In other words, a reflection on our experiences so far…
Flexible Seating isn’t a magic fix for anything. There is research, however, that supports the benefits of movement during the learning process and the power of giving students choice. For those reasons, I still believe in offering different types of seating and feel that my students enjoy the extra responsibilities that come with this opportunity.
“The Messy“: This isn’t the best word choice, but it’s worth noting that there are literally a lot of moving pieces when you join the Deskless Tribe. After adding an additional layer of team teaching, pencils and other basic supplies seem to vanish even more rapidly. Community-supply caddies and procedures are set in place, but with choice comes a change in routine and some items don’t make it back to their original homes. Flexible Seating doesn’t distract the pencil hoarders or satisfy students who love the sharpest pencil point. Messy desks are exchanged for messy baskets; the advantage of baskets is that they are smaller and more visible. Of course, you may consider this to be a disadvantage.
“The Bad“: Seating choices don’t always make it until the end of the school year. We take very good care of the “Big Joe” and only 2 students sit in it each day for about 25 days of each quarter. Even so, we agree that it has seen better days! Of the 12 Ikea stools that I had last year as well, 4 of the stools broke within the same week late last month. It could be their time. It could be that one too many student forgot they weren’t yoga balls. It could be that we stacked them one too many times at the end of the day. Regardless, all 12 have been taken out of the rotation: 8 have been replaced with the standard school chair and one or 2 stools are used at the small group table when students are with me. Our ottoman cubes from 5-Below broke the first week of school. We used their tops to make the low-level stools a bit more comfy, but all four of those tops broke within a couple of days of each other last week. As the novelty wore off, more and more students in both classes started placing the wiggle seats inside of the desks and just sat in a traditional chair. We moved them to the pillow box so that students can use them when they choose to sit on the carpet. Occasionally, a student will “dismay” or “astound” me with their behavior on the yoga balls, but this is almost always corrected with a reminder. We did lose a 5-Below yoga ball for several days due to damage but a replacement donation was made to take its place. Something worth noting and a little unexpected: my inattentive kiddos are still inattentive and my blurters/talkers still blurt out and/or talk. In fact, my inattentive friends need to be reminded that they can move somewhere in the room where they can do their 4th-grade best 🙂 Some students have needed to be assigned to certain seats for periods of time and this may or may not include being away from their ‘bestie(s)’.
“The Good“: Allowing students to choose their seating empowers them to take charge of their own learning and to be more responsible and mindful about the conditions that promote their best thinking. Students that benefit from alternative seating are no longer singled out from the rest of the class. Students that are in separate seating areas aren’t being ‘punished’ but rather have chosen the spot based on how they’re feeling that day as well as what they know about their learning preferences. The number of desks being ‘bench-pressed’ daily has dropped significantly as students are able to release their energy with wiggles and bounces, which I prefer even though it took some adjusting on my part.
Flexible Seating isn’t a magic fix for any or all of your classroom ‘woes’; but, for me, the “Good” has outweighed the “Bad” and the “Messy” every day of the school year!
A before and after of the “Big Joe” seating choice: On the left is a picture taken the first week of school, August 2016. On the right is a picture taken on March 3, 2017.
[Reflection originally posted on Chapman4thGrade, 3/26/17]