Saturday, April 23, 2016

Flexible! Alternative! Amazing!

Is it Flexible Seating or Alternative Seating?  Whatever you want to call it, it has transformed my teaching.  I have to give thanks to the amazing inspirational blog posts, videos, and other social media posts by AngieOlson, from LuckyLittle Learners, Mr.Greg, from KindergartenSmorgasboard, and KaylaDelzer, from Top DogTeaching.  These posts motivated me to take the leap into flexible seating right after spring break. 

I decided I would take a test drive before I started planning for the next school year.  I was not sure how my students would handle being able to make their own choices.  I prepared my students by talking about our “classroom experiment”.  They were really motivated when I said the desks would be disappearing.  I wanted them to know how the “experiment” would work and how lucky they were to be able to participate.  My class is the only class fully implementing flexible seating in my school.  

I prepared my students for about three weeks as we slowly started organizing the classroom for a life without desks. We merged our textbooks into cubbies.   

 We organized our working folders into baskets.  

We started using community supplies and practiced keeping them organized.  We had to develop new routines.   This, in the long run, benefited us immensely when the final transition happened.  We had our routines in place and could focus on CHOICE.

As we were preparing for the transition in school, I went SHOPPING on the weekend!!!  (My favorite part)   
 I decided to post a project on Donors Choose to fund a new carpet for my classroom.  I wanted a centerpiece for my classroom to create a new feel for my students.  I was so lucky that my project was funded in a little more than three weeks.  (Thanks to many of lifelong friends from home in Virginia)

I bought four stability balls for $5.97 each online from Wal-Mart.  I was a little disappointed in them.  Some of them were not completely round.  I will probably replace them next year and spend a little more money.  

I made a trip to one of my favorite places in the world, Ikea.  These awesome black stools work perfectly under my guided reading table. 


These lap desks were such an awesome idea, however students need to make sure their legs are underneath to support the center of the desk.  I found these at Hobby Lobby. 
I found my green and orange bath mats at Target.  They are so soft and some of my student’s favorite spots to sit.

 Flexibility Eve
The Wednesday after spring break was an early release day for our school.  It took me about 4 hours to prep my room the way I wanted.  I even drew out a very rough sketch the night before to make my work a little easier.   
I used many of my desks to create long table spaces protruding from the walls.  I also used these spaces for my writing and word work areas. 

I created little sitting nooks around the classroom using little chairs from Ikea, bean bags, and beach chairs. 

I was not sure if my students would use a standing table.  I put one in the back of the classroom and added a little lamp.  I have one student that works here every day.  I might have to add another standing table next year. 
I lowered two trapezoid tables to make a large hexagon.  I used Target bath mats around the table.  This table is always full. 

I added another lower table made with desks.  Students use the crate seats to create a perfect little working space.  

My biggest worry was organization.  How was I going to organize and create new routines in the middle of the year without causing total chaos?  My students have BEE Binders (Bring Everything Everyday), textbooks, notebooks, and work folders. 
I decided to have students store their binders in their mailboxes.  That made sure everything was taken home each day. We placed the textbooks in a cubby I was using for
centers.  We placed all of the notebooks in baskets at the front of the classroom along with work folders.  It is working amazingly!

Work in Progress
Of course, this is a work in progress.  I have been making changes almost every day since I have started.  The key to making this work in your classroom is one important rule.  THERE ARE NO WARNINGS.   Your students have to buy into this rule or having choice will never work.  I have two students that still have a hard time choosing a place that is best for their learning and where they can do their best.  I have two regular desks just in case I have to put the NO WARNINGS card.

I am so glad I started flexible seating at the end of this year.  I know for sure I will start at the beginning of next year.  I have seen so many of my students come to life.  My students that have attention and hyper activity problems are able to choose quiet wiggly places to sit with lots of space.  My girls love to sit on the little carpets at the low tables or on the carpet with lap desks.  Also, my students that are creative and artistic have loved sitting in cozy spots and not in desks where they seemed to drift off and day dream.  It has been an amazing ride that I have jumped on, and I think it is one of the best choices I have made as a teacher.   


  1. Kay, thank you for this post! I am so excited to get flexible seating started in my 2nd grade classroom next year. My principal approved doing "half of the classroom" with flexible seating "to see how it works". Your photos gave me some ideas of how I can organize the 11 desks that I will keep. As I am new to this too, I have several questions: a) Where did you find the trapezoid tables? Did your school already have them? b) Do you only use the lighting from the lamps in your room to avoid the fluorescent lights? c) Do you play music while kids are working? and d) Will you please keep us posted as to new changes you make? I will start this up at the beginning of this upcoming school year with my 2nd graders. Luckily, I too was funded through DonorsChoose and I already have a classroom carpet. Thanks so much for taking some of your time to answer my questions and again, for this post.

  2. Hey Susy,
    I am so glad you are trying out flexible seating. I found it so much easier to get it started after researching storage ideas. I have to tell you, it is still a work in progress. I am glad I started before the beginning of the year. Now I have more of an idea of how I will start and how important it is to stick with the NO WARNINGS rule.

    My school already has trapezoid tables. I am thinking about adding another hexagon next year because my students love this table so much. I have used lamps in my classroom for years now. I love them. I also use them because I do not turn all of our fluorescent lights on all day. I use my projects for almost everything. I love music. I do turn on my classical music during read to self. Each year is difference since I have an inclusion classroom. This year I had a students with Autism and he could not handle any music playing in the background.

    I am definitely going to post changes I make. I feel I am changing each day to try to get this right for my class. The biggest change I have made is the selection of seating. Now, I let students choose where they will be learning and working in the morning. (Instead of each time they do seat work) They will stay in this spot the entire day (unless I move them). I will gradually transition to all day choice.

    Flexible seating has really helped my student engagement and motivation here in the last few weeks of school. I am so glad I made the transition. If you have any questions, please let me know. Kay

  3. Okay - I am very intrigued by this and would like to offer it. For the past 2 years my students have all been on stability balls (when I first introduced them I actually had a parent who was quite upset and thought it would hurt her daughter's back?? - 2 days later she came back and apologized after finally reading my research and listening to others share the facts that it actually strengthens a student's back muscles and core and can help with attention. BUT - I have had to take balls away for misbehavior on them and I now have several buckets, Ikea chairs, regular class chairs, and the balls. My question is if you have them walk in and just choose in the morning - I am imagining they will run and fight over a certain seating - and/or maybe too many will want a certain seating when there are limited numbers of each seating. I would think once they chose in the morning, it would be easier to have them just keep that for the day to avoid arguing over new choices - wanting what someone else has (sometimes they don't even realize they actually don't want it - but just want it because their friend chose it?)

  4. I am working towards flexible seating for this new school year. The areas I am struggling with are where do students keep back packs, water bottles and where do they eat their snacks. I am planning on having a few desks and tables but the remainder of students will be on the floor with lap desks or mats and clip boards.