When teachers find out that I’ve joined the @DesklessTribe, their first response is usually, “You’re brave!” While other word choices come to mind, I definitely don’t feel brave and this left me reflecting on all the truly courageous #EduHeroes whose classes I’d been privileged to observe. Without their examples, I may have not been able to embrace Free-Choice Seating yet.
During field work for my Masters, I watched my Cooperating Teacher in Third Grade and all of her teammates incorporate some level of Daily 5 during the Literacy block. Even though it looked a little different in each classroom, each teacher had offered students choice in seating and/or in activity. Seating choice may have been as simple as moving somewhere else in the room for read-to-self or a bit more involved when moving to special seating (bean bag chairs, camping chairs, carpet, stool, etc.).
My Mentor Teacher during student teaching in Fourth Grade modeled all aspects of the Daily 5 Literacy block well: Not only did she offer comfortable seating (poufs, yoga balls, carpet squares), she used the Penseive for individual student conferences and pulled strategy groups! As her Teacher Intern, I was not ready for all of the choice nor was I ready for students to be out of my line of vision while I was working with a Guided Reading group or a Book Talk.
When I started teaching First Grade, I had the opportunity to observe all of my teammates during Literacy. Again, I got to see students reading-to-self or to a partner and/or completing certain Literacy tasks somewhere in the room other than their desks.
While teaching First and then Third grades, I incorporated Daily 5 into my Literacy Block: Students rotated to different choices, but I hadn’t added comfortable seating options to my classroom. Particularly in Third, I started to notice students “bench pressing” their desks, leaning their chairs back, and standing during instruction. Groups of desks would move at least two feet within the room by the end of the school day and could have easily traveled out of the classroom and across the campus if they hadn’t been realigned each afternoon!
Given the opportunity to “loop up” with my Third Graders to Fourth Grade, I spent a lot of summer break thinking about my students and their individual preferences/needs. Reading Kayla Delzer’s article, “Why the 21st Century Classroom May Remind You of Starbucks” was just the catalyst I needed to do further research which ultimately led to my embracing #FlexibleSeating and the #DesklessTribe. After careful consideration, I felt that many of my students would benefit from alternative seating choices.
There are many steps between choosing #FlexibleSeating and making it happen successfully and these are or will be addressed in other blog posts. Fast forward 5 weeks into the first quarter of the new school year and I will share that my students are benefiting from being able to choose where they can do their Fourth-Grade Best! Choice gives students ownership in their own learning and is very much a part of the Student-Led classroom described in Paul Solarz’s “Learn Like A Pirate”. When students take ownership, they begin to learn for the sake of learning and not because the adults in their lives are mandating it.
There is a lot of bouncing and movement in my classroom all day long this school year! Some days, more students are spread out on the carpet and I need to use the “On your ‘bum’, not your ‘tum’ today” guideline. Other students are standing at our one of our two standing desk options. So, this is not your “typical” classroom and visitors are surprised by the amount of bouncing and its duration!
Even though I believe that this environment is best for students and even though there is research to support my belief, I know that not every teacher is ready to offer this level of choice, yet. “Free-choice seating” is a revolutionary way of designing a classroom: After all, rows of traditional desks have been around for, …well, …forever! As #DesklessTribe pioneers continue to share our tips and successes, other educators may decide to offer their “Daily 5” seating choices during other parts of the school day.
After all, it was the excellent modeling of the #EduHeroes mentioned in this post that made it possible for me to embrace #FlexibleSeating. Without their brave examples, my classroom might be very different than it is today!
Here’s a photo of my Third Grade classroom that I took on one of the work days at the close of the 2015-2016 school year: At the time, the kiddos and I both knew we were moving up to Fourth Grade together. Besides the missing students, you’ll notice there is not one sign of Free-Choice Seating in the room. In fact, if I had cropped out the computer, it could be a classroom from a previous decade.