Flexible Seating in the Classroom

Picture of classroom with different tables and text that reads, "Flexible seating in the classroom"

I started using flexible seating in the classroom almost ten years ago in 2014. At the time, I had read about the benefits of stability balls in the classroom and decided I wanted them. Fortunately, I was awarded a grant to purchase some for my students.

However, when thinking about setting up the classroom, I didn’t want to assign anyone to a stability ball and also knew that I didn’t want the headache of trying to create a sign-up system for using the stability balls.

Picture of flexible seating in the classroom with words that read, "No sign up sheet - student sit where they want."
Trying to manage a sign-up sheet for sharing seating seemed like a daunting task to me. I find it is easier to manage when students can just pick where they want to sit.

So instead of assigned seats with the occasional use of stability balls, I went full-on flexible seating.

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During my first years with flexible seating in the classroomI had stability balls, student chairs, a few larger adult chairs, a futon, and a coffee table. I found most of the tables by looking through the extra furniture around the school.

I found these trapezoid tables discarded at my school. They worked great as options for flexible seating in the classroom. Ask around and see what furniture isn’t being used in your school.

I made sure to have enough traditional “table top” spots at a desk or table that faced the front of the classroom with some sort of seat for all my students. In addition, there were plenty of soft seating areas like the futon or carpet squares that students could use.

Now my flexible seating has grown to also include a variety of different seating options —stability balls, regular chairs and desks, coffee tables with carpet squares on the floor, wobbly stools, a bench, standing desks, and a futon.

During direct instruction time, my students either sit up front on a classroom rug or “table top” which means at a table or desk that faces the front of the classroom. This allows students to be able to see the board and be attentive during instruction.

Once when it is time for students to work, they can sit where they want to work. This means that students can work with a clipboard on the futon, on the floor, at a standing desk, or at a traditional chair and desk. The place they work can change throughout the day. In fact, whenever we switch subject areas or activities, my students can also switch their seats.

I do not limit how often my students sit in a certain place or who they sit next to as long as they are working. They know that if they are not making good choices in their chosen seat, I can move them at any time, no questions asked. This works because at the beginning of the year, there is a slow rollout of flexible seating in the classroom and students are aware of the expectations. It takes a little bit of time, but once students are ready for full-on flexible seating, I usually don’t have to manage seat choices too frequently.

Students keep their materials in various places in the classroom. For example, textbooks are left in a bench in the front of the room and students can grab any book that they need to use. Personal belongings are kept in bins either on bookshelves or at the front of the classroom. I have also used an over-the-door shoe hanger as a place for students’ supplies.

I love using this over the door organizer to organize student supplies. This saved me some floor space for bookshelves for materials.

During the direct instruction, I make it clear what materials students will need. They bring just those materials with them as they find their way to a “tabletop” seat. After instruction, they then can go back to their baskets and get additional materials as needed. This means that there are natural movement breaks that take place throughout the day.

Students also have a mailbox in the classroom where I could pass back papers and fliers. Students can put completed work in their mailboxes or in their take home folders as we work on different activities.

In general, most students love the flexibility and find places that work well for them to learn. As the year progresses, students will find spots they tend to gravitate to. Some students will even have different types of seating they prefer based on the type of work they are completing.

There are also students who prefer a more traditional seating option. For this reason, I have always opted to keep some desks and chairs as part of the seating choices. In certain years, I have had students who felt more comfortable having their own space. These students ended up using one particular desk throughout the year.

I would love to hear if you end up using flexible seating in the classroom, too!

Signature that says, "Love, Julie from Llama with Class"

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