Flexible Seating in the Primary Classroom: Part 1

I did it, I made the jump and started Flexible Seating!  I'm a week in and I love it!  Let me share with you how it has worked in my classroom.   
At the beginning of my career,  I was a special education teacher and really embraced seating options then.  So when I got into the classroom, I continued to allow for more flexible seating, although I still had name tags, tables and chairs.  I have always allowed my students to move and work around the room as needed, standing at other tables or working on the floor, but they always had a table spot-UNTIL NOW!
I follow a lot of blogs and teachers on social media and really enjoyed seeing flexible seating become more popular.  Angie from Lucky Little Learners and Kayla from Top Dog Teaching are two that I have loved following for flexible seating.  As I watched other teachers implement it, I started thinking about how I could fully implement it with the things I had.  Because of a Donor's Choose Project I had funded last fall, I already had 3 wobble stools and 3 wiggle cushions.  Before spring break, I used some money that we get from our fabulous PTO and went to Walmart and bought 4 scoop rockers, 4 pillows, 8 small bathmats, 4 yoga mats and a big tub.  I had everything I needed to implement, now I just needed to pull the plug.  

I had a student teacher from January until before spring break, so I decided that right after spring break was when I was going to fully implement it.  We also had conferences before spring break and I didn't want the new seating to be a focus for parents so I waited until after break.  

When the students walked into the classroom on the Monday after break, they had quite the surprise.  I had eluded to new changes that were coming, but I don't think they had any idea.  Boy, were they surprised!

Student Seat Options

As for the seating, there are a lot of other options you could do, I just went with what I had and what was cheap.  One thing I did at the very beginning of implementation was talk about appropriate and safe sitting at each spot. 

In the classroom, the students have a lot of different seating options.  I have also included where I got mine (or where you can find them). 

1. Wobble Stools from Amazon 
The wobble stools are 14" and come in a lot of different colors.  Since we have had these awhile, the students know our expectations.  They know they cannot kneel or spin on them.  My custodian gave me a couple carpet squares to put underneath so they don't ruin the tile.  They also have to be careful when rocking or they will fall off.

Other stool options from Amazon: 
*15 inch Hokki Stool 

2. Pillows from Walmart
Aren't these pillow just adorable?  I love the gold color as it matched my bee themed classroom.  They were only $9.  I didn't want to spend a lot because I knew they would get a lot of wear and tear.  There are already pen marks and they are definitely flatter than when we started a week ago, but I knew that would happen.  Some of the expectations we have are no shoes on them and no heads!  We've had lice going around the school so I'm extremely strict about this one.  They are to sit on them at the table.  If they want to lay down, they can grab a yoga mat.    

3. Wiggle Cushions from Amazon 
These are just your typical wiggle cushion that most OTs in schools have.  These are nice and big with a pointy side and a flat side.  Expectations are that students are careful with scissors around them  But besides that, we don't have a lot of rules. 

*Both the pillow and wiggle cushion tables are lower to the ground.  My custodian was nice enough to lower them as far as they would go.  And they actually weren't as low as I would have liked so he took off the whole bottom part of the leg.  He put tennis balls on the bottom to protect the table and the tile. 

4. Standing Table
This is just a regular table raised as high as it will go.  I also have chairs there in case they feel like sitting.    

5. Scoop Rocker from Amazon 
I got mine from Walmart, but they aren't even online anymore, so I found these at Overstock.  After another teacher saw mine, she went searching for others around our area and found some at Aldi. The rockers are definitely an ABSOLUTE FAVORITE.  Because of this, we rotate through them.  When it is a student's turn to have one they can choose to have it or not.  They fit my little firsties well.  They can rock or sit steady. 

Other rocker options from Amazon

6. Yoga Mat on the Floor from Walmart 
The yoga mats are the cheapest I could find.  At the time they were under $4-perfect for my teacher budget.  I had my custodian cut them in half.  I didn't think there was room or that the students needed a full yoga mat.  The half-size seems to be perfect for them.  They say it feels like laying on a cloud and that it's so fluffy.  I'm glad I didn't spend the extra money on thicker ones when these seem to work just fine.  

