You, as an adult, go to Starbucks and pick between the comfy chairs, the small table, the large communal table, or even the high bar where you can stand or sit on a stool. So, why can’t a child make a choice for where they want to work? Where they will work best? Won’t they do better work if they are in control and comfortable?
The key words are: INDEPENDENCE and CHOICE
That is my theory behind transitioning my classroom from a room where students were each assigned a seat to a classroom with flexible seating. No longer do I assign spots (which students will inevitably moan about and beg you to change!). Instead, I offer many styles of seating for the students to choose from.
I’ve always been flexible when it comes to seating, letting my students change things up as they wanted. But oftentimes I found that, when my students had an assigned chair in the beginning of the year, it quickly became “their spot” and they stuck to it. So I’ve thrown out the name tags and given my class the power to make their own choices about where they’d like to work.
My basic ground rules are:
- Get to work quickly
- Do your best quality work
- Be flexible and fair, and
- Respect the seating options
When it comes to seating, I’ve found that it works best to give everyone a chance to try things out. This helps them learn what seating choices work for them. There is very little bickering, very little misuse of seats, and 100% buy in from them!
I try to have a variety of options that serve different purposes and meet different learners’ needs:
- For students who prefer to work on the ground I have scoop chairs that can be used with clipboards. I have tons of pillows and my old couch cushions, too. Then there are the kiddos that just lay out on the rug working away. Some kids work best when cozy and comfortable!
- I also purchased a few sensory cushions. Kids love sitting on them on the rug or on a chair. I set the expectations of no sharp objects and no feet on them. These are great for kids who can be extra wiggly and need some nice sensory input.
- The big purchase for this overhaul was my hokki stools. The best wobble stool on the market. Even though it’s pricey, it’s worth it! They naturally wobble as the kids move on them and so provide the movement some need to focus.
- I also made four milk crate stools. I had seen this on pinterest and knew flexible seating called for these. These work with a slightly lower table but are also great for sitting and listening to a read aloud or a lesson.
- For this coming year, I’ve added a floor table and two tire seats, as well as a standing area for kids who prefer to stand as they work.
Overall, this approach to seating in my room has been transformative. The kids get right to work; they choose a smart spot in the room, and they are happy and working. Sure there can be chatting since they choose who they work near, but we talked about “smart choices” and they know they may be moved if the situation calls for it.
Too often, in education, teachers don’t give kiddos enough trust or enough choice. I feel like I have empowered mine to make choices and be independent learners. A skill that will for sure be with them forever.