Classroom Management Classroom Set Up Differentiation Professional Learning Universal Design for Learning

Flexible Seating: What Do I Do With the Stuff?

Flexible SeatingFlexible seating is all the rage these days. Finding information on different seating arrangements and types of furniture is easy.  But how do you keep students and their many belongings organized?

We’ve used flexible seating in upper elementary classes for the past six years. Our students are taught from the first day how to properly choose a seat, work where it suits them best and how to stay organized so their stuff isn’t all up in our stuff.

Read a previous post about the types of furniture we use in our classroom.  Here’s what we do with all the stuff.

Handing Things In
How do you want to take in assignments? Everything goes in one Hand-In Bin. Each subject area also has a bin. We keep these bins on a shelf. When we need to grade the assignments, they are already sorted in a portable bin.

Pencil Cases-Not Boxes
Where do you want to keep pencils? Students have two cloth pencil cases. One for their writing tools such as pencils, pens, scissors, glue and erasers and the other for their colouring gear. Cloth cases make far less noise when students dig through them or are dropped. They are portable and small enough to be stored easily.

Books, Assignments and General Stuff
Where will students keep their personal items? Each student has a bin. Students choose a place to keep their bin on one of the shelves in the room. Bins are labelled with the students’ names and they can be interchanged around the room as needed. There is enough room to keep the current things they are working on, their pencil cases, library books and other odds and ends. Bins are too small for those students that hoard paper to keep all that paper, so they generally stay clean.

What else? Our students also use a binder for Language Arts which contains everything they need for reading and writing assignments. These are stored on a shelf together. Binders are generally used to store reference materials and organize completed assignments in our classroom.

Oddly Shaped Weird Stuff
What else? Occasionally you’ll be working on a project that just doesn’t fit. This happens. We have a flattened cardboard box which has been taped into a folder shape so students can place larger pieces of paper in it.  We tuck this behind a shelf so it doesn’t get bent or stepped on.  We also use the window ledge, tops of shelves and any other odd spot we can find when we are working on odd shaped items. Sometimes we’ll temporarily designate a table top as  storage overflow space. We keep art projects in a larger bin which just gets tucked on a shelf in our storage closet while we aren’t working on them. We take a lot of photos and videos of student projects and then SEND THEM HOME!

Handing Things Out
What else? Our students hand out everything that doesn’t have marks or personal comments on them. They have learned to hand things out quickly regardless of where everyone is seated. Sometimes materials are placed in a central location and students pick up their own supplies.

Less Stuff
What if you don’t have enough room? To make room for all the stuff that needs to be on shelves, we made room by packing up some of our unused stuff. We rotate out our classroom library, so only a few shelves are dedicated to books at a time. Only materials for the current units are in the classroom. The rest is carefully stored in our storage closet and at home. We keep all the extra supplies for students in boxes tucked away so there is never too much stuff accessible. Less stuff to manage=less mess.

Have you tried flexible seating in your class yet? What are your challenges? How can we help? Let us know in the comments below.

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Flexible Seating

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  • Reply
    Lori Ekena
    March 17, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    I have been doing flexible seating since January, but honestly the mess during the day is about to drive me over the edge! It looks great at the beginning and end of the day. We use small baskets for their small things like pencils, pens, etc. But honestly papers are everywhere throughout the day-I also feel behavior has gone down hill. The rules haven’t changed and believe me I have had the “flexible seating does not mean flexible behavior” talk more than once. They love the choice of chairs and comfy spots and I manage that by having a host let four students at a time choose their seat. Any suggestions on management of the chaos?!

    • Reply
      March 19, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks for your comment Lori! The mess and chaos can be a problem. I might do a “reset.” I’m not sure what grade you’re teaching, but we have a combination of fours and fives in our room at different times of the day. When it starts to slide, we “reset.” This basically means we take away all the flexibility and slowly start putting pieces of it back in for short periods of time until we can do it right. So, for example, we might say we’re going to try doing our silent reading in a flexible seating spot for 15 minutes. Before we start we go over the expectations-sitting alone, being quiet, reading and picking up after ourselves. We tell everyone they have 30 seconds to be ready (even using a timer on the projector board sometimes). When the timer goes off we reset it for the fifteen minutes. During that time, I move through through room observing, checking and generally “marshalling.” If we have any unexpected behaviors, we start all over. I pause the timer and the reading and we talk about what the expectations are again. The first time it might take several restarts, but they will get it if you are consistent and they realize there aren’t going to be any other options for what they are doing and when they are doing it. When we get to the end of the fifteen minutes I remind students about how to return anything they’ve used and give them 1-2 minutes to put everything away, return furniture or their supplies and then be ready to listen. After we’re settled we talk about what worked well and what we could do to improve the transitions. Our classroom is very big on a sense of agency-we all take care of it together. I never pick up papers or books or supplies, but instead invite students to help take care of things. Of course, when you catch any student doing things right make a HUGE deal of how they are being a great role model. At first (usually a week or a little more) it’s tiring and repetitive, but the time up front in demanding certain behaviors is worth it. And we need refreshers from time to time, so we just have a reset. The amount of time needed often improves. It can be such a worthwhile venture to move into flexible seating, but it can also be exhausting up front. Feel free to come back with more questions. We’d love to help you through this process. 🙂

  • Reply
    The Flexible Seating Mindset – Ninja Notes
    September 25, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    […] but it’s not necessary. Check out this post for more detail on our seating options or this post on how we manage all the […]

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