How It Works in My Classroom

This is how it works in my first-grade classroom:

Every morning when my students come into the classroom, they drop off their homework and then grab their book box.  This is where they keep most of their materials including: book bags, homework bag, writing folder, word work journal and daily work folder.  They then make a choice on where they want to sit for the day.  As of now, my students have decided they want to have a base spot for the day.  They pick where they want to sit, grab everything they need and get started on their morning work.  If they are on the floor, on a yoga mat or rocker, they grab a supply case and clipboard.  In the supply case there are pencils, pens, crayons, scissors, glue sticks and sticky notes.  If they choose to sit at one of the tables, there is a shared supply bin with everything they need.  I always have shared supplies since we use tables, so this was not a new concept for my students.

They choose a base spot for the day, but if they want to move around during another activity, they still have that option.  I don't want a student to be "stuck" in a spot for a certain activity if they feel they will work better somewhere else.  

When I introduced it to my students, I had them be a HUGE part of figuring out expectations and rules.  We talked about what it would look like to sit at each spot and we talked A LOT about choosing a good spot that will work for them.  It's not about sitting by their friend, or where their friends are sitting, it's about where THEY learn best.  We also talked about how flexible seating and choosing a spot is a privilege.  The whole point of flexible seating if for them to have the power to choose and learn where they can be the best they can be.  Since starting, we continue to have these conversations and reflect on our seating choices daily. 

Going into the whole flexible seating thing, I had a lot of questions that I was trying to figure out.  To answer some of these questions, I sat down with my principal.  But in the end, we decided to let the students help figure out the answers.  We wanted to EMPOWER them and have them feel more responsible for it in our classroom.  So, on those first couple days, as problems arose, we figured things out and came up with answers together.  If something didn't work, we brainstormed and tried something else.  

We will see how it works for the rest of the year, but overall I am extremely happy with my decision.  I had complete support from my principal and was ready to do this for my students because I knew it what was best for them.   

OK, I think this post is long enough for now, but I want to know YOUR questions about flexible seating.  Do you do it in your classroom?  Are you unsure of how to get started?  Are you looking for ways to get supplies for flexible seating?  Whatever questions you have, I'd love to hear them.  Then in my next post about flexible seating I will answer some of those questions.  I'd love to hear from you.  Please comment below.  


Until next time, happy teaching.

         
This post contains affiliate links for Amazon. By purchasing an item on the Amazon site using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase. 

6 comments

  1. Love it! Way to jump right in and try something innovative!

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  2. Thanks Jacki! And thanks for your support and thoughts in helping me implement!

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  3. I have been implementing flexible seating for the last 2 weeks and my students love it but we have been really struggling with my students' supplies. They have so many workbooks and journals, that keeping them in those magazine files and having them bring these files to their seat is not working and they are leaving their items everywhere!

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  4. Hi Ashlee, thanks for the comment. I will go more into details in my next post about student supplies, but my students each have their own book boxes. We also keep some of our bigger, bulkier math journals in another spot. This helps a little bit. I'm also really cognizant about making students clean up their area before moving on to another subject. We're constantly checking our spaces. I hope that helps. Good luck!
    Paige

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  5. How many students do you have and how many seating options do you have in your classroom? I'm wanting to try flexible seating, just trying to figure it all out. What are some of your consequences if your students are not sitting properly?

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    1. Hi Yvette, thanks for the comment, that's a great question. I had 18 students this year with 26 seating options. As I started flexible seating we talked A LOT about appropriate ways to sit in the seats. If they did not do it appropriately, they would be moved to a different spot (like a table with a regular chair). This very rarely happened though. You can go to part 2 of this post here: http://bit.ly/flexibleseatingpart2 It may answer some more questions for you.
      ~Paige

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