Thursday, June 9, 2016

Flexible Seating: What I have Learned

 Hello Friends and Happy Thursday! Today I wanted to share some of my thoughts on how flexible seating worked in my classroom this year. I have had so many questions on how it works so I figured it was time to share my honest opinion. ;) 


First let me start by saying that I taught first grade last year. My kiddos moved A LOT so technically they were sitting and moving before the official transition to flexible seating, however I did get rid of all but 8 of my desks. I also noticed that many of my kids were standing and working at their desks often. On to the questions that I have been asked!

Question: What about whole group activities?
Answer: The students sit on their sit spots (See picture below) or they just find a space that works for them. I don't teach a ton of whole group activities, but when I do, they work at a work space that is comfortable for them.  When we have Writer's Workshop, lesson openings or closings, they were all on our sit spots. You can find those here! 

Side Note: These rocker chairs I found at Wal-Mart for four bucks. I bought six of them, I should have bought 15. They are awesome!

                              

Question: Where do you meet with your students?
Answer: At my desk. My desk weirdly had a bar like top on it. (See Below) I bought these stools from Ikea and I could fit up to six kiddos around my desk. We meet here for math groups, guided reading, and writer's workshop conferences. I had a Paraprofessional help once a week and she had a desk. She would often pull kids to the small table in the back if she needed more space. You can find out how I made my crate seats here. 



Question: Did your district purchase items for your flexible seating?
Answer: No. I did a Donor's Choose project for the stability balls and purple seat cushions seen below. Other than those, I bought everything myself. (I donated a lot of the money for the donor's choose project as well. I don't mind starting my project off. It shows other people how much you really want it, and gets more donations in my opinion.)  It may seem like a lot, however I had so many of these items in my room already, I just rearranged them differently.  


Question: Where do the students store their supplies?
Answer: I had community supplies at every table. If the students were working on the floor, they had their own small bag or box of supplies in their book bins. They would bring those with them to the floor.

Side Note: Floor options included pillows, clip boards, scoop rocker chairs, or just sitting on the floor and leaning on something. (see below)


Question: How did you make your standing desks.
Answer: I didnt, I just raised four regular desks to their top height! This would work with most grades. It is also a cheap option. They do move a ton, so you might want to tie them together if that bothers you. The standing desks are great, they just weren't in my budget.


Question: How do you control the chaos?
Answer: I am not going to lie to you, we needed a TON of reminders. We started with an anchor chart with rules. I would do an anchor chart for each type of seating for the small ones. You could also do an alternative seating contract with the older ones. If the students were not following the directions, I had the right to move them to a seat of my choice. (Usually close to me or to one of the four desks that I had left.) After a few weeks, the newness of each type of seating wore off. The ONLY one that didn't was the green chair I had. (see below) I ended up giving the students a QR code in an Easter egg and it allowed them to sit in the green chair all day.  They each had a day in the green chair.


Things that I learned:

* Giving a test was difficult. We used our book bins to shield from others, but it was the hardest part of alternative seating.
* Students that need consistency had trouble with this concept. Often, that one (or two) student/s sat at my desk to work. If you have a student like this, having a place for them to sit every day is a good option. This prevented fits and they knew where they were sitting each day.
* Things get messy FAST. My room was a disaster each and every day. It was much more messy than when I had regular desks. It would be a great job to add to your job list for the students.
* It was hard to manage when other teachers came in to my room. Every teacher has a different teaching style, and we had specials teachers come in our room to teach sometimes. Setting good directions for them while you are out is essential. You have to remember that these teachers are moving in and out of several classrooms and they have a lot of behaviors to remember. Help your friends out!
* People will look at you like you are crazy. There was a mad scramble for my desks when they went out in the hallway. This seating arrangement isn't for everyone and that is OK!



This seating arrangement was tiring but so worth it. My kids loved coming to class each day. They were excited to work at a space that worked for them.  They really did work hard at each and every space. If you have any questions leave a comment below! I would love to answer and add it to the blog post.

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27 comments:

  1. Such a timely post, I've been reading blogs about this all morning. I appreciate your honesty. :)

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    1. I am so glad!!! Thank you for reading!

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  2. Awesome feedback! I'm meeting with a few teachers to collaborate so we can implement this into our classrooms this fall! Question: Did you dive right in in the first day? I was thinking of keeping the traditional desks for a few weeks while we practiced??

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    1. I actually dove in when we came back from Christmas Break! I read up on it all of November and December so I spent the days back jumping into it! My room was so small, so I just had to ditch my desks! I had four standing desks and four sitting desks that I kept. We jumped in with chairs and then I added the stability balls and wobbly seats a month later!

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    2. I actually dove in when we came back from Christmas Break! I read up on it all of November and December so I spent the days back jumping into it! My room was so small, so I just had to ditch my desks! I had four standing desks and four sitting desks that I kept. We jumped in with chairs and then I added the stability balls and wobbly seats a month later!

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  3. Awesome feedback! I'm meeting with a few teachers to collaborate so we can implement this into our classrooms this fall! Question: Did you dive right in in the first day? I was thinking of keeping the traditional desks for a few weeks while we practiced??

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  4. I'm starting this in my 5th grade classroom this year. I removed all desks and have a variety of seating options. I found bed risers for $5 at Big Lots which I used to raise a round table for students who like to stand and work. I'm nervous and excited. Thanks for the great info.

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    1. I think fifth graders will LOVE it! Good luck to you!

