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Friday, August 16

3 Tips For Flexible Seating Success

3 Tips for Flexible Seating Success

There’s been a lot of buzz over the years about flexible seating in the classroom. Does flexible seating work? Is flexible seating successful? Is it expensive? The list of discussion points goes on and on. I’m going to share my experiences and tips with you throughout my three years of using flexible seating in my room.

Tip 1: Don’t Buy All the Things

Are you ready to set up a flexible seating classroom? I’m going to let you in on a little secret, there’s no cookie cutter, one size fits all way you must set it up. Do you want to use yoga balls and not kicky bands? Go for it! Do you want to buy and use all the things you see on Pinterest? Go for it! You may have to take out a small loan, but whatever you want to do. My point being, I have done flex seating for three years now, and every year I do it differently. One year I had only yoga balls and traditional chairs. One year I had floor tables, cushions, lap desks, balls, scoop rockers, kicky bands, yoga mats, wiggle cushions, crate seats, and more. This year I will be having a variation of pillows, wiggle cushions, and kicky bands/ bouncy bands. Do not let yourself get Pinterest pressured into buying classroom seating options you really can’t afford just because everyone else is doing it. When it’s all boiled down, flexible seating is simply about student choice. This can be accomplished through pillows from your house, lowering a table, and a painted bench from your parent’s basement (trust me this was my first attempt at it). Expensive or cheap, all forms of seating options are a great addition!

Tip 2: Expectations Above All Else

Now that you have decided on what materials you want to include, let me share the key and golden ticket to this whole shabang, TEACH EXPECTATIONS EXPLICITLY! You will pull your hair out when you thought you went over the rules really well, and then yoga balls start rolling all around the room. Active model all the wrong ways to sit in each different spot. Then, have a student show the right way to do it (they love showing me up when I “do it wrong”). Finally, point to the expectations for each spot, which you have posted on the wall. Honestly, that part is the slam dunk to success. 

(Love these posters? You can get them HERE)
Have your expectations clearly posted and visible all year long. This way there is no arguing, they know the expectations, and so does any visitor in your room (substitutes everywhere are cheering right now). I have my expectations anchor chart and individual spot posters up all year.
If a student misuses a learning spot once, I have them walk over to the poster and read it for a rule refresher. If the behavior continues, they are moved, no if ans or buts about it. What! You must have kids freaking out all the time! Nope, my rules are clear and my kiddos are well aware of rule #5, “Miss Doyer can change my spot at anytime for any reason”. They will pick up their mobile name tag and find an open available place and sit down.

 (Grab these mobile name tags HERE).
These options are a tool to help your students focus and increase their engagement, NOT distract others. Make that crystal clear to your kiddos and their parents.

At the start of each school year I send home a flexible seating contract and letter to the parents. Communication is key. Parents do not dwell in the education Instagram world like we do. They probably have no idea what this new seating thing is. Let the parents know what you expect and the cool options you have for their child this year! When parents understand what this thing is all about, they will be more than willing to support it and may even donate some items to you room! Want a FREE parent letter and student contract? Click HERE!

Tip 3: You Do You

As I said before, each year I have implemented flexible seating, whether in 3rd or 4th grade, I always do it differently. In past years I have allowed students to have compete voice and choice seating power. They decide in the morning where they want to sit. Didn’t that lead to conflict and upset students? Won’t they just sit with their friends and talk? Nope, however, I spent a lot of time coaching my students through a “best spot” choice. This means a spot where THEY can focus and do THEIR best work. If they know they like to talk to Jimmy, then they shouldn’t tempt themselves and sit next to Jimmy. This can be challenging for some talkative classes though and time consuming for you. Another option is to assign students to a specific table and allow the flexibility to come from the spot they choose within the table (this works great when some kids really need to be separated). I have table seating options stored in the front of the room and allow the students to pick what they want to add to their learning spot (a bouncy band, a wiggle spot, a cushion etc…) To be honest, this is my favorite model. I have found that my students are excited to have a choice, but it still allows me to have easy overall control. Claps all around!

So, to sum it all up, be clear with students and parents, don’t go in debt for the fad, and implement a system that fits your teaching style. Good luck and happy school year!

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