Keeping students engaged is extremely important, and the way your seating is arranged can have a huge impact on that. Flexible seating has really taken off. If you’re skeptical of flexible seating or are thinking about trying it out, we’re here to give you some advice.
The real world is nothing like school. Out in the real world, people need to collaborate and communicate. Flexible seating allows not only for this, but for many physical benefits. Students burn off their excess energy with flexible seating, making it easier for them to focus on your lessons. Flexible seating also makes your classroom more comfortable and less structured. Think about the world we currently live in. If many of us have work to do, we’re more likely to head for a coffee shop than an office, when given the choice. That is really the idea behind flexible seating. It allows students to switch seats throughout the lesson, walk around if they’re antsy, and remove the constraints of traditional desks. Plus, this gives some control to students so even if they can’t change what work they have to do, they can choose where they do it.
Before you make this switch though, you have to really plan it out. What are your goals with flexible seating? What classroom management techniques will you be using? How will you manage bad student behavior? You’ll also want to run this idea past the principal, to ensure you aren’t breaking any school policies. If you decide to go with flexible seating, make sure to put policies in place from day one. Make sure your students try out all the seating options, and teach your students how to use the seating appropriately. Remind them they can sit with friends, but if they don’t pay attention and complete their work, their seat won’t change, but it will be moved.
Now, how do you set up a classroom like this? The first step is you need multiple seating options. Exercise balls are extremely popular and can be used with desks and tables. And speaking of desks and tables, offer these at different heights. Keep some traditional desks and chairs, but get yourself standing desks and short desks that allow students to sit on the floor but still have a workspace. Get bean bag chairs and pillows. These are super comfortable and your students will love them. You can get large and small tables to add some variety, or add some stools to go with your more traditional tables. Yoga mats are also a great way to allow children to spread out on the floor. You will want to have more seats than there are students, so there’s plenty of options in the classroom.
Since students can move seats during the day, you’ll want to dedicate an area of your classroom to storing student supplies. This includes personal items, folders, notebooks, and books. You should also have centers in your classroom for turning in completed work, turning in homework, and collecting worksheets.
When you introduce flexible seating to your students, ensure you make the rules clear. Remind students that choosing this type of seating is a privilege. If there are disagreements about who gets to sit where, be sure to have a policy on how to handle this. You can re-direct students who don’t get their top seating choice to seating that is similar. Tell students that if get too chatty or aren’t getting their work done, that flexible seating can be taken away. And if you’re worried about a free-for-all hunt for seats, create a system allowing different groups of students to choose first each week. Make sure it’s a fair system!
The only way you can truly know if flexible seating is going to work in your classroom is to try it and see what works for you and your students. It will be a difficult transition to start with, but it can have amazing results in the classroom.