There are many ways to introduce your students to your new seating choices and even more articles sharing how to do so. I chose to let my students find their name plate at Meet the Teacher and then place it at their seating choice. Students sat at their choice on the first day of school and at the end of the school day, they moved their name plate one table group over. We rotated clockwise through the room.
Since I am team teaching math and science, it got a little tricky as to what to do about seating for my second group of students: I chose to write the number I assigned to them in the upper right hand corner of my homeroom students’s name plates. When my afternoon students arrived, they looked for their number (not their name) to figure out where to sit. Each afternoon, they had to look one table over since we were rotating through the choices.
Based on the table group settings, it took 7 days for us to rotate through the different tables. It was then that students in both classes filled out the “Free Choice Seating Survey” to let me know which seating choice would allow them to do their fourth grade best. I went over the results and tried to match each student with their first or second choice and have them seated near a student they believed would help keep them on task. We stayed at these seats for a week, and then the following week, I allowed them to explore some of the other options available in the room: For example, the standing table, the lap desks and pillows at the carpet area, and so on.
It was about the fifth week of school that I truly embraced free choice seating. As my homeroom students arrived in the room, they picked their seat for the day by placing their basket at their spot. Students that arrived late were motivated to get to school earlier so that they could sit (stand) at their favorite choice. Since we have one bus that is habitually late, the class agreed that it would be fair for that student to pick out seating the afternoon before.
My afternoon students picked their seats as they came into the room for math. My homeroom students had moved their baskets back to the bookshelves by that time, so the room felt less cluttered. It wasn’t very long after this that we started switching for Science and Social Studies in the morning almost immediately after announcements. Although, I had given directions for my homeroom students to place their baskets next to the closest table leg, the transition time was tight: Several of my carpoolers arrived tardy with breakfast in tow and didn’t have time to unpack before changing classes.
I decided to have designated Science spots during this time for a couple of reasons: The 4th Grade Units are conducive to group work with hands-on exploration, and setting up groups with “assigned” tables facilitated distribution of materials. I tried to fill baskets ahead of time with science materials needed for that day’s lesson and keep them stacked and out of the way until it was time. My Science students would help place homeroom baskets and water bottles to the side so that we could get to the business of learning.
There’s a lot of movement in a flexible seating classroom! Students are moving, seating is moving, supplies are moving, and sometimes navigating around the room is part of our learning together. When you add on switching classes, you introduce more movement. Writing a “how to” introduce your students to flexible seating post in April has been a neat reflection experience!
Have you started introducing seating choice in your classroom? Please share your experiences with us in the comments below.