Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Flexible Seating- 5 Months Later...

This post is a follow-up to my original Flexible Seating Post. If you would like to see how our adventure began click here!




5 Months Later…
It has been quite the whirlwind end of the year and I am excited to bring you some helpful tidbits I have experienced with flexible seating during the past five months of implementation. I must start off by saying I LOVE the way this new seating routine has impacted the learning in my classroom. Yes, there were days where I thought I must be crazy to change my seating so drastically! There were times where I wanted to pull the plug on the whole thing, but once we got going, it really made a positive difference with my students and I plan on continuing the seating plan with future classes. So, what I have I learned from the process…

Rising to the Occasion
My students took the responsibility of this special seating very seriously. They were careful and respectful of each other, they took amazing care of our yoga balls, cushions, and kneeling mats. They took ownership of the new plan and worked together to ensure everything was put away each day. When a pencil was found on the floor near a yoga ball, it was immediately picked up to ensure the ball was not damaged. My students knew that our seating was special and a privilege. They knew that it would all go away if our special tools were not used appropriately. Yes, this took a lot of modeling and explicit teaching, but boy was that worth the extra time at the beginning of our adventure. 

Expectations and a Surprise Outcome
Of course this type of seating will not have a chance if expectations are not explicitly modeled and practiced. Just like anything with teaching, it takes time to build the routines and expectations for something that gives students this much choice… Saying, "Okay everyone, go find a seat!" will lead to noise, pushing, arguing, and LOTS of problems. To avoid chaos and to set ourselves up for success we came up with procedures that enabled students to resolve their own problems that arose with our seating plan. For example, if two children chose a spot at the same time, they would play "rock, paper, scissors"to determine who would sit in the desired spot. But in all honesty, most of the time, one student would make the choice to walk away and find a different workspace. This was an unexpected positive outcome… problem resolution practice! I would always call carpet rows of six students at a time to choose a spot. Students who rushed and were noisy had to come back to the rug and pick last. We went over our rules poster multiple times each day during the first few weeks of implementation and reviewed it when necessary. We talked about what using the tools appropriately looks like, and what it doesn't look like. We talked about using small bounces only on the yoga balls, keeping feet on the floor, and being safe. All students learned the expectations and few problems arose due to the procedures we put in place.


Choice Within Boundaries
We have all heard the phrase "choice within boundaries" as teachers. As with any group of students, some children will need extra guidance. I had one student that continually had trouble choosing a spot that best fit her needs. We decided together where her "special spot" would be. If I noticed her having difficulty in her chosen workspace, I would discretely encourage her to move to her "special spot" so she could work more effectively. As time progressed, she needed far fewer reminders. This still gave her the power of choice, with the boundary of being moved to her special spot if she was not working effectively.

I know some of you are wondering about those students that will "work" right next to their best friend EVERY-SINGLE-TIME if given the chance. Yes, I had a few of those! Well… those special friends still have the choice of where to work, BUT- their boundary is they must not sit next to, or in the same area, as their best friend. This is also a discreet conversation to have with the particular students once you see the problem arise. By the end of the year though, I can say that even if the "besties" ended up working in the same vicinity, there were few problems because they understood the expectations of our seating arrangement and realized it is a privilege. If you drive home the idea that this seating is meant to help them learn best- they will understand sitting right next to their outgoing best friend will not allow them to do their best work.

If problems arise, I would advise looking at the way the expectations were set up at the start of the seating plan before making too many separate rules for students. I found going back to review expectations with the whole class was a sufficient reminder and prevented further problems.

Novelty vs. Best Fit Workspace
I introduced the seating a few options at a time. Once the yoga balls came, I implemented them. When the cushions arrived, I had students using them the next day…. so not all of the seating was available to the students from day one. Thinking ahead to the coming year, I would prefer all the options to be available to the students at the same time. The "new" option was of course the most popular and therefore it took time to see which workstations worked best for each student. For the coming year we will implement all choices from day one and the students will have time trying all seating to see which workspaces work best for them during different parts of our daily routine. I am very excited to get rid of my desks next year! My principal has allowed me to switch out desks for round tables. I LOVE this idea and I know it will be a wonderful way for me to build community and team building while keeping with our flexible seating plan. I will reserve some desks for standing, but the round tables will be great for use with yoga balls, fidget bands, and traditional seating.

