day. Students taking ownership over moving to one of these spaces in order to work best is so important and impactful.

 

Reading Tent

This year I really hit the jackpot with this dream wish list item that would have normally been a HUGE splurge I could not have afforded. The stars aligned, and in the end, I only ended up spending about $20 of my own money (60 percent off, plus an unused gift card, and PTO staff gift certificate) for this very special reading/reward tent that seats up to four fourth graders comfortably and matches my retro road trip theme perfectly! Students may earn a seat in the retro road trip camper to read, complete group work, or other activity based on great behavior, displaying quality of character, reaching new reading goals, and/or other academic achievements.

I'm very pleased to be able to offer you this special treat from the Scholastic Store. Use the promo code in the coupon for holiday shopping or to bring in something for your classroom. I hope you enjoyed reading my post, and please enjoy this savings!


What flexible seating options to you have in your room? Do you find they facilitate better engagement and learning? I'd love to hear from you and learn more!  Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

Comments (5)

How do you do testing with flexible seating? If I get rid of all of my desks (which I want to do) I am not sure how I would maintain the testing environment. What about state testing?

Thanks for the many great ideas with whys and how-tos! We're all looking for ways to keep re-inventing our learning spaces to meet the needs of our students. You've given us many ways to get started!

It says that she got it from the scholastic store. :)

Where did you purchase this tent ?

Where did you purchase this tent ?

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