Being Flexible with Flex Classroom Seating

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

Being Flexible with Flex Classroom SeatingThinking about using flex seating for your classroom? I’m a huge fan. That being said, I’ve learned over the years that not all students do well with all seating scenarios.

Through grants, garage sales, and gifts, I’ve added many comfy seating options and various table spaces to my classroom. There were many challenges when I jumped on the flex-seating bandwagon:

  • How to fund the furniture (and replace it when worn out)
  • Where to store the kids’ “stuff” with no desks
  • Logistics of choosing who sits where and for how long

I managed to sort out these things and wrote about them in a past blog post.

But this year, I have a different class—a class with many challenging behavior issues (probably the most I have ever had in one class in one year!). Some of my students came in with social anxieties, anger management issues, and attentional demands. I had to figure out a way to have our class function as a family with this family-room style of seating.

I tried tackling the problems individually. It became a lot to manage on a daily basis.

I tried to use classroom incentives to have all kids work for the common good and help each other earn rewards. There were enough students making poor choices that they ended up rebelling against those making good choices. They didn’t take kindly to “polite reminders.”

I finally decided that a small-team approach might work. Each team received a team color, and an assortment of comfy furniture was clumped in areas around the room. I brought back a desk for each team to use for shared supplies, and I hung paper lanterns matching the colors of the teams above them.

Using star magnets that match the team colors, I can keep track of teams’ behavior and can reward teams for being on task, for tidying up, for using growth mindset, and for making other good choices. When a team’s stars reach a certain point across the whiteboard, the students can enjoy a special reward together as a team. It could be lunch in the room, a special treat, or a special privilege.

It isn’t a race against other teams. All teams can move their star to the end many times each month and can enjoy many positive rewards. The mind shift came with students’ having a smaller group that they are accountable to. Just changing this one thing has made a big difference in students’ ability to motivate others to work as a team. We keep the same teams for a month and then I mix it up for the next month. So far, this has been a great way to carefully place students in groups where they have just the right mix of kids with various strengths to be successful.

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:

Coasting Casey Penelope Perfect: A Tale of Perfectionism Gone Wild

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