Flexible seating-it’s all over social media right now. It’s strange to us that it’s so popular right now as we’ve been doing it in our classroom for over ten years, but there is definitely a trend that doesn’t mesh with our philosophy of flexible seating.
There is a trend that flexible seating is all about cool chairs, cushions and kitchen tables spread throughout classrooms. Don’t get us wrong-that looks great, but flexible seating isn’t about the seating-it’s about being flexible.
This is where it falls off the rails in many classrooms.
Let’s debunk some myths and get you set straight.
Flexible seating is a mindset-not an opportunity for shopping!
First of all, flexible seating is a mindset-not an opportunity for shopping.
To date we have spent $0 on the flexible seating arrangements in our classroom out of our own pockets and our school has spent about $500 per classroom buying Hokki stools. The stools follow the students throughout their elementary careers or until they are too big for the size.
So please! Stop spending all your hard earned money!
We’re not saying you’re wrong for wanting your classroom to be a beautiful place to work and learn, 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 stuff.
Flexible Seating Requires Strong Classroom Management
If you can’t control your students while they’re sitting right in front of you, flexible seating is going to be a nightmare. You can to have clear rules and expectations and then you have to stick to them. If you don’t, your seating options will be destroyed and you’ll be left frustrated.
We wrote an entire post about Everything You Need to Know About Flexible Seating which will have you assess your own feelings to decide if flexible seating is the right move for you and your students (and spoiler alert-it’s not for everyone).
We also have another post about The Reasons Your Classroom Management Isn’t Working and How to Fix It just in case your classroom management needs a bit of work.
Flexible seating is about giving your students choice.
We have taught our students that flexible seating is about finding a place to work independently and efficiently. As adults we know what works or doesn’t work for us. It’s important for students to explore options so they can work at their best.
For some students they need less or more control over the options. Students don’t learn to use flexible seating options suddenly and immediately. It is a process-a process we TEACH our students.
During the first weeks of school, students have opportunities to try out a variety of options. These options include sitting in a desk that’s within a group, sitting in a desk that’s alone, sitting at a table, or sitting on the floor with a clipboard (some of our clipboards are literally cardboard with an alligator clip).
Students have to justify their favourite choice and we reserve the right to move them if it’s not a good fit.
We also allow students to use standard desks. About half of our students prefer having a desk with their own belongings in it. The other half prefer tables and using storage bins. Some years we have more desks and other years with have more tables. It is based on the students and it varies from year to year.
As the year continues, we introduce other options-sitting at the table in the hallway to work alone, sitting in the stairwell nearby alone, going to the library work space or using the quiet space in our storage closet. Students learn that instructional time seating and work time seating varies depending on the activity.
We encourage our students to advocate for their learning by making a good choice about where they sit. We also implement a three strikes rule. If work is not getting done to our standards, then the specific seating choice is no longer offered.
We created an anchor chart with our students as we were developing independence. It takes our students about a month until they understand how it works (but then we get the rest of the year for free!). There will always be students who try to put one over on us, but when students are held accountable for their work, they tend to make good choices.
The best way to see if flexible seating will work for you classroom is to give it a try. Choose a simple task for students to complete. Explain that students can sit anywhere they like in the classroom, but they have to work quietly (or at your acceptable noise level) and the work has to be done in a specified time.
If they can do that, there may be more opportunities. Test this out several times and build an anchor chart with your class about the good and bad of flexible seating. Ask students to come up with seating options. Many of our students end up bringing simple seating options from home (footstools, cushions, mats and a box-a story for another time).
Flexible Seating is For Your Students (You Don’t Have to Be Comfortable in the Chairs)
Over the years I’ve heard teachers complain about chairs or cushions and say they’re too uncomfortable. Well, unless they are sitting in them while they teach, I’m not sure why they are allowing their opinion to determine whether or not flexible seating will work.
This attitude usually has nothing to do with the chairs. A teacher who assumes that flexible seating doesn’t or can’t work because students should be sitting in desks with a seating plan are never going to be successful with flexible seating. They don’t have an open mindset to allow it to work.
We mentioned before that there is a flexible seating mindset. You are either open to the option or not-that is your mindset. If you don’t have the mindset to try it, explore it and give it an honest try, then your students won’t benefit-and it’s better to know this BEFORE you spend any money on the seating options.
We have a checklist you can use to think about flexible seating and how it might work for you. You can find it in our Resource Library or we can email it to you. We’ve found answering the questions we created help teacher decide what or how can work.
So are you ready to give it a try? Don’t let cost be a reason not to. Share your experiences with flexible seating in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.