Giving your students the opportunity to make their own seating choice every day can appear daunting. On the contrary, many teachers have found the transition smoother than they initially expected. This is thanks to laying down some important flexible seating rules, such as:
The Rules Explained
Rule #1: Choose a Smart Spot That Helps You Do Your Best
This rule is about students using their self-awareness to pick a seating option that’s right for them. They should decide where to sit based on where they will do their best work. For some students, that may mean sitting on bean bags to be more comfortable whilst they are reading. Others might find bean bag chairs a bit too relaxing and prefer to use a stand-up desk to keep their mind sharp.
The right spot will change for most students according to the particular task or lesson they are focussing on. So that the kids have a chance to get a feel from all the different learning spaces, have them try out every flexible seating option in your classroom for at least a day or two. They won’t know where they learn best until they’ve tested all the seats.
Although flexible seating is, by nature, totally flexible—you can also give students assigned seats which they will revert back to in case of a substitute teacher.
Rule #2: If a Spot Is Not Working for You, Move!
Students love the ability to pick a new seat, but sometimes it’s just not the right fit on a particular day. In this scenario, with your permission, they can move to another seat.
The important thing to note here is that it shouldn’t be a free-for-all: you should still be easily able to maintain control of your classroom.
It’s also wise to hold back a couple of traditional desks and chairs. Some students may have difficulty when presented with so much choice. For those who prefer more structure, conventional seating should be made available too. For group instruction, discussions, or lesson plans that call for it, you can still gather the children to sit together on the floor if you have a carpeted area.
Rule #3: Use Each Seat Properly
To avoid any issues further down the line, set out very clear expectations about how each seat should be used. Each seat can have its own set of rules and instructions for flexible seating.
This will not only decrease lesson disruptions in the future but also ensures the children’s safety. If you’re introducing seating options like stability balls or wobble boards, you can avoid accidents or upset by having Standard Operating Procedures in place for each item. Students can even help to create the procedures (make an anchor chart or use a smartboard) and can refer back to them at any time.
For example, be concise about what range of movements is allowed in each seat. Some teachers allow students to make small bounces when sitting on ball chairs; others don’t. Flexible seating options like wobble boards are designed for fidgeting but consider to what extent it’s acceptable in your classroom environment.
Rule #4: A Teacher Can Move Anyone if They Don’t Follow the Rules
Following neatly on from the last rules comes “Teacher’s Choice.” For whatever reason, the teacher can move students at any time to any seating area.
This will be necessary when a student breaks the flexible seating rules. For example, students will not always choose a smart spot (where they will learn best). Typically, as is the same in adults, they will gravitate towards sitting with their friends rather than picking somewhere that will serve their productivity. In this case, simply utilize your authority and get them to change seats to a place that’s better suited for their learning.
The next most common activity that requires you to step in and make seating changes is the improper use of the seat. When students break the rules, there are consequences. Simply put, kids tend not to—they want to sit in a comfy seat as much as you want them to respect the procedures!
How to Implement Flexible Seating
To ensure your flexible seating classroom is a success, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to help you along the way. Getting your classroom ready for the school year ahead doesn’t need to be too complicated.
Firstly, this is about more than simply implementing flexible seating. Embracing this alternative seating arrangement (or non-arrangement) requires a big mental shift and a thorough understanding of the philosophy of a student-centered classroom. Relinquishing control can be tricky for many teachers.
An important part of making flexible seating a smooth success is informing parents, principals, and other teachers and staff. You should anticipate questions such as “How will the kids take tests without traditional desks?”, “What are the benefits over traditional seating?” and “What if my child cannot cope with this change?” Have your answers ready and gather some helpful material to give to people for more information, in the form of brochures or similar resources.
Should You Introduce Flexible Seating?
There are many benefits to be had by introducing flexible seating in your classroom: both teachers and students alike can enjoy the positive effects of this arrangement. It makes for a very exciting first week of the school year!
From the students’ perspective, they can experience improved core strength and better posture from learning to sit correctly on different ‘seats.’ Sitting on yoga balls, for example, will encourage students’ bodies to burn more energy, increasing their metabolism and the flow of oxygen to their brains. Naturally, this promotes better learning.
And it’s not just a student’s physical health that benefits: their academic performance is likely to improve, too. Flexible seating classrooms engender a flexible learning environment, whereby students feel more motivated and engaged. Being in control of their own space supports the development of their autonomy.
For teachers, flexible seating can help improve classroom management. It can free up space for storage and make your environment conducive to the most effective learning. It has even been shown to improve behavior problems in some kids.
Flex seating makes a classroom what it should always be: student-centered. This encourages their mental, physical, and emotional health and, vitally: their academic growth.