Do you do flexible seating? In my classroom, we’re a little….different. OK, a lot different in many ways (I mean have you met me?!) but one huge difference is that we have no tables and no desks. That’s right! Our flexible seating means everything is done on the floor!
So, flexible seating is now “mainstream” and “normal” in our classrooms. And this is huge because this is what’s best for our students. When I started no tables and no desks 12 years ago (yep. 12 years.) it was just me and Erin Klein doing “flexible seating.” Now it’s everywhere which is AMAZING!
So, what is flexible seating?
First, let me say what flexible seating is NOT. It is not stuff. To bring flexible seating into your classroom, you don’t need to have stuff. No scoop chairs or bean bags or wobble stools. Are these things great? Yes. Can you use them? Yes. If you want to use these things and have the ability to get them, PLEASE GO FOR IT!!! But don’t let a lack of stuff stop you from bringing flexible seating into your classroom. I hear so many teachers who say they want to do flexible seating but cannot afford it. YES, YOU CAN BECAUSE YOU DON’T NEED ANYTHING to bring flexible seating into the classroom!
So, then, Mr. Greg, what is flexible seating?
The answer is simple. CHOICE! Flexible seating is about giving our students choice and power over where they learn and work. It’s a mind-shift for teachers because we’re giving up control. For our kids, it’s natural and easy. So, don’t think you need to buy a bunch of stuff for flexible seating. You just need to give your students a choice.
Get rid of assigned seating. Let students sit, lay down, or stand up to work. Make a standing table or lower a table to make a floor table. Flexible seating is that easy to implement. And it’s FREE!
Also, flexible seating does NOT MEAN chaos or a loss of structure. Our classroom is a very structured environment. We have routines and procedures for EVERYTHING. And we have very high expectations. Just because students have a choice on where to work does not mean we have no control or structure. Simply having kids sit at a desk does not equal structure. Structure comes from routines, procedures, and expectations that you have established, taught, and continue to practice!
Second, do you need to ditch the tables and desks for flexible seating?
No. I went BIG and bold and very out of the box with no tables and no desks because our classroom was so small and weirdly shaped. Do I want every classroom to ditch the tables? YES! 1 million percent yes. But I get that it’s very scary and non-traditional. If you want to and can ditch the tables and desks, DO IT! If you can’t/don’t want to, you don’t have to!!
HOW DO YOU INTRODUCE FLEXIBLE SEATING?
Here’s the answer! JUMP RIGHT IN! On day 1 as students arrive, I already have our carpets and clipboards and crayon boxes laid out around the classroom. As I greet students, I tell them they can pick any carpet and lie down or sit down and color. This eases them into the idea of carpets and working on the floor without the pressure/stress of trying to pick up a carpet and clipboard and finding a spot to work!
Our carpets are bath maths from Target and Walmart. They are 17×48 bath mats. I use bath mats because they don’t slip and move! I’ve had the same mats for 12 years and they are still in excellent shape! (Note: watch for them to go on sale and grab them!) The students are NOT REQUIRED to use the mats, it’s another choice they are free to make!
For flexible seating to be successful, you have to MODEL MODEL MODEL! PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! Just like every routine and procedure in the classroom.
What About Whole Group Lessons?
When it’s time for whole group instruction, we DO NOT have flexible seating. Instead, we all gather on our oval carpet. However, they do have a choice here too. There is no assigned seating on our rug so they have to be on the rug, but they have a choice. More voice and choice.
What About Breakfast And Snacks?
We do breakfast in the classroom and we do Foodie Fun Friday every week so we eat a lot in the classroom.
How do we do it?
We use SMULA trays from IKEA!
Each kid gets a tray and places their food on the tray to eat. Not only does this keep us from eating on the floor, but it also helps contain any spills.
After the kids finish eating, they use a wipe to clean their own trays. Again, this is something that is modeled and practiced until we do it just right! And what about cleanliness? We wear slippers in the classroom so there are no shoes in the classroom and we steam mop the floor each day so we probably have the cleanest floor in the building!
What about name tags?
Since we don’t have desks or tables, we don’t have name tags. Instead, we have a name chart on the wall. This gives the students a place to refer to when learning to write their names. The chart includes their name and picture!
What about supplies?
We use community supplies! Everything the kids need is on a shelf and they grab what they need!
Here are the pieces of furniture we have in our classroom that students can choose to sit on and work!
These our classroom stages! You can see the choices in action! Sitting and laying down to work! Both stages were built by my dad.
This bench is from National Business Furniture! It’s plastic and lightweight so it’s easy to clean and move!
We also have a giant comfy chair. Ya’ll. This chair was $20 at Goodwill. I use a slipcover to make it match my theme! The round table and stools are other choices in our classroom! These are both from Amazon. I purchased the table because it’s on wheels and is easy to move so we can free up space in the classroom!
For more information, check out these posts: