Saturday, March 5, 2016

Flexible Seating



I am so excited to tell you all about a new adventure in my classroom! After careful research and much contemplation, I decided to incorporate Flexible Seating into my first grade classroom. While I have always had a variety of seating options in my classroom (bean bag chairs, small rugs, and special children's chairs), this idea of flexible seating is very different from what I had implemented in my classroom before.

I follow Mrs. Delzer, an innovative teacher from North Dakota, on Instagram. She posted pictures of her classroom and she wrote a great article titled Why the 21st Century Classroom May Remind You of Starbucks. I was very inspired by this article and realized that many of the students in my classroom could benefit from this type of seating and classroom layout.

I then set out to find out what I needed to make flexible seating happen in my classroom. I searched the internet to find more teachers using this innovative set-up. I found great pictures of classrooms on Pinterest and found a wonderful blog post with flexible seating FAQ's by Angie from Lucky Little Learners. Her FAQ's helped me to gain the courage to try it out…

My principal was very encouraging and fully supported my plans. I wrote nice emails to the head custodian explaining that I needed some desks lowered and some raised. He kindly obliged and jokingly told me that this might not be the end of these kinds of requests, now that I had taken the plunge (and he was right!).

Next was the fun part... Shopping!! I found 6 exercise balls with legs for children, 10 stability disks, containers for shared supplies, and kneeling mats. I already had some fun chairs, bean bags, clip boards, and rugs.

I rolled the seating plan out little-by-little and the students, of course, were super excited for the change in our classroom. I started with low tables with the stability disks. We took turns working in this space and the students were loving it. We used the disks on the rug and I had students take turns working on the disks.


I then raised 4 desks to standing height and had the students experiment with working while standing. I added some fidget bands to the legs of the standing desks and some chairs to incorporate more opportunities for movement. I then slowly introduced the exercise balls. We talked about how to use the balls appropriately. We talked about small bounces and how to safely sit on the ball without rolling out of the door! They know that these items are tools, but when the tools become toys, they will be taken away. Surprisingly, I have had very few problems with our new set-up!



This chart was inspired by Angie's Chart from Lucky Little Learners
The next step was to have the students clean out their desks. Folders and journals were placed in bins, reading books were stacked in easily accessible crates, and the only personal supplies my students need were kept in their pencil boxes and placed in their classroom mailboxes. I removed their name tags, and students were then told that we were sharing all of the spaces in the classroom. Some of them were a little taken aback at first, since they had gotten used to their own space, but it didn't take long for them to take some chances and find workspaces that were better suited to their needs. Plus, it so nice to have  clean and organized work areas, not desks stuffed with papers and toys/items brought from home.

Most of my direct instruction is taught at the carpet, with some students seated on stability disks. When it is time for independent work or group work, the students are dismissed by rows to make their choices. Some of the areas to choose from include: standing desks with fidget bands, laying or sitting on the floor with clipboards, Sitting on exercise balls at desks, sitting in chairs with fidget bands, sitting or kneeling at low tables, sitting in bean bag chairs, or sitting at a traditional desk with a traditional chair.


A few weeks ago one of the district's occupational therapists came in to see the set-up. She was so excited to see what we were trying (she was the one who gave us the fidget bands to wrap around some of the chair legs). My students were immediately drawn to the seating where they could manipulate the band with their feet while they worked.

I am truly amazed at how flexible seating has transformed my classroom. This group of energetic and enthusiastic six and seven year olds is more focused and their energy now can be channeled in a productive way. This movement is allowing them to truly focus on the content and tasks necessary in our classroom. I don't know many adults who would want to work at a desk for 6 hours each day, so why should our students have to learn in this rigid way?

After six weeks of implementation, I will confidently say that flexible seating has been a success for my class. I can't imagine ever going back to traditional seating. I even bought myself a yoga ball for small group instruction!  Do you have flexible seating in your classroom? How is it working for you?

Check out my Flexible Seating Freebie in my TpT store. In the pack you will find a poster of flexible seating expectations, a student contract, procedures information, stamina charts, and a flexible seating mini activity book to help your students understand the expectations.




Check out the follow-up post- Flexible Seating 5 Months Later.
Check out flexible seating in action by visiting my classroom website.

Happy teaching!

