Free-Choice Seating vs Flexible Seating:  What’s the Difference?

Free-Choice Seating vs Flexible Seating: What’s the Difference?

An infographic explaining the differences between free-choice seating and flexible seating.
Free-Choice Seating versus Flexible Seating: What’s the Difference? An Infographic.

When I first started hearing about Free-Choice seating and Flexible seating over the Summer 2016, I didn’t really think about there being a difference in these terms and used them interchangeably.   As the school end draws to an end, I wanted to clarify my understanding.  To the left, is an infographic I created using a free template from Canva.  A year of experience with this doesn’t qualify me as an expert on the subject by any means, so I’m hoping that educators who’ve embraced this concept for a longer period of time will weigh in on the conversation.

With North Carolina’s teacher pay ranking somewhere around 41st in the country alongside the disparity in current spending per student, educators who want to implement Flexible seating either need to dip into their pockets again and/or write a grant (often done on their own time).  Since seating can range anywhere from $5 plus tax for a yoga ball from Five Below to over $120 for one Hokki stool, I was very fortunate to have two parents find and donate bed risers, low seating, and a refurbished standing table from their active searches at yard sales.  The eight udder balls and wobbly discs were via a grant.  The rest of the seating, including Five Below balls, ottomans, foam carpet squares, pillows, IKEA stools, Big Joe, and lap-desks are courtesy of the Chapman ‘college fund’ 🙂  The least of the expenses were the baskets, from the Dollar Store, that we now use as our ‘desks’.  Needless to say the bill starts to add up!

If you don’t want to spend your own money and you don’t have time to write a grant, you can still implement Free-Choice seating in your classroom.  What?  How is this possible?  To me, Free-Choice seating is less about the actual seating and more about empowering your students to decide where to sit/stand in order to maximize their own learning.   Sounds very #LearnLAP!  At first glance, the room may look like it’s from the Pink Floyd era, but if students are coming in each day and deciding where to sit and deciding when and how to move the standard desks and chairs according to the task at hand, well then this would be Free-Choice seating in action!  Likewise, a classroom where the majority of students are assigned a Flexible Seating spot isn’t Free-Choice.  For the record, I did neither Free-Choice nor Flexible seating during the 2015-16 school year or prior. Just saying…  Learn how to systematically introduce your class to Free-Choice with Flexible seating here.

I’ve received district approval to write a Donor’s Choose grant to add 4 Hokki stools to our seating.  I’ll be doing this over summer break after we’ve closed down the current school year. If the grant is fully funded, I think my new students will really love the flexibility of these stools:  They’re lightweight, don’t take up as much space as the yoga/udder balls, and they allow the kiddos to wiggle and wobble a bit without all of the bouncing!

If you’d like to learn more about implementing Free-Choice and Flexible Seating in your classroom, click on the Hashtags in the right sidebar or scroll to the bottom section of the Home page.  The infographic to the left has helped me realize that I’ve used the terms interchangeably in previous posts when maybe I shouldn’t have.  For example, I have friends in my #PLN that have truly joined the Deskless Tribe:  While some of my students have made desk-less choices, everyone still has the opportunity to choose a spot at a desk or table if they want to.  So according to my current understanding, we are not a desk-less classroom yet 🙂

Thanks so much for reading!  Feel free to share via your favorite social media.  Be sure to leave your thoughts and/or questions in the comments below so that we can learn together.


2 thoughts on “Free-Choice Seating vs Flexible Seating: What’s the Difference?

  1. Thank you for this post. I think I might be using them interchangeably as well because I have free choice/flexible seating. I guess it’s just free choice seating though. I originally started with some basic stools since they were cheaper than other options. I moved on to those exercise balls but they didn’t last long so I bought some more expensive ones on Amazon. I was fortunate enough to get the help of our parent-teacher organization and they purchased two buoy seats and an exercise ball. I also raided our storage area, with permission from the principal, and was able to find some adjustable rolling chairs. The students love different seating options and choice. Students sit where they want and know the expectations. All I have to do is remind them to make better choices and they usually do. I really wish more educators would try this.

    • Thanks so much for reading and sharing! Sounds to me like you have free-choice seating (Ss choose where they work best) with flexible seating options (exercise balls, buoy seats, etc.) Lucky kiddos! I’m with you since I wish more Ts would do this; however, I realize it took me time and seeing other Ts model choice during smaller parts of the day without which I’m not sure I could have made such a big leap 😊. We just finished our state testing: so thankful my little ones were able to choose comfortable seating…glad we’re on this journey together!

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