Flexible Classroom Seating: Your Questions Answered

By Shannon Anderson, author of Coasting Casey: A Tale of Busting Boredom in School

Flexible Classroom Seating: Your Questions AnsweredAfter teaching for twenty-two years, I finally decided to give flexible seating a try. Although there are a few things I will change for the upcoming year, by and large, removing all of my desks and getting a variety of tables and chairs was a huge success.

At a conference recently, a teacher asked me about my experience with flexible seating. She asked many of the same questions that I had when I first started. Now that I have a year of flexible seating under my belt, I hope these answers to common questions can help you get started, too.

Q: What made you decide to start flexible seating?
A: I’m always looking for ways to make my classroom a comfortable environment to spend the day in. From rugs to plants, I want an inviting atmosphere that can be a home away from home for my students.

Q: How were you able to get all of the furniture?
A: I started out with a GoFundMe (gofundme.com) campaign, and it was almost fully funded by winter break. I also shopped at garage sales and pulled some items from my own home. You can check with your school to see if they have any furniture that is no longer being used. I scored a few tables that way.

Q: How do you decide where the kids will sit?
A: After the kids pack up at the end of the day, we pick new seats for the next day. I always let the student of the day go first so that everyone is in the rotation to have a first pick almost every month. Then I choose different ways to pick the rest. Sometimes it is completely random, other times I am deliberate and choose something we have been working on. For example, it may be who has mastered their fives in multiplication or who had their reading log signed all month.

Q: What are some of your rules for the seats?
A: Here are three.

  1. I don’t allow kids to sit at the same table or seat in the same week. If you already had a turn on the swivel chair this week, you have to wait until next week to pick it again.
  2. I go over the proper way to use each type of seat before anyone uses them. For example, if you have the yoga ball, it needs to stay close to your table. You can’t take a ride across the room on it!
  3. I can move students to a different seat if I don’t feel like they are getting their best work done where they are. It could be because of the type of seat or table, or because of who they are sitting by. They also have the right to ask to be moved for the same reasons.

Q: Where do the kids store their supplies?
A: My kids have cubbies in the room to store their journals, handwriting paper, vocab folders, and so on. They are allowed to have their binder and a book at their spot. I have upright containers at each table in the room with pencils, highlighters, and scissors. My kids also have lockers in the hallway for personal items and things they would need for their special classes. You really do need some kind of place, like cubbies, for students to store their items, or it can get pretty messy.

Q: What types of seats and tables seem to work best?
A: I have a variety of high, medium, and low tables. They seat anywhere from two to six people. I also have all kinds of chairs. Some are tall stools, some are very low to the ground. I have yoga balls, yoga peanuts, swivel chairs, wobble chairs, regular student chairs, armchairs, a bench, and a couch. Every spot has a table in front of it. Even the couch has a coffee table to write on.

Although this year will be slightly different because my students will have fun seating from the first day, I’m looking forward to doing it all again. An added benefit to this type of arrangement is that kids sit by someone different almost every day. This has had great social benefits and causes students to have to learn to work with and get along with all the kids in the room.

Shannon AndersonShannon Anderson has her master’s degree in education and is currently a third-grade teacher, high ability coordinator, and presenter and a former first-grade teacher, adjunct professor, and literacy coach. She loves spending time with her family, playing with words, teaching kids and adults, running very early in the morning, traveling to new places, and eating ice cream. She also enjoys doing author visits and events. Shannon lives in Indiana with her husband Matt and their daughters Emily and Madison.

Free Spirit books by Shannon Anderson:

Coasting Casey Penelope Perfect: A Tale of Perfectionism Gone Wild

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