Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Foray Into Flexible Seating

So for this new school year, I decided to shake things up a bit by switching over to flexible seating in my classroom! I know that's the "in" thing in teaching right now, but I don't think it's just a short lived fad. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Choice in the classroom is a HUGE motivator and I have seen its success within Daily 5. So the leap to flexible seating seemed natural.

"If my students are behaving and doing what they should be doing, why does it matter WHERE they sit while doing it?"

I, personally, am a carpet lounger. I LOVE to lay on the floor and do work. (In fact that is exactly where I am as I write this post.) Give me a fuzzy carpet and some floor pillows and I'm as happy as a clam! And I want all my students to feel like that!

To begin, I got rid of a whole bunch of desks in my classroom and put in more carpet space and a low table. The low table is my personal favorite! My kids also love to be able to sit on the floor and work. (They particularly enjoy scootching themselves underneath it while doing Read to Self.)

I then set up two different table groups with different types of desks. In each group, I have a standing desk, (actually just a normal high school desk without the chair. My kiddos are short!), 2 conventional second grade desks with chairs, a desk with an exercise ball, and a lightweight stool. 

Sitting at these table groups have actually been the most popular area for my students.

In this same general area I put down a 5ft x 7ft rug and threw some giant pillows on it. Right next to the rug I put baskets of clip boards and a few lap desks. This small rug, the table groups and the low table make up one side of the classroom. I call it the "seating area" and it is right in front of my white board and projector. Off to the side of the classroom is the "circle carpet" with an easel whiteboard. This area is used more for class discussions, morning meeting, and such. It is also scattered with pillows and has easy access to clipboards.   

But what about classroom supplies, you ask??

I have always preferred community supplies and over the years, have worked out the method that works best for me. I got these bright colored divided buckets at Target. (I love bright colors AND Target!) In one of the small sections I stuck a metal pencil holder and filled it with about 15 sharpened pencils. In the other small divider I stuck a plastic cup and filled it with crayons. The larger section was filled with 3 pairs of scissors, 3 glue sticks, 3 big erasers, and a handheld pencil sharpener. I wrapped patterned duct tape around the handle of each bucket, the scissor handles, the pencils, the glue sticks, and the rim of the crayon cups. This keeps the stuff from wandering around the room. 

Last year, for some reason, the glue sticks always migrated to one basket, while all the scissors ended up in a different one. It was slightly infuriating.....This fixes that problem!

The extra time it takes to wrap the stuff in duct tape is totally worth it. If you have students that come into school early in the morning, I guarantee they will LOVE to re-sort the buckets so everything matches and then sharpen the pencils for you.

The best part about these buckets is that they can be moved around the room wherever you need them. If a whole bunch of kids have chosen to sit at the low table, we can just grab the supply bucket and plop it down with them. The supplies are always within reach and there aren't children wandering around the room looking for things!

Scattered around the room, I have areas that we use during Daily 5, that can also be used as smaller areas to work in. 

My Work on Writing area has a trapezoid table and a beanbag armchair. The beanbag chair is great for Read to Self and occasionally small groups will choose to use the trapezoid table.

This is NEW this year! My kids ADORE it! Read to Self works perfectly in here and its just big enough that two kids can fit in it for Read to Someone or partner work. I do ask that they not be in while we are doing something with the board, or while I am giving directions. 

One thing that can be intimidating about flexible seating is how to introduce it so that you don't have complete anarchy on your hands. This is how I went about it:

The first day I introduced the students to all of the seating options. We talked about behaviors that were appropriate and behaviors would not be considered so appropriate. I also used this t-chart to make it clear which items could "travel" about the room and which needed to stay in one place. 

I made the exercise balls a "one place" item because they are just so tempting to kick across the room! The less they move, the better, in my opinion. I also made the beanbags a "one place" item because one of them has a teeny tiny hole in the cover and whenever it moves, styrofoam bits fly out and get all over the place. 

The first week of school, we tried out all of the different options. I had to demonstrate how to use a lap desk, because quite a few of my kids had never encountered them before. I made sure that everyone had a turn to try out everything. Intermittently, we had short discussions on "choosing places because they helped you to become a better learner" not "just because they are fun." **cough cough, exercise balls, cough cough**

Right now, I am giving out 2 warning to friends who play with the seats (mainly the pillows and exercise balls) and then they lose the seat they are playing with. Consistency is key, but it is working! 

And that is how I am using flexible seating in my class this year!

Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or want clarification or if you want to share how flexible seating is working in your classroom!

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