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Should You Try Flexible Seating? Why I Think It Worked for Me

Flexible seating is just that FLEXIBLE! It has so many benefits for children.  A few years ago, I added flexible seating options in my classroom but the students still sat at tables, in chairs.  Two years ago, I made a VIP {Very Important People} table with balance balls.  My students were super motivated to get picked for the VIP table.  It worked really well but I wanted everyone to have that benefit.  So, last year, I took the plunge and got rid of my chairs.  I was super nervous and wasn’t sure how it would go, but decided to step out of my comfort zone and give it a try.
flexible seating first grade

Why Flexible Seating?
I don’t want to sit at a hard chair all day long.  It hurts my back and bottom.  I spend a lot of time in my classroom and want to be comfortable.  So, I thought I should extend that same choice to my students.
Not only is flexible seating comfortable, but it allows for choice.  Choice is extremely motivating and empowering.  Flexible seating helps build relationships and community because it allows for more collaborative work than desks and chairs.  I have found that it increases student engagement.
first grade flexible seating, flexible seating for students

How to Begin
Decide on what types of seating you want.  Do you want a standing table?  Do you want a low table? Maybe you want no tables and all portable seating?
first grade flexible seating, flexible seating for students

Here are the items I purchased:

Balance Balls 


Bean Bags   

These are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog!
Once you have decided, determine if you can buy everything with your school budget.  I have no budget at school so I had to get a grant.  I wrote one on Donors Choose and was able to get most of my seating.  I also asked the PTO and the School Board for money.  I was able to get the rest of the seating and light covers with the money.
When all the seating arrived, the real planning began.
first grade flexible seating, flexible seating for students

Before you switch to flexible seating, you need a plan.  How will students choose seating?  How often will they choose seats? What will happen if they don’t use it appropriately?  Where will they store their supplies?
I chose storage drawers because I thought it would take up less space and eliminate congestion.  I have seen people have shelving with book boxes to hold supplies, too.  I really like the drawers and am glad I went with them. If four students are at a table and there are only 3 drawers, students share a drawer.  We keep everything in folders so that was not an issue I my room. If you think it would be an issue for you, I’d suggest getting 4 drawer storage.
I decided that we would switch our seats once a week. During independent reading and math workshop, students could sit wherever they pleased.  When it came time to seat work, they would sit at their table unless they wanted a lap desk or portable lap desk. Any time there was collaborative work, students could move their seat in an area to work with their group. While this was my plan, it wasn’t set in stone.  I had two kiddos that wanted a chair.  I had some that really needed a certain seat and we made sure that happened.  I made sure I was accommodating to all the learners in my room.
I found my first graders to be very responsible with flexible seating.  We discussed {at length} what a privilege it was to have all these cool seating options and choice.  Students were very motivated and wanted to enjoy the seats.  They knew that if they didn’t follow all the school rules and work, they would lose the privilege.  I explained to my class that I have found that students can work harder, be comfortable and have some say in their learning and I expected them to make good choices for themselves.  I did let them know that if they made poor decisions, we would have to problem solve how to make it work.  If after three tries, they were still not able to do their best work or make good choices, they would lose the privilege of flexible seating.  I did not have ay students who lost the privilege last year.  Two got close, but that was this year.  Who knows what will happen this coming school year?
first grade flexible seating, flexible seating for students

Why I Believe Flexible Seating Worked for Me
Flexible Seating is not for everyone.  You have to do what works for you.
Here are the reasons why I believe it worked for me:
1.     Students already move around the classroom all day long so this wasn’t a huge change for me.  We have two different carpet areas for whole group time and move around during literacy and math and science.  I already had tables in my room and students switched seats every 2-3 weeks prior to beginning flexible seating.
2.     Classroom management doesn’t stress me out.  I always have some students with behavioral challenges, like we all do, but I feel like I have a handle on it.  {FYI This was not always the case.  I am a veteran teacher who just finished year 24 in the classroom.} Don’t feel bad if this is not the case for you.  I only pointed this out because I think it makes a difference.  If you think it will stress you out, it probably will. 
3.     I had the support of parents and administration. 
4.     I received funding for the seating.  This makes a huge difference!  I know some teachers who tried some cheaper options for seating on their own. When the seating broke or got ruined and needed to be replaced, they were frustrated.  I knew I would be, too, so I applied for grants.  I’d rather spend a little more money and be sure what we got was quality so it would last, but I couldn’t afford it.  Thank goodness for generous people who are willing to support our schools!  It has made all the difference!
5.     I had a plan.  I have seen flexible seating go bad when a solid plan is not in place.  You need to think out every single detail and decide what will work for you.
6.    I already had a “splash” of flexible seating in my classroom.  I put my toes in the water and liked it, so I decided to dive right in.

Should you try flexible seating? That is up to you! You have to decide what you value and what you can live with.  Maybe you start small like I did and test out the waters.  Maybe you are brave and just dive right in.  You can always go back to traditional seating.  It’s not the end all be all. Weigh out your choices and decide what is best for you.
I am glad I tried it out and was extremely pleased with the level of student engagement and motivation.  Maybe you will be too!

If you want to give it a try and need a pamphlet to explain it to parents, make sure you subscribe to my blog here. Once you subscribe, you will get this free editable Flexible Seating Brochure.

first grade flexible seating, flexible seating for students

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