Flexible seating is the perfect way to create a more engaging and dynamic learning environment for your students! It promotes collaboration and independence and is overall just FUN. Check out 5 secrets to success using flexible seating to make this work in your classroom this year!
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My Flexible Seating Story
I remember the first time I ever saw a photo of a classroom with flexible seating, and I just knew I had to teach in a space like that! The entire summer was spent 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, a high table, and small tables. My room was set up beautifully and then I panicked…
HOW IN THE WORLD WAS I ACTUALLY GOING TO MAKE THIS WORK?
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 of 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 the 5 Secrets to Success to Make Flexible Seating Work in Your Classroom:
- Smart Spots
- Simple Seating
- Boxes, Bins, and Baskets
- Repair and Reuse
- Flexibility First
#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 can be chaotic and just too hard for everyone. So the question is, how do I teach flexible seating to my students?
You’ve likely already spent hours searching on Pinterest and found exactly what I found— lots of cute anchor charts and seating signs. What I never found was a book to introduce and actually TEACH students how to manage flexible seating, so I made one!
This flexible seating book about Smart Spots helps students truly understand what flexible seating is and your expectations for it! Smart Spots are places students can choose to go to do their best work.
The book includes rules and expectations for all the different kinds of flexible seating.
For the first couple weeks of school, read your Smart Spots book EVERY day. Remember….repetition is KEY with little ones!
Meet on the rug for whole group lessons (like when you introduce this book to your students!), and then children can choose their own Smart Spots for independent or partner practice.
Keep this book at your literacy center, and let kids practice rereading it with pointers!
If you ever notice a few kids are not choosing Smart Spots, get out the book and read it again with that student.
#2 Simple Seating
While on Pinterest, I also found lots of ideas for scheduling or rotating seating options. I am SO 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, keep the seating really flexible and don’t have any rotation board or schedule!
Let your students pick Smart Spots all day. They can sit in several different spots throughout the day, and that’s perfectly okay.
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.
This way, everyone gets to try everything, and you don’t have to organize it!
Try some of these flexible seating spots in your classroom and see where kiddos gravitate:
#3 Boxes, Bins, and Baskets
With flexible seating and kids working all over the room, it can feel challenging to keep everything organized. Boxes, bins, and baskets are a great solution to keeping supplies from being scattered across the floor all day!
Designate supplies as either “community supplies” or “individual supplies”.
Each child has their own pencil box. Their pencil boxes are filled with individual supplies like pencils, crayons, markers, and glue sticks. The outsides have these pencil box name tags on them.
These name tags carry the spirit of nameplates on desks with traditional seating, but now students just carry them with them!
Everyone also has a bin to store other individual supplies. These storage drawers from Ikea were an investment, but they are definitely worth it! You will LOVE them!
These drawers are extremely durable and easy to use. The kids each have a sliding bin to store their journals, pencil boxes, notebooks, folders, etc.
Spread towers of drawers out around the room so it’s easier for students to get out supplies or clean up. Spreading them out helps keep crowds (and chaos) down!
Independent Reading Books
Keep bags of independent reading books in each kid’s sliding bin too! If you have extra bins, you can keep additional independent reading books in those instead.
These clear bins are another great option for books! Keep them spread out on shelves all around the room for easy access!
Keep bins organized and personalized at the same time by having simple number labels so they can be used year after year. Using numbers instead of names helps you keep things personal without having to recreate oodles of labels each year!
To keep things easy for yourself, at the beginning of the year, put a piece of painter’s tape on each drawer and write the name of the 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. These editable classroom labels are basically done for you to keep things easy and quick while you’re planning and organizing your classroom supplies!
When your community supply bins are labeled with both pictures and text, your kids can get out these supplies when needed and clean them up without help from you.
Read more about organizing your flexible seating classroom here!
#4 Repair and Reuse Your Flexible Seating
There’s good news and bad news about flexible seating…
Bad news— 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.
Good news— 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.
A little more bad news— if you pick or peel the patch, the chair will deflate again.
But more good news— you can order Ball Chair Replacement Balls so there’s always that option too!
In my opinion, the good FAR outweighs the bad when it comes to flexible seating in the classroom!
#5 Flexibility First
And finally, flexible seating does require….get ready for it…. FLEXIBILITY!
Type A friends, don’t run away— you can do this! Give yourself permission to rearrange tables and move rugs throughout the year to fit what you need. Depending on works (or doesn’t!) this year, add or remove pieces for next year. It’s all a big, beautiful, flexible work in progress!
Even if your kids are always moving, one thing that won’t change— you can stick with flexible seating with these 5 secrets to success!