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April 27, 2018

5 Tips for Setting Up A Flexible Seating Classroom

By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    About a year ago, I had a conversation with fellow blogger, Julie Ballew about her post "Let it Go: Increasing Student Choice in the Classroom." The images of her classroom were simply breathtaking. Not just the look of her classroom, but this idea of the kids sitting anywhere they want during instruction. I mean really! Who was she kidding? But as we continued to discuss our classrooms, I realized that maybe I could do the same. Julie laughed at my hesitation and encouraged me to go for it.

    This year presented the perfect combination of teacher flexibility, student curiosity, and the willingness to try just about anything that I threw at my students. So, Julie thank you for being an inspiration because you were right, it is so worth it!

    Getting Started

    September came with the usual procedures of grouping students and assigning seats. There were some minor furniture changes from the year before, but nothing major. We fell into a routine. And then it happened, the first sign I needed to adjust my seating arrangements: I have a student who cannot sit still. He needs to move. I put in place the usual teacher interventions: sending him on errands, assigning him classroom jobs, anything to give him a chance to move.

    The next sign was a student who mentioned that sitting on the carpet squares during our class meeting was a trigger for her asthma. Could she bring a chair to the meeting area? Later, I noticed during book clubs, my students adjusting the furniture for their meetings. The tipping point came when I dropped into a colleague’s room and noticed students sitting on top of the desks and on the floor as well as in seats. I also noticed that all of the students were engaged in the lesson. I knew that it was time to try a change.

    I have never been one to dive right in to something new and this was no exception. I had some idea of what I wanted the class to look like; I wanted to keep some of the structure of the room and maintain order. In order for this to be successful and with minimal confusion, I decided to get input from my students. We came up with a plan of action that included a “soft” opening. This would allow for adjustments if needed. Based upon my experience this year, I now have a game plan of how to roll out flexible seating for next year.

    Rhonda’s Keep It Simple Flexible Seating Plan

    1. Look for creative ways to incorporate seating options.

    Changing your classroom seating does not mean you have to break the bank. I cleaned my house of items not being used (a couple of office chairs, a wooden stool, and a collapsible camping chair). Ask family and friends if they have items to donate. See if any teachers are downsizing — you might find some hidden treasures. If you participate in Scholastic Reading Clubs, use bonus points for seating options.  

    2. Let the room speak to you.

    Think about the space that you have in your classroom. Where can you arrange seating? What stays in the room? You still want for everyone to be able to move freely around the room and not feel like sardines in a can.

    3. Set up guidelines for the privilege of changing seats.

    The opportunity to change seats is earned by the student. If necessary, teacher-assigned seating should be reinstated for those students who can not handle the responsibility or the freedom of being able to change seating. Make sure everyone understands the guidelines and be clear what circumstances will cause them to lose seating privileges.

    4. Start out small.

    One way to introduce flexible seating is to have a designated group for a specific time period. Rotate the students so that everyone has an opportunity to select where they want to learn. Your students' ability to display independence and attention to the instruction will inform you when it is time to fully release the class to select their seating.

    5. Create a seating chart for those times when you are absent.

    Practice this so the students know what to do when a guest teacher is leading the instruction.

     

    Pearls of Wisdom — If you want to try this at the beginning of the school year, use desk tags so that you can quickly learn the names of your students.

    Have you tried flexible seating in your classroom? Do you have any tips to share? I enjoy hearing ideas from you that make all of our lives easier!

     

    About a year ago, I had a conversation with fellow blogger, Julie Ballew about her post "Let it Go: Increasing Student Choice in the Classroom." The images of her classroom were simply breathtaking. Not just the look of her classroom, but this idea of the kids sitting anywhere they want during instruction. I mean really! Who was she kidding? But as we continued to discuss our classrooms, I realized that maybe I could do the same. Julie laughed at my hesitation and encouraged me to go for it.

    This year presented the perfect combination of teacher flexibility, student curiosity, and the willingness to try just about anything that I threw at my students. So, Julie thank you for being an inspiration because you were right, it is so worth it!

    Getting Started

    September came with the usual procedures of grouping students and assigning seats. There were some minor furniture changes from the year before, but nothing major. We fell into a routine. And then it happened, the first sign I needed to adjust my seating arrangements: I have a student who cannot sit still. He needs to move. I put in place the usual teacher interventions: sending him on errands, assigning him classroom jobs, anything to give him a chance to move.

    The next sign was a student who mentioned that sitting on the carpet squares during our class meeting was a trigger for her asthma. Could she bring a chair to the meeting area? Later, I noticed during book clubs, my students adjusting the furniture for their meetings. The tipping point came when I dropped into a colleague’s room and noticed students sitting on top of the desks and on the floor as well as in seats. I also noticed that all of the students were engaged in the lesson. I knew that it was time to try a change.

    I have never been one to dive right in to something new and this was no exception. I had some idea of what I wanted the class to look like; I wanted to keep some of the structure of the room and maintain order. In order for this to be successful and with minimal confusion, I decided to get input from my students. We came up with a plan of action that included a “soft” opening. This would allow for adjustments if needed. Based upon my experience this year, I now have a game plan of how to roll out flexible seating for next year.

    Rhonda’s Keep It Simple Flexible Seating Plan

    1. Look for creative ways to incorporate seating options.

    Changing your classroom seating does not mean you have to break the bank. I cleaned my house of items not being used (a couple of office chairs, a wooden stool, and a collapsible camping chair). Ask family and friends if they have items to donate. See if any teachers are downsizing — you might find some hidden treasures. If you participate in Scholastic Reading Clubs, use bonus points for seating options.  

    2. Let the room speak to you.

    Think about the space that you have in your classroom. Where can you arrange seating? What stays in the room? You still want for everyone to be able to move freely around the room and not feel like sardines in a can.

    3. Set up guidelines for the privilege of changing seats.

    The opportunity to change seats is earned by the student. If necessary, teacher-assigned seating should be reinstated for those students who can not handle the responsibility or the freedom of being able to change seating. Make sure everyone understands the guidelines and be clear what circumstances will cause them to lose seating privileges.

    4. Start out small.

    One way to introduce flexible seating is to have a designated group for a specific time period. Rotate the students so that everyone has an opportunity to select where they want to learn. Your students' ability to display independence and attention to the instruction will inform you when it is time to fully release the class to select their seating.

    5. Create a seating chart for those times when you are absent.

    Practice this so the students know what to do when a guest teacher is leading the instruction.

     

    Pearls of Wisdom — If you want to try this at the beginning of the school year, use desk tags so that you can quickly learn the names of your students.

    Have you tried flexible seating in your classroom? Do you have any tips to share? I enjoy hearing ideas from you that make all of our lives easier!

     

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