On Edutopia.com, Ira Socol describes a flexible classroom as an environment that give students a choice in what kind of learning space works best for them, and help them to work collaboratively, communicate, and engage in critical thinking.
In my classroom, I provide different types of seating that my students can choose from. From a low table, to a standing table, wobbly seats to camping chairs, bean bag seats, “lazy-boys” and stability ball seats, my students have many options. They can sit on on the floor or lay on their stomachs throughout the classroom. Students may work using lap desks and clipboards. I also have traditional student desks in groups of four or along the wall in pairs, and single desks facing the wall in different areas of the class.
On the very first day of school, I wanted to make sure that students didn’t just rush into the classroom. I didn’t any confusion about seating arrangements. I wanted to have a really structured introduction to flexible seating in my classroom.
Instead of leading my students into the school right away, I took attendance, steered the kids to the back of the schoolyard and we sat under a tree.
Before going into the school, we discussed students’ favourite places in their home to do different activities. We discussed preferences.
When they are at home, where do they like to to read? To write and draw? Where to they like to build things?
What distracts them? Is it when their siblings are playing nearby? Does it distract them when people are talking? When music or the TV is on?
I provided a Flexible Seating Reflection Foldable to students, which they used to reflect about the questions above. (Get it for FREE by clicking on the picture below).
Before entering the classroom, my new students and I had a clear discussion about their jobs at school. We determined that a student’s job is to be a good learner/classmate/student. When they are at school, they need to choos
e a seat that allows them to do their best at their job. I was clear that if chosen seating does not allow them to be a good learner and classmate, they are permitted and encouraged to change seats. Students would not have assigned seats. They would choose the seating and environment in the classroom that would maximize their learning potential, depending on the activity they could be working on.
We proceeded to enter the classroom together, leaving school bags in lockers. We sat on the floor at the front of the classroom and hypothesized about the seating that would be best suited to help them do their best learning possible.
I told students we were going to begin with a drawing activity. They proceeded to choose a type of seating to try out for the activity based on their reflection of seating at home for such an activity and indicated their choice and reasoning in their reflection foldable. After the drawing activity, students wrote feedback on their reflection foldable and decided which seating type they would try next.
I repeated the reflection process at the beginning and end of several activities over the span of the first few days. We revisited it in the following weeks when I saw students were making seating choices that were not beneficial to them.
Today, almost 2 months later, I am still introducing new seating types. Students still make inappropriate choices at times, but I refer to the reflections we made on the first day of school and help guide students towards better seating choices. Overall, I see students on task, who are making good choices to help them stay focused and to be good learners.
I strongly encourage all teachers to try a flexible seating approach. You can start small, maybe with a few stools instead of regular chairs. You can make a few lap desks available during certain activities. Move at your pace, introducing options as you see fit.
I believe that the key to successful a flexible seating approach is to prepare your students, and to reflect and talk with your students throughout the process.
Make sure that they know what behaviours are expected and what your goal is with this approach: to help them be the best they can be at their job, to be the best learner/classmate/student they can be.