Saturday, August 5, 2017

Flexible Seating or Cute Classroom Design?

Flexible seating is such a hot topic right now. Everyone is looking for things to use in their classrooms to allow for this. As moderator of a few groups on Facebook I am able to see the questions and comments people have about flexible seating, so it really made me think? Is flexible seating being used for its intended purpose or is it just a fancy way of decorating your classroom? Here's my opinion, take it or leave it. I believe that flexible seating, in the truest sense of the word, means that students are allowed the flexibility to find an alternative to a traditional chair that will help them work and learn better. That's it. But many others don't see it that way. So many people are using rotations and sign up sheets to manage theirs, but is that truly flexible seating or is it just alternate seating that looks like flexible seating. Here's the difference: flexible seating should be just that; flexible. A student who needs to work standing up should be given that choice and allowed to do that for as long as the need arises. He shouldn't work standing up on Monday, then to yoga balls on Tuesday, etc... If he truly needs to stand up to work then he should be allowed that choice every day. Alternate seating is just having a variety of seating choices in your room that are not necessarily used for individual student needs. Group A stands on Monday, yoga balls on Tuesday, on the floor on Wednesday, etc... There is no individual need taken into account. I think that in order to call it flexible seating then students should be the ones responsible for the choosing of seats, otherwise its just another group rotation to manage. Like I said, you may choose to disagree, but this is how I see it and how I do it in my room. So, what does it look like in room 8?

Last year, through a generous grant from Donor's Choose, I was able to get several items to begin flexible seating in my classroom. I got 2 flower shaped tables that were low to the floor, 2 stability ball chairs, 3 wobble stools, and some wobble cushions. I added pillows, low stools, high stools, husband reclining pillows, and a standing table to have a space that would meet the needs of all learners. This year I am adding scoop rockers!

Since I got my things after the school year started I was fortunate enough to already have rules and procedures established, which made introducing the seating very easy! I started off by assigning seats. Then I would rotate the students through the tables each day until they had a feel for how each seat worked. Granted, I had 2 students who needed a certain seat so those were assigned by me. Once students figured out which one worked best for them, which was about 2 weeks, I let go of the reigns and gave free choice. It's amazing how they went to the same seat every day. Some worked better on the floor, some did better standing up, and some just preferred a regular old chair. It did not matter to me where they sat as long as they were able to work. For my students who I know need to move, I gave them first choice on the stools and balls so they could try them while working. We had conversations about how they felt, if they thought they worked better while using them, etc... Once we established their seat then it was theirs until it stopped working. I did have to change out a few seats due to behavior, but it really was a pretty easy thing to do. Interestingly enough, I found that only a few students really required a specific seat. To make it truly flexible they chose each day, and most went to the same seat. It was amazing to me how many students preferred a traditional chair. This year I will assign seats from the beginning of the year until rules and procedures are established before giving up the reigns. Then I will use my observations and try to help students find the seat we both think will fit them. Is there really a correct way? Probably not. It's all about what works for you and your class at that moment. Is it fool proof? Nope. Nothing is. There are tweaks that need to be made here and there along the way. Does it work? Absolutely. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that giving more flexibility and choice gave students ownership of themselves and the classroom and reduced our behavior issues drastically! You know, even my kinders are self reliant and love the sense of trust we give them in making their own choices. It makes them feel like they have a voice in the classroom and does wonders for building classroom community. I guess the only question left now is "How are you going to implement it this year?" 

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