If you are anything like me, you have probably heard buzzwords like “flexible seating” or “alternative seating” and thought it was an interesting concept, but wondered how you could make it work in your classroom.
Remeber to think outside the box. When you are at garage sales, resale shops, or looking online, ask yourself “What could I do with this in my classroom?”
I became really interested in this idea last summer. A year ago, I was in a serious car accident which caused me to be paralyzed from the waist down briefly and also caused a mild traumatic brain injury. I was out of the classroom from the end of January until the beginning of August. During that time, I received hours upon hours of rehab in various forms.
As I was recovering, I became very interested in brain research. I wanted to learn as much as I could about my brain as possible, and, in the process, discovered a great deal about brain development in children. It was fascinating. It made me decide that I wanted to look further into flexible seating and see how I could make it work in my classroom. It has definitely been a process of trial and error and will probably need to be modified for every group that I work with in the future.
Here’s my experience with flexible seating:
As I did my research, I found that there are endless possibilities to choose from. Some teachers tried it and quit before the end of the year, some modified it as they went, and others just added elements of it into their room but kept a pretty traditional setup. I chose to implement it from the beginning of the year.
The first thing I tried was purchasing different types of tables and seating. I had:
- a retro looking metal and formica table,
- a rectangle wooden table,
- a round oak table,
- a barber chair,
- a tall white table with no chairs,
- a standing desk with a swing bar for feet,
- three bungee chairs,
- bean bags,
- and a few individual desks.
I also purchased some little lap trays that could be used individually and lots of clipboards. For seating, there were yoga balls and regular chairs. Students could also sit on the floor.
I did not like the look of the different tables and how they fit in my room. I found 5 round tables in our storage area looked all the same, and decided to use them. I removed the bottom part of the legs on one of the tables, which allowed kids to sit on foam pads (I used foam pool floats).
I allowed the kids to choose where they sat every day and they could switch seats if they wanted to throughout the day. For some kids this was great and it worked so well with them, but for a few students it was just a bit too much. In hindsight, because I was just returning from an extended leave, I should have implemented the seating choices just a few at a time. Having all of the choices available right away was a bit much for a few of my kids that really need structure, and that made the whole thing difficult.
Since, I have modified the setup a bit. I still have groupings of tables and chairs, standing desks, and individual desks. I use the behavior grade from the previous week to determine the order in which kids can choose their seat, and they can stay in that seat for the whole week. The only exception is the standing desk which no one is assigned to for the week, and anyone can use for a bit if they need a break from sitting. I use therabands on the bottoms of the chairs so the kids can sway their feet to “fidget”. If students did not earn a grade above my cutoff score, I choose their seat for the following week.
In the future, I think I will have a very similar setup to what I had at the beginning, but I think I will introduce the choice part slowly, and get to know each individual class before jumping in. Overall, I am happy that we have been trying this new format!
Here’s some tips if you want to try it in your class:
- Think outside the box. When you are at garage sales, resale shops, or looking
- online, ask yourself “What could I do with this in my classroom?”
- Make sure your administration is onboard with your changes.
- Start slowly. Maybe implement one element now and another in a few months.
- Be willing to tweak it as you go.
- Think about your expectations and be proactive in recognizing what trouble spots you can prevent.
- Ask for help when and if you need it.
- Remember this will be a work in progress for awhile! That is totally ok!And you? How do you foster thinking outside the box in your class?