41 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! It has been quite the awesome experience! :)

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  2. Looks awesome! Where did you find the yoga balls with legs?

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    1. Thank you so much! I would really recommend the yoga balls with legs. They have kept the balls in place and prevented them from rolling around all over. I have my own yoga ball without legs and it goes rolling everywhere! I bought them on Amazon, but I was also surprised to see them at Target! Here is the link to the Amazon listing:
      http://www.amazon.com/Gaiam-Kids-Stay-N-Play-Balance-Ball/dp/B00WQIV96S?ie=UTF8&keywords=guam%20kids%20stay-n-play&qid=1464577547&ref_=sr_1_fkmr0_1&sr=8-1-fkmr0

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  3. This sounds like something I definitely want to incorporate into my class. Thanks for the awesome ideas.

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    1. Absolutely! I am so glad this post was helpful for you. :)

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  4. This sounds like something I definitely want to incorporate into my class. Thanks for the awesome ideas.

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  5. I've started doing this in my 1st grade classroom little by little for the last couple of months. I love it, but had problems with bouncing, but I will i will start the year with the whole room flexible. I love it and so do the students!!

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    1. I love it, too! Some of my students love the bouncing also, but thankfully our "little bounces only" rule has prevented any bouncing problems. At the beginning of our implementation, I had a child demonstrate what a little bounce looks like, then of course I had them demonstrate what a big bounce looks like. The kids laughed, loved it, but most importantly, understood the expectation. :)

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  6. I've started doing this in my 1st grade classroom little by little for the last couple of months. I love it, but had problems with bouncing, but I will i will start the year with the whole room flexible. I love it and so do the students!!

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  7. I use the balls without feet and put dollar frisbees underneath. I have many of the same seating choices and also have scoop rockers the kids love. I have found them much more attentive as well. I started in February and will begin the coming year starting with flexible seating! Thank you for sharing.

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    1. I have been very curious about scoop rockers. Where did you purchase them? I might implement them next year as well. I'm glad flexible seating is working for you as well! Movement is GOOD! :)

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  8. Do you have any kiddos complaining about their back hurting? I am working on seating for my 3rd graders and this is a concern from my administration and myself.

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    1. Thank you for your question! I have not had any children complain of back pain. Which seating were you concerned about? Sitting on yoga balls requires core muscle work and that in turn actually improves posture and strengthens the back. My students sit straighter on a yoga ball than traditional chairs (usually students are slumped and leaning on the desk). I also do not have my students working in one spot for an extended period of time, so they are always moving (also beneficial for the back). I always have traditional chairs as an option for students to choose from as well. Great question! :)

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  9. Do you have any kiddos complaining about their back hurting? I am working on seating for my 3rd graders and this is a concern from my administration and myself.

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  10. I love this! I am very interested in alternative seating, and I am considering this for the upcoming school year. I was wondering if you may have some tips on what to do with kiddos that have unfinished work? Also, what do you do when you have whole group projects like crafts?

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    1. Great questions! When students have unfinished work, they place it in a work folder, which are found in group bins. I use their carpet rows to divide the class into 4 groups. These bins keep their personal items such as folders and writing journals. Next year I hope to implement a plastic drawer system, so each child can keep folders, journals, and maybe a pack of crayons in an easily accessible drawer. All other supplies are shared.

      I do all of my direct instruction and modeling at the rug, then I have the kids move to their spot of choice to complete work independently. When we are doing an art project together I model, then have the students go work in a spot of choice while I walk around and monitor. I have "attention getters" to have them quickly look at me and listen if I need to give the students an additional instruction. We also do quite a bit of whole group instruction on the rug and the students just bring the supplies they need. :)

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  11. How long would you say the entire introduction process took? Did you have the class setup traditionally when school started? Looking forward to starting this for my Kindergarten class but still uncertain on when to "roll" it all out. Thanks!

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    1. Hello! Thank you for your questions! I would say it took a few weeks to have it down, and even after that we went back to review the expectations often. Since I started the flexible seating in January, I did start the year with traditional seating. I am planning on rolling it out Day 1 of next school year though. It goes hand-in-hand with the other procedures, so I am going to try it that way. Be sure to check out my free flexible seating resource in my TpT store. It has more specific information on procedures etc. :)

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  12. I started flexible seating in April after spring break with my 2nd graders. Loved it! I want to start the year out with it. I am not sure how to do that? I am picturing kids racing in on the 1st day and trying out all the spots! Haha :) Any suggestions? Also, I found the scoop rockers at Walmart in the kids toy section near the outdoor toys!