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    2. I started the year off last year in my 5th grade class with the flexible seating. I had them fill out a survey as to where they thought they would enjoy working the most- desk or different places in the room on bean bags, comfy chairs, pillows, tables, etc. All of my students except 1 were so excited! About a month later, I had most students asking for a desk back! I was surprised, but let them have the desks back. I am thinking that maybe in 5th grade they like their own spots and they are bigger so they don't like to sit on the floor as much. I am going to try it again this year as well just to see what happens with a new group! :)

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    3. That is really interesting Lisa! I've seen a few middle grades classrooms use things like tall tables and couches. That is very possible that the floor is uncomfortable for them. I am curious to see how it goes this year for you!

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  5. I'm thinking about doing this in my second-grade classroom, but what about when it's time for everyone to break out the anthologies or journals or practice books or math workbooks or anything that they would normally keep in their desks? Do they each have boxes on a shelf somewhere with all of their stuff? Any tips are appreciated.

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    1. Hey Tracy! We didn't actually have anthologies or workbooks, but the students kept their ELA and Math journals, and their TREAT binders (binders they take home everyday) in crates in the back of the room. They each had a book bin where they kept their books and supplies and they took that to their work space. Those were kept on a shelf. We did a LOT of grouping in my district so I had guided reading, writer's workshop and math groups most of the day. Even during WW they all sat all over the floor or the tables. I hope this helps!

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  6. Are you continuing on with this for this coming school year? How are you planning on implementing it for the new group of students if your class is already set up in this way?

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    1. I would have continued this next year but I moved to a school closer to my house! My original plan was to have everyone come in the first day of school, get their book bins and put their supplies away. Flexible seating would have been the first set of rules and everyone would try out the different types of seats. (probably with rotating centers- to keep me sane) Since I am at a new school, I will be back to desks BUT I am hoping eventually my new admin will see the benefits and let me dive in again!

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  7. What if everyone wants the same seats? Do they switch around or have to take turns?

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    1. That only happened with one seat! Since there was only one of that seat, we just rotated days. They always sat on the carpet, so I would dismiss by quiet students (Which was a lifesaver because they would actually hush) So essentially, they would sit everywhere at different parts of the day. I always told them they could sit on the exercise balls for one lesson during the day and that helped.

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  8. Thanks for sharing! I am considering trying flexible seating this year. I love the scoop rockers. Some of the reviews online say that they are small and wouldn't work for older kids. I teach 4th grade...do you think my kids would be able to fit in them?

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    1. I don't think your fourth graders would fit :( I am a little worried about my upcoming second graders! I WISH they would make bigger ones! I feel like small fourth graders would be fine, but those few that are tall or bigger wouldn't. It would be so awesome if they would make bigger ones! I would buy them in a heartbeat!

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    2. Thanks! I'm glad I asked before buying them!

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  9. I bought scoop chairs at IKEA and they are larger. Though not as cheap as Wal-Mart. I think I paid $10!

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    1. I need those!!! Thanks for the info!

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  10. I had a kid pop a yoga ball with a pencil today. Both of my Jesus's were sitting on the balls. They're so popular that I have to have a rotating schedule. Both said that the other one did it. It's more important to me that they're honest so I'm going to drag this out until guilt gets someone to admit it. In the mean time, neither may sit on the ball. It'll be a good lesson for everyone else in the class. P.S. I ordered more from Allegromedical.com and hope they are high quality. I'll let you know. Other than that, after FOUR days of school, I think the flexible seating is going to work out. Someone said don't give up at least for two weeks...maybe it was this blog, but I'm going to stick it out. I like it better, aesthetically, for sure. Every who walks into my room comments on the openness and calmness. It's true. It's also so interesting to see who gravitates toward each other and how well they work, and even chat amongst themselves, as they're getting their work done. I feel that they're getting to know each other better as they do their work and chat.

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    1. Oh my! Let me know about the ones you ordered! I hope it does work out for you. I am back in desks this year because I am at a new school. I am going to slowlyyyyyyy pull everything out until I'm back! haha :) I am ready to be back to an open classroom. I loved your comment, and I am so happy it is going well for you!

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  11. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I am seven weeks into doing this with my 7th grade social studies students. You are right, it is controlled chaos and not for everyone. However, for 7th graders this is working wonderfully. My biggest challenge has been those students who struggle to stay on task in any type of seat. Like you, sometimes they just have to spend some time sitting near me and away from friends. I am lucky to have an administrator who supports my efforts, and the parents have also been supportive. Thanks again for sharing and thank you for working so hard for your students.

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  12. I was subbing in a room of 3rd graders that did this. She had a few tables that were actually lowered too so they could sit on the ground with big floor pillows and a couch in the back by her library. I could tell she really took the time to go over the daily routines with this seating plan. None of them fought for a spot and were motivated to work all day. Would love to try this when I have a classroom of my own! For testing, perhaps have them sit arms length away from someone if they are on the floor? Still am not sure how that would play out.

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  13. I was subbing in a room of 3rd graders that did this. She had a few tables that were actually lowered too so they could sit on the ground with big floor pillows and a couch in the back by her library. I could tell she really took the time to go over the daily routines with this seating plan. None of them fought for a spot and were motivated to work all day. Would love to try this when I have a classroom of my own! For testing, perhaps have them sit arms length away from someone if they are on the floor? Still am not sure how that would play out.

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  14. Erin,

    Love your blog and the things you have shared about flexible seating! I am hoping to try this next year in my classroom. I teach 4th grade. Couple questions, when you do whole group instruction for example a math lesson do they always sit at their sit spot then? How do you have them rotate to use the different seating options during the day? Do you have a chart or how do they know? When they enter the classroom after a special where do they go? To their sit spot? Usually they would go to their desk, correct? What about standardized testing for your district did they still move around the room?

    Thanks!

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