How To Best Implement Flexible Seating

How To Best Implement Flexible Seating by A Word On Third

So, you're thinking of jumping on the Flexible Seating bandwagon, are you?? I highly recommend it. I've been teaching this way for a few years, and it makes a huge difference! This year, I even tried out getting rid of tons of desks, and the results are even greater.

First of all, if you're wondering what flexible seating is, check out Kayla Delzer's amazing Edutopia article and read Angie Olson's awesome, practical post to learn more. Reading about how these two gals launched seating in their rooms took away a lot of headaches for me.

When I started designing a room with flexible seating, I still had assigned desks in my room. However, during work periods, students still had other options they could use if they didn't want to sit at their desks. I wrote a post about my 3 favorite affordable flexible seating options that I think you should check out first if you are intrigued by flexible seating, but a little intimidated about starting from scratch. You can click the picture below to be taken to that post!

Deciding to start gradually was a good fit for me because I didn't have tons of money to shell out on every new seating option I saw. Instead, I was resourceful and worked with what I had. And... if I'm being COMPLETELY honest... flexible seating was a little bit intimidating to me! I knew I loved the idea of it, but I thought it would be a whole lot of work. I thought it would be really difficult to start designing my room this way and changing around all of my routines. In hindsight, I can tell you that it's not, but that doesn't mean you'll feel any differently! With all of the demands of teaching on my plate, I wanted to make sure I could really do this well. Now that I have less desks than students, I decided to store supplies like notebooks and folders in designated bins around the room. Supplies like markers and pencils are communal and in caddies around the room.

I recommend that you start by getting more seating options than students. If you have 25 students and 25 desks, see if you can find a few stools for cheap at Target, Dollar Tree, or Five Below. Get a few bathmats for kids to sit on. Perhaps you want to purchase some yoga balls at Walmart (Mine were only $11!)... start small! More options than students means that kids get to pick where they really want to be more easily, and it will diminish the opportunity for seating disagreements. Once you have some extra seats (and I hope you used the very inexpensive or FREE ones in my post above!!) you're ready to try this in your room.

I suggest you begin implementing this by teaching the kids how to sit in each option. I recommend trying interactive modeling for this. If you're thinking, "WHAT!? They know how to sit! That's ridiculous," then I beg you to reconsider. Yoga balls can pop, and kids can slide off of them. Kids can fall if they rock back on a stool. For this reason, I do not provide all of my seating options the first day of school. I provide ones that are safe and familiar (like regular chairs or crate seats) until I can teach about the other seats.

Next, it's time for setting explicit expectations. I used a few ideas from Kayla Delzer and Angie Olson to create my own flexible seating guidelines. You can see them below. I kept a small number of rules for my seating guidelines, and made sure to word them positively (for example, I said, "I will move immediately," instead of "I will not argue if my teacher moves me.") for maximum impact. Once you've decided on your  non-negotiable rules, talk with your students about them.

How To Best Implement Flexible Seating by A Word On Third

Go through each rule one by one. What does it mean to choose a seating option where you work your best? Can a student work their best in one seat for one subject and a different seat during a different subject? Can a student work better in different seats depending on their mood. As you go through each rule, ask students what questions they have. I find the simple act of changing "Are there any questions?" into, "What questions do you have?" makes a big difference! Once everything has been discussed, have the kids sign their names to agree to the rules. This will be posted year-round to help special area teachers and substitute teachers as they come into my room to teach. I also include information about this in my sub plans.

Tell the students it's their job to try the different seats out. I tell kids that they need to experiment with every single seat as much as they can for the first week. Even if they think they don't want to sit in a certain seat, they need to try it out and figure out what they don't like about it. I don't have a checklist of enforcing this, and I don't think you need one. If they don't try out a seat, I know they can go back to it later on if they want to.

In the first days of introducing flexible seating, I make sure to be very consistent with moving kids who are doing more talking than working. It's really important to be consistent with this, and to move kids AS SOON AS you start to see this undesired behavior. Waiting for it to get worse will teach kids that you're flexible when it comes to enforcing the rules.

You might find that your students ask you if they are allowed to sit in a certain type of seat at first. Some of the kids are going to be looking for extra validation and reassurance, that, YES, it really is their choice where they sit. That's OK. Just remind them. After a few days, if it still persists, turn the question back on them and ask them if they can really sit in the place they're asking about.

I'm 6 days into school already, and I am shocked at how much calmer my classroom has become in comparison to previous years. This is my first time having no assigned seats or desks, but as I said before, I still allowed my students to work wherever they wanted in the past. Still, the difference is huge. I have quickly found that providing my students with flexible seating allows them to self-assess and think about their needs before they even start working. I will never go back to traditional seating again!

One last thing I want to point out is that flexible seating does not mean there are no conventional tables/desks and chairs. That defeats the purpose of flexible seating. Some students need those, so I still provide those!

What are you wondering about flexible seating? Where are you on the flexible seating spectrum? Comment below!

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