I remember the first time I ever saw a photo of a classroom with flexible seating. I just knew I had to teach in a space like that! I spent the entire summer getting ready to transform my classroom!
After lots of planning and shopping, it was finally time to set up my classroom! My WOBBLE chairs and Scoop Rockers were all unpacked. My Ball Chairs and Wobble Cushions were inflated and ready to go. I had a low table and a high table and small tables. My room was set up beautifully and then I panicked…
The night before my kiddos came, I was so nervous. I debated hiding all of my flexible seating options and just using traditional chairs to start the year. I haven’t been that nervous since my first year teaching! It took all of my teacher courage to stick with it, but I am so glad I made the decision to be brave and launch flexible seating!
Here are 5 secrets to success that made it work!
#1 Smart Spots
If you’ve been a teacher for more than 5 minutes, you know the importance of teaching and modeling everything…and repeating the process…and repeating it again! The same is absolutely true for flexible seating! Without modeling and practice, it could be chaotic.
After hours of searching on Pinterest, I found lots of cute anchor charts and seating signs, but I could not find what I needed to introduce flexible seating. What I wanted was a big book that would really help me TEACH my kiddos what to do….so I created one.
My kiddos fell in love with the idea of Smart Spots. Smart Spots are places they can choose to go to do their best work. The book included expectations for all the different kinds of seats in our classroom. We meet on the rug for whole group lessons, and then kiddos can choose their own Smart Spots for independent or partner practice.
For the first couple weeks of school, we read our Smart Spots book EVERY day. It stayed at our literacy center for months, and the kids loved rereading it with pointers! If I ever notice a few kids are not choosing Smart Spots, I get out the book and we read it again.
#2 Simple Seating
While on Pinterest, I found lots of ideas for scheduling or rotating seating options. I am impressed by teachers who can remember who sat in a ball chair last Thursday and who had the pink rocker yesterday, but I simply can’t do it. For that reason, we don’t have any rotation board or schedule.
Our seating really is flexible. My first graders pick Smart Spots all day. They sit in several different spots throughout the day, and that’s okay with me. I was initially worried that they may race for certain seats, but that hasn’t really happened. It’s been interesting to see their individual preferences switch from ball chairs, to low tables, to rockers, to baskets and back again. Everyone gets to try everything, and I don’t have to organize it! These are some of out favorite spots.
#3 Boxes, Bins, and Baskets
You’ve got kids working all over the room, but you don’t want supplies scattered across the floor all day! We have some community supplies and some individual supplies. Each kiddo has their own pencil box and their own bin. Their pencil boxes are filled with pencils, crayons, markers, glue sticks, etc. The outside of their pencil boxes have nametags on them. I always liked having nameplates on desks to reference things, and I didn’t want to lose that tool. Now they just carry it with them!
Everyone also has a bin. These storage drawers from Ikea were an investment, but I LOVE them! They are extremely durable and easy to use! The kids each have a sliding bin to store their journals, pencil boxes, notebooks, folders, etc. At the beginning of the year, I had towers of drawers side by side, but I realized that it gets crowded quickly. I spread the towers out around the room so it’s easier to get out supplies or clean up.
If your kids have bags of independent reading books, they could keep them in the sliding bin as well. We have extra bins for our independent reading books. These clear bins are from Oriental Trading. We keep them spread out on shelves all around the room too!
All of our bins have simple number labels so they can be used year after year. I love personalized things, but I just don’t have time to recreate oodles of labels each year! At the beginning of the year, I put a piece of painters tape on each drawer and wrote the name of kiddo who was assigned that number. When everyone knows their numbers, just peel off the tape!
There’s also a spot for community supplies with clear labels. The kids can get out these supplies and clean them up without help from me.
#4 Repair and Reuse
I have some good news and some bad news. The bads news is that if you poke a ball chair with a pointy pencil it really will pop. It doesn’t pop like a balloon, but it quickly deflates so whoever is sitting there will slowly start sinking to the floor.
The good news is that you can repair it using a Tear-Aid Vinyl Repair Kit. These heavy duty patches are made to be waterproof and they work well for patching ball chairs. And just a little more bad news, if you pick or peel the patch, the chair will deflate again. We have learned all of these lessons this year. I also learned you can order Ball Chair Replacement Balls so there’s always that option too!
#5 Flexibilty First
Flexible seating does require….ready for it….flexibilty. Don’t run away Type A friends- you can do this! I have rearranged tables and moved rugs throughout the year to fit what we need. I am already planning a new reading nook to try before the end of the year (more on that later). I have gotten some new seating options for next year too!
Even if we are always moving, I know one thing that won’t change- we are sticking with flexible seating!