If reading what my students have to say about Flexible Seating has you considering the idea, you may be wondering where to begin.
Teachers Blogging About Flexible Seating:
My two favorite go-to teachers have been Kayla Delzer and Meghan Chapman! You can read/watch Kayla’s Flexible Seating resources at her Top Dog Teaching blog here. (Updated 8/3/17: As of July 2017, Kayla has just signed a book deal with Dave Burgess Publishing Company. Stay tuned for her book on Flexible Seating!) Meghan has blogged about her Flexible Seating experiences here. You may recognize Meghan’s “Free Choice Seating” anchor chart (pictured below) when you visit our room: I even got to ‘use’ her name!
(Updated 8/3/17: I’ve added details on how I taught and re-taught each expectation on the Free-Choice Seating anchor chart to two classes of 25 students each over the course of the 2016-2017 school year. Adding these tips has been an excellent reflection as I prepare for the new school year and my second year of flexible seating!)
Free-Choice Seating Anchor Chart for your classroom:
- Choose a spot that allows you to do your fourth grade best.
- I had students rotate through all of the seating choices available in the room during the first week of school.
- After trying out all of the seating, students filled out a survey for me. The survey had them choose their first and second favorite choices and encouraged them to consider why these were their favorites. Students also had the opportunity to list names of students that they worked best with or near and the names of students that they felt they didn’t work as well near. Keep in mind that I’m teaching fourth grade and that many of the students have been in class together at least once or twice since Kindergarten. Almost all of my 50 students were very candid with their responses. I had one student who inaccurately listed his best friend as someone he did his best work beside. Although I knew this, I still gave him multiple opportunities that first quarter to prove his statement true. We ended up having quite a few personal conversations as a result and the student, to his credit, finally admitted that he needed to be seated somewhere else and with his back facing the friend so that he could stay focused on his own learning.
- Use seats appropriately.
- Be sure to take time that first week to model what you mean by this guideline and what you expect to see.
- Make this fit your classroom. We were fortunate to have twelve yoga balls! Yoga balls and sharp objects, like pencils, aren’t going to work well together if a student is bouncing while making downward, stabbing motions. Eventually, the laws of physics supersede the rules we have in place and a favorite seating option is beyond repair and out of the rotation. This becomes an even bigger deal when you teach more than one class in your room because that beloved option is now no longer available to a group of students that had no part of its demise.
- Come up with a hand signal! I’m prone to motion sickness and did surprisingly well with all of the bouncing, but every now and then, just one slightly more energetic bouncer among all the others might have been pushing the “feeling the turbulence” envelope. In my case, a well-taught hand signal (my right arm extended straight out, motioning downward) was the agreed upon signal to calm down the bouncing. You may be perfectly fine with trampoline status from each and everyone of the 24+ bodies in your care, but you’ve got to remember that you’re probably alone in this and that any guest speaker, substitute teacher, parent, or other teacher and/or counselor that visits your room is going to be overwhelmed immediately. Teach your students the signal and be sure to teach the signal to everyone that teaches/presents in your room.
- If a spot isn’t working for you, move so that you can be successful.
- Be aware that you may likely be the first teacher ever in your students’ lives to empower them to make this decision. That being said, you need to be prepared to remind them of this expectation in your room frequently throughout the school year.
- Just like using “Rock, paper, scissors” to solve a dispute, getting up and moving is such a simple decision that it is often overlooked by your students and forgotten by you as their teacher.
- When students completed the survey after rotating through all of the seating choices at the beginning of the school year, they have already shown you that they are very aware of which seating choices are best for them and who they do their best work with and next to. Schools are generally still very compliance oriented, so gentle reminders that it is, in fact, okay to move in your classroom will need multiple repetitions to stick!
- Mrs. Chapman has the right to move anyone at anytime.
- In my Utopian ideal of a student-led classroom with free-choice seating and flexible seating choices, this last guideline would never make it on the anchor chart. However, I’m a human being working with human beings and on those days when the stars and the moon align perfectly, it’s nice for everyone in the room to be reassured that I will ultimately make the best decision for all parties concerned when needed.
- If a pattern (of behavior) has been developing over several days, I may choose to exercise number 4 immediately.
- As a rule, reference to one of the other three guidelines is all that is needed.
The guidelines for Free-Choice Seating shown on the anchor chart are inspired by Meghan Chapman: Click here to read her post. This is the only anchor chart that stayed hanging in the same spot in our classroom from day one through and including day 180 of our school year together. While we didn’t openly refer to it every single day, the list clearly stated the expectations and reference to number 4 served very well as the occasional reminder.
(Updated 8/3/17: After organizing my Pinterest Boards in July 2017, I’ve added my own Flexible Seating board as an additional resource. Feel free to follow the Board or only re-pin the photos and articles that meet your current needs.)
Flexible Seating Pinterest Board: I’ve pinned photos of flexible seating options and articles on flexible seating for you to check out here – https://www.pinterest.com/Elizabeth_G_Chapman/flexible-seating/
Feel free to share your favorite resources and/or your questions in the comments below.