Flexible Seating is not Just an Exercise Ball.
What do you think when you hear “flexible seating”? Surely, like all of us, you think about many different types of seats. Different highs, floor seating, exercise balls, wobbly stools, standing workspaces, rugs, and pillows. Definitely, no assigned seats.
So, when we decide to make ‘the’ move, we get all the desks out of our classrooms, we go into GoFoundMe and create this project to purchase new and creative seating options, or if you are like me, expend the summer cutting, sawing, painting…. I will show you the directions to create the bucket stools in a future post. But, what happens next?
The furniture type, and the arrangement of such furniture, in a “flexible seating classroom” is just the background for some different approaches to the teaching and learning adventure.
Flexible seating creates the opportunity for grouping and regrouping of the students throughout the day based on what we expect to accomplish. Flexible seating is conducive to differentiated learning. Flexible seating sets the stage for lots of different learning happening at the same time. Flexible seating gives our students the opportunity to get out of their seats and move without breaking the rules!
I must confess, it takes more planning. It also takes setting the expectations and training the students to follow them. It requires trust and well-set routines. It takes a lot of other things that I am trying to still figure out in a classroom with twenty-five students of all academic levels and two teachers. It was much easier in a self-contained classroom with twelve students or so!
But, because sharing helps to learn, here are some of the things I had figured out to this point:
- You will need well defined and practical spaces for each student to keep their personal belongings. Students that had not experienced this type of setting tend to keep everything they own on top of the tables, or in the floors. This makes the moving around very difficult. You will need to teach the students to have out only what they are using at that time and to take everything with them if they move to a different workspace. This year we tried magazine holders for the children’s notebooks and folders. They are ok, but not ideal.
- If the students are not used to the flexible seating, assign spaces to different activities to facilitate the movement. You can have an independent reading area, a group project table, a notes taking desk, a teacher lead group table, etc. Our students, in general, have chosen a table they like, and they go back to it day after day. They still have the mindset of one seat being “my seat.”
- Remember, this is not an arrangement that facilitates whole group lecture and notes taking from the whiteboard. Although you can always work with a small group in this fashion.
- Less is more. Be sure to leave plenty of space for students to move around without interfering with those students that are working.
I am hopeful we will learn more tricks and will continue perfecting this concept. For now… I am enjoying the process. Share your ideas with me, let’s talk shop!
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