Improvement in Focus
I am very pleased with the positive impact this seating has had with my students. My highly active, distractible students benefitted from the extra movement. They were able to channel their energy productively, freeing up their hands and minds to complete their tasks. I saw higher work production and more time-on-task from the most distractible students. For example, instead of fixating on a pencil and not completing work, a student stretched a fidget band with his feet while working at a standing desk, enabling him to focus on his work. Even my students who did not have any problems with focus enjoyed the extra movement (what six-year-old wouldn't?!). Of course this isn't a "magic pill" and it wasn't the perfect fix for every challenge each student is faced with, but anytime you can incorporate more movement and engagement in a classroom is a welcome change!


Taking Part in the Action
I also wanted in on the action of flexible seating and replaced my teacher chair with a yoga ball. I hardly sit during the day as it is, but it was wonderful to use the yoga ball during my small group instruction time. I must admit that I did all of the things I tell my students not to do at the start (big bounces, rolling around, lifting both feet up and balancing, etc.). It was fun :). What I found, is the extra movement and subtle core work was a nice addition to my day and kept me energized and moving around just the right amount. The downside… my yoga ball didn't have the little legs so it ended up rolling around all over the classroom!



List and Links for Seating
I have been asked by some readers what type of yoga balls I purchased and others have inquired about where I purchased other seating options. Here is a list of items I purchased. I have been very happy with the durability of the seating options and would highly recommend them.

Yoga Balls: Gaiam Kids Stay-N-Play Balance Ball 
I purchased mine through Amazon. The only downside to these yoga balls is the green color got a bit dirty after 5 months, although Lysol wipes cleaned them up fairly well.

Stability Disks: Simply Sports 13'' Fitness and Balance Disk Seat (Set of 10)
I also purchased these through Amazon. My students really like this option when they sit at the low tables and while sitting on the carpet. I will also try them in chairs for the coming year. These are great because they have two textured sides the students choose from.

Rainbow Kneeling Cushions: I purchased these from the Dollar Store. They are actually gardening pads made of foam. They ended up with holes and dents, which isn't surprising based on  material they are made from and the price paid. I am planning on replacing them for the next school year.

Fidget Bands: TheraBand 6-Yard Exercise Band
These bands were also purchased from Amazon. I was able to cut the band to the size I needed to fit around 5 chair legs and 4 desk legs. I just wrapped the band around and tied it in a double knot. These held up well and ended up being a favorite among students with busy feet.

I will be looking into scoop chairs and lap desks as an addition for next year. I would love to add wobble stools, but I have a feeling my budget won't allow for those to be added quite yet.

Flexible seating isn't for everyone, but after giving it a whirl, I found it is DEFINITELY for me and my students. It takes a bit of relinquishing of control, careful planning, and patience during implementation. I am very happy with my trial run and can't wait to see how a new group of students will benefit from the plan.

Want to check out the seating in action? Visit my classroom website here.

Happy Teaching!




21 comments:

  1. This had made me excited to try flexible seating this year! I teach 3rd grade. Last year I noticed several students needed to stand and others who asked to move to other areas. This year I requested standing desks. I started doing research on flexible seating. Excitement is setting in but so are nerves. I hope this is the right thing. Wish me luck :)

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    1. Good luck! I was nervous to start flexible seating at first also. That relinquishing of control is definitely scary… but trust your kids. Once they understand the expectations they will surprise you! :) Let me know if you have any questions and come back to tell me how it went :).

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  2. This had made me excited to try flexible seating this year! I teach 3rd grade. Last year I noticed several students needed to stand and others who asked to move to other areas. This year I requested standing desks. I started doing research on flexible seating. Excitement is setting in but so are nerves. I hope this is the right thing. Wish me luck :)

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  3. I love the idea of flexible seating, don't think I can afford the yoga balls yet but the standing work space and the kneeling areas should work for me. I was wondering though, do students still have their own desks/space to keep their things? If not where do they store their things.

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    1. They do not have their own desk space, but they do have a spot for personal items such as folders, special pencils, and journals. Most of our supplies are community supplies so that definitely helps with organization and it teaches them how to work with others to take care of classroom shared items. Last year I numbered 4 bins and the students put their items in the bins with their carpet row numbers. They put their pencil boxes in their mailbox. This year I will be using a plastic drawer system. I have three 10-Drawer plastic towers that will be placed around the room. Each child will have a drawer and it will house all of their folders and journals as well as a FEW personal items, such as a box of crayons and special pencils. All other supplies will be in caddies at each workstation. Great question! You can also look into writing a grant for funds for your yoga balls. Donor's Choose is a great website for funding teachers! :)

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  4. I love the idea of flexible seating, don't think I can afford the yoga balls yet but the standing work space and the kneeling areas should work for me. I was wondering though, do students still have their own desks/space to keep their things? If not where do they store their things.