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    1. I am so glad you students loved flexible seating! I wrote a new blog post about setting up flexible seating procedures, so that might be helpful to you. Check the flexible seating tab and scroll down to the procedures post. It also contains a free resource that you might be interested in. I will have to check out Walmart so I can integrate the rockers into my classroom! How exciting!

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  13. I started flexible seating in April after spring break with my 2nd graders. Loved it! I want to start the year out with it. I am not sure how to do that? I am picturing kids racing in on the 1st day and trying out all the spots! Haha :) Any suggestions? Also, I found the scoop rockers at Walmart in the kids toy section near the outdoor toys!

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  14. Where did you get the ladybug rug? The one with blue around the edge.

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  15. Where did you get the ladybug rug? The one with blue around the edge.

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  16. These are some great ideas!(I may need to try the disks or garden mats.)
    I began using stability balls in my kindergarten classroom this past spring. I started with a few balls and by the end of the year I had purchased enough for a class set. I use pool noodles to hold the balls in place. They made a difference for those students who needed to keep "moving" all day.

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  17. I was wondering if you use the daily. 5. I usually have a table for word work, writing, listening, etc. students are in their groups and rotate. I'm interested to know how flexible seating would work while using the daily 5. Thank you and love this post

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    1. I love Daily 5 and flexible seating will work hand-in-hand! You can still have set "stations" for each activity, but you might also provide the children with the opportunity to collect the supplies from the station and move to another unoccupied part of the room if they wish. You could also store Daily 5 supplies in bins or drawers (not on tables etc.) around the room and students could still choose their space after they collect what the need. I think it will work wonderfully either way! Please let me know how it goes! :)

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  18. Do inflatable swim balls, rings, cushions work for a cheap fix?

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  19. Do inflatable swim balls, rings, cushions work for a cheap fix?

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    1. I have never tried these myself, but it is worth a try! :)

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  20. My teammate and I want to try flexible seating in our classrooms & are currently setting up a Donors Choose account. We were wondering if we could use the 2nd picture in this blog for the classroom picture in the campaign? We would, of course, put a link to your blog on the subject for potential donors to click & read themselves. If you prefer to email me privately about this, my address is sharon.hughes@leanderisd.org. Thank you for your article, all the answers to questions teachers have had & for sharing it all.

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    1. That is absolutely fine with me! Good luck with your grant! :)

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  21. HI! These are awesome ideas!!
    I am really wanting to get the yoga balls with legs. I was wondering if your children sit on the balls with the legs down? I have read posts that say that the legs arnt strong and just push out underneath. Do you find this happens?
    Thanks Jen

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    1. Hello! Thank you for visiting my blog! Great question about the yoga balls…. the legs do not hold the students up when they are sitting on the balls. Like you mentioned, they push out. I still LOVE them because they keep the balls from rolling all over the classroom when they are not in use. I have been very happy with them. :)

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  22. Thank you for sharing this. We love your ideas and want to use them in our room. My kids in 4th grade love flexible seating!

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    1. I am so glad to hear that! :) Flexible seating has been a game changer in my class!

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  23. Can you tell me where you purchased the colorful kneeling pads? Thanks so much!!

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    1. Hello! I bought them at my local dollar store. They are actually gardening mats. :)

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  24. I have purchased pool noodles and taped them together with duct tape to make a hoop. The balls sit nestled inside them. Great as they do not roll around and also less expensive.

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  25. Meghan, I am developing a course for a nonprofit education organization in Florida on Differentiated Instruction. We are discussing the ways to differentiate, one being differentiating the environment. We would like to use this blog post with our participants. I would like to obtain your permission to do this. Let me know how to contact you to receive permission.

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  26. Dear Meghan Snable,
    My name is Jessica Davis and I am conducting a research on
    alternative seating and how it impacts student behavior. I would like
    to interview you about your experience using alternative seating. If
    you are interested in being a participant in our research, please let
    me know as soon as possible.

    Sincerely,
    Jessica Davis

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