I have never been flexible. In fact, on health assessments I have literally failed the flexibility portion. However, I decided to give flexible seating a try.
What is flexible seating? Here is what it has meant to me:
- getting rid of desks (gasp)
- using alternative seating
- giving kids more choices (gasp)
- encouraging collaboration
- making your class more like a coffee shop
- inviting areas
- student centered
- making room for action based learning
Why did I want to try something so scary? I was able to visit some excellent classrooms in our district that have been utilizing flexible seating. When I walked into these rooms I wanted them! I wanted everything about them! They did not feel sterile. They did not feel like school. They felt like a place anybody would want to learn. There were very few desks and mostly tables. There were areas for kids to stand, sit on the floor, or sit in a chair. There were collaboration areas and comfy spots. There was magic.
After I saw these rooms, I had a huge internal debate on if I would use flexible seating. I felt like I didn’t have the furniture that I wanted to truly make this work for my room. It stressed me out…I mean REALLY stressed me out. So, here is a glimpse inside my head as I went through this process:
My first day back into my school. My official start date was the next week. I walked into my classroom. I had been debating flexible seating all summer long. Suddenly, I made a spontaneous trade with a colleague. I gave her 4 desks and she game me a table. Oh my gosh! What had I just done???
I no longer had a desk for every child. Major panic set in. What if I couldn’t organize this? What if my classroom management wasn’t good enough for this? What if kids felt like they had no “home” on the first day of school? What if…what if…what if!
So, I did what any logical teacher would do. I practically ran out of my classroom, locked the door, and went shopping. I hit every discount store known to man. I was in search of…I didn’t know what I was in search of. I wanted furniture that would make this flexible seating thing ok. I continued to feel uninspired at each store and was feeling a nervous breakdown coming on. Then I thought, “IKEA!” Oh my gosh! Have you been to IKEA? It was my first time. I spent 3 hours wondering, contemplating, asking the sales reps how much is “too much” to spend on a first grade classroom. I left empty handed and heavy- hearted. I did not want to spend a fortune and my choices overwhelmed me.
I spent that entire night texting my teammates for their feedback (thank God for them!) and bouncing ideas off of my boyfriend (thank God for him!). I couldn’t sleep. I had images of coffee shops and perfect classes dancing in my head. It was sometime in the middle of the night that I decided I was going all in. I knew I could make flexible seating work without replacing all my furniture.
Getting It Set Up:
Let the buying begin! I decided to spring for a couch at IKEA, some pillows, and some awesome red stools. I got them back to my classroom as fast as I could. I had no idea if I had made the right decision on furniture. I had to get it set up before I could see. I texted my teammates for moral support, I called my boyfriend to help put the furniture together, I borrowed some tools from the custodians and began taking legs off of half my tables and desks, I recruited my mom to sew some pillow from fabric I already had. My new classroom began to take shape. Here are some pics with what I discovered about the different seating:
I made sure that kids could sit individually, with a partner, or with a group. This turned out to be an amazing way for kids to self monitor their behavior.
I went for several low desks throughout the room. I love how it makes the room look bigger! The low spots let kids roll/rock and move when needed. (P.S. I need Target to bring back those camping chairs. They are my favorite and they aren’t sold anymore.)
These red stools are not great for rocking or movement. However, they were cheap and I can fit 6 under the kidney table!
I got these comfy chairs from another teacher. They were a perfect addition.
These rocker chairs (Walmart for under $5!) were a later addition. I love them because I can store them underneath extra cubbies when they aren’t in use. I also have a couple of kids sized camping chairs that work the same way. I think comfy seating that can be stored is a must!
You will notice that my room did not end up looking like a coffee shop. It did not end up looking like the rooms I visited. They were truly amazing. There were no desks. There were cute painted coffee tables and kitchen tables. However, I discovered this year that I love my desks. I really just made a few changes that completely transformed how my classroom worked. I had a parent who told me her child felt like they were going on an adventure everyday.
I think the key to flexible seating is that kids have a choice. My students chose what worked for them. Some kids loved to sit in the regular desks. Other kids sat on the floor everyday. I would hear conversations between students at the beginning of the day; they would discuss if they could handle sitting with each other and if they could make good choices together. It was amazing! Imagine never having to rearrange desks again. We work so hard to make students independent. How can they do that if we constantly make all of their decisions for them?
If you are debating flexible seating…do it! It has been the best decision I have ever made.
Perhaps I won’t fail the flexibility portion of my next health assessment!?
Stay tuned for my F*able mistakes and how to make it function.