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  5. I would love to try this idea next year. Curious to know how the flexible seating plan works during lunch time and snack time. Do the students choose a station to eat (ex. on the floor, on the yoga balls, standing, etc.)?

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    1. Good question! At my site, the children have the option of eating in the cafeteria, outside at picnic tables, or on the ground/lawn near the cafeteria. For snack the students take their food outside and eat at recess. Flexible seating isn't really affected much by snack and lunch for me. For parties, however we do have treats etc. In this situation seats are selected the same way as when we are doing classwork. I excuse a few kids at a time to carefully, calmly, and quietly find a spot. So far I haven't run into any problems with it! :) Some teachers use cafeteria trays to hold food items to avoid extra messes. Great question! :)

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  6. I'm doing flexible seating this coming school year and can't wait! Where do you have your kids store their backpacks? I'm thinking about having bins to put them in, but I'm a little concerned about love. Thank you for the follow up flexible seating post!

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    1. Good question! I totally understand the lice concern when fabric items are in close contact! At my site we have a hallway with backpack hooks on a rack outside the classroom door. I love it because the backpacks are always out of the way and we only have to worry about it in the morning and afternoon. I do see how this would be a challenge if backpacks are normally kept on the back of the student chairs. Some teachers line up the backpacks in the hallway and don't use hooks and it seems to work pretty well. There are some pretty neat ideas on Pinterest, too! I looked up "Classroom Backpack Rack" and lots of great ideas popped up. I hope you find a great solution and please let me know how what you choose and how it goes!

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  8. Love it!! I will attempt it this year. My biggest concern is whether to start from day one! What are your thoughts on this? I read you wanted to try it this year from day one. I'm concerned starting from day one because this will be my first year to try it. Any suggestions? Thank you!!

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    1. I have the same concern. My students will be learning so many other expectations. I'm wondering if it will be too much at first.

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  9. I started 3 days ago, and although I'm willing to stick it out and be brave for a bit longer, I have some concerns. Sometimes when they are working on a low spot like the rug, I find myself letting go of mistakes with which I would have helped before simply because they are SO LOW and I don't know how many times I can bend that far. Has that been a concern with anyone else?? How do you handle this? Also, I have my firsties keep their journals and practice books in book bins that are in numerical order. Some take forever to get their stuff and others end up picking up someone else's books quite often. How do you deal with something like that? It really makes me miss when they had their stuff right at their desk. I really want to stick it out. Please help.

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    1. Hello! Great questions! For me, the low tables and carpet spots have not been a problem because I usually sit down right next to them to give them corrective feedback. If this is a concern of yours, maybe you can call them to you at a table to conference with the students instead? I have used individual drawers this year for my student supplies and journals and they have been very quick and careful with getting their things. Each child has a drawer labeled with their name (you can see what this looks like in my classroom reveal 2016 post). Maybe a mailbox system or drawer system will help with them getting their things more quickly? How is it going for you now?

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  10. I just started it today for the first time. It takes some getting used to. I am wondering if your kids get to choose different spots throughout the day of if your kids choose 1 spot to stay at the whole day. Also, I have bins that have their own pencil box and crayons and folders in. They take this with them, but I am finding transitions take a long time. Will this get better? Thanks so much for all your insight. It has been so helpful. I have a lot to learn! You sound like an amazing teacher!

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  11. I LOVE this set up and definitely want to implement some of this into my classroom! I saw you mentioned doing whole group at the carpet, but do you use a projector at all and if so, how do you have that set up for whole group? Thanks!

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    1. Hello! Thank you for your question! I do use a projector. I actually couldn't imagine teaching without one at this point! :) I have it set up on a desk behind the carpet area and then I pull the screen down over my large whiteboard. I have the students bring clipboards, whiteboards, etc. to the rug when we use them. They are so used to the routine it takes no time at all and has been quite successful in my classroom. I have a picture of the set up that I will post under the "Flexible Seating" tab for you to see. :)

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  13. I know this is late, but the resistance band was a great idea, and affordable!

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