Flexible Seating in the Primary Classroom: Your Questions Answered

We made it to the last week!  Only 4 more days of school left!  

I dove head first into Flexible seating after spring break this year.  I blogged about getting it started and my beginning thoughts.  


Since starting it, I've had a lot of questions on social media and from teachers in my own building.  I thought if they had those questions, then others probably did too and I wanted to make sure to help anyone who is thinking about starting it.  

So here you go, this post is for you.  The most asked questions about flexible seating, answered. 

1. What do you do with your supplies?
I have always had tables and shared supplies in my classroom.  At the beginning of the year, I collect everything except markers.  So the supply situation was not a huge deal when we changed to flexible seating.  All of my tables already had shared supply bins with pencils, pens, crayons, colored pencils, glue sticks, scissors and erasers in them.  When we went to flexible seating, those school supplies stayed the same.  You can see the colored supply bins in the main picture above on each table.  Here's a picture of a close up of one of the supply bins on each table.

Those that choose to be in a rocker or on a yoga mat for the day could grab a mini supply bin.  This was just a regular pencil case with pencils, pens, sticky notes, a glue stick and a pair of scissors.  That way they had everything they needed and didn't need to move to a table when they need supplies.  It was all right there for them.  

Now, I'm sure you're wondering about all of our other supplies.  This didn't change much either.  Because I have tables, each of my students has a book box.  In that box they keep their book bag, word work journal, daily work folder, writing folder and other random things like their own pencils, number scrolls, and sight word bags.  In the picture below, this is the book boxes lined up at the end of each day.  During the day, the book boxes stay at their seat.  

The rest of our supplies are kept in our cubbies.  That is where our math journals and markers are all housed.  See these pictures below. 
You can see their two math journals above and below the containers.  They fit perfectly!
2. How do kids pick their spots?
Every morning when the kids come in they get to pick their home base spot for the day.  After they do their lunch choice and grab their book box they find a seat that will work for them that day. This is their base spot where they keep their supplies.  In the beginning, the rockers were definitely a favorite and we had to rotate them through everyone with a system.  Now that they are used to them, I implemented a rule that they cannot have a rocker 2 days in a row.  That has seemed to work for now.

Here is a picture of the system I used to rotate between rockers at the very beginning.  These pockets are used for my behavior system so it worked well to put these sticks in them too.  Every day I just moved the sticks to the next students.  

When they choose their spot, this is their base spot.  If they feel like they want to move around for certain activities, that have that option.  If they want to stand during our word work, or lay down during our reading time they can make that choice.  That's why it's called FLEXIBLE SEATING. :o)

I also want to mention that a couple students do have assigned seats.  I have 1, sometimes 2 students, who have routinely showed me that they cannot choose a good working spot for them so we talked, came up with the best spot for them and that's where they stay for awhile.

3. How did you come up with the rules and expectations?
When I first implemented flexible seating, I brainstormed with my principal about how to introduce it to my students.  I thought I would want to state the rules right away, but while talking with my principal, we decided that it would be good for them to help come up with the rules and expectations.

So the first couple of days, there were things like snack and independent and partner reading and science, that I just wasn't sure how it would work, but I left it up to the class to brainstorm ideas.  We tried different options on those first couple of days and then came up with what worked best for our class.  I really left it up to them to come up with what worked and what our rules and expecations would be.

In the end, we came up with a chart similar to this one from the fabulous Angie Olson at Lucky Little Learners.  She has a fabulous post about flexible seating too.



Here's a picture of my quick chart.  Next year, I plan on making it a little nicer.  Once they learned the expectations though I took it down.  We didn't have this chart up for long.

You can also read more about my adventures in starting with flexible seating in my first post here

4. Do they fight over spots?
If students are fighting over a seat or spot, neither of them gets that seat for the day.  Earlier this week, I actually had 2 friends play rock, paper, scissors to see who got a spot and that worked well for them.  There are more than enough seats for everyone so this really isn't usually a problem.  It may be different with a different group, but for now, there is very little fighting.  It's first come, first served.

5. Which seating option is most popular?
Like I said above, the rockers are definitely a favorite!

Another favorite is the pillow table.  Students definitely have their own favorites and tend to go between 1-2 seat options every couple of days.  In the beginning, I made each student have a different spot for a week just so they could try all of the different places.  We then talked about why they liked or disliked spots and how it worked for them that day.

I have found that those that are tardy have the last choices of where to sit.  It has gotten some of my friends to school earlier just to pick the seat that they want.  If they are late, they are stuck with whatever is left wherever it may be, usually the standing table.

Here are a couple of pictures of students hard at work in their spots.

The wiggle seat table. 
The standing, kneeling on a chair table. 
The beloved rocker!

6. What if they need to be at tables?
There are some times when you just need to be at tables, like for science and when we are doing experiments or some art projects with shared materials.  When that is the case, students who are on the floor or in a rocker just find an empty spot at a table.  It works out that I have enough table spots for 18 students and that's what I have.  If they need a table spot, it is their responsibility to ask and look around to see if anyone is already sitting there.  If so, they find a different spot, if not, they may sit there.

We are not all at tables a lot but definitely something that we had to come up with a solution for at the beginning.  

7. How do you manage snack?
Snack is a time where I require everyone to be at a table.  With our milk and snacks, I've had more messes on the floor or mats, so everyone needs to find a table spot to eat snack.

8. How do you keep your room from being a mess?
I had to let go a little bit for this and it has been my biggest challenge in changing to flexible seating.  I've always been the teacher who has a place for everything and everything in it's place so this has been a big change for me.  I feel like there is always stuff everywhere.

One way I have managed this is that when we gather on the carpet for a mini-lesson or leave the classroom, everyone needs to make sure their spot is neat and tidy.  If something is a mess, I send them back to clean it up and we do not get started or leave until it is cleaner.  They have gotten pretty good at checking their spot because they do not want to be late for lunch, recess or specials.  This picture below is what a clean yoga mat area should look like.  I shared this with my class and they know what I expect for a clean spot.  
When students are working or collaborating at their spots, I don't mind that everything is all over.  It means they are focused on their task and using their tools and supplies so this doesn't bother me.  It's when we go to leave and during my prep I'm trying to get to my cabinets and I'm having to step over everything.  We came up with our neat and tidy spot rule pretty quickly.

I also want to throw in a picture of what it looks liked cleaned up at the end of the day.  Our custodians want to be able to sweep quickly and easily everyday, so everyday I have my students clean up their spot so most of the floor is clear.  Mats, rocks, stools, chair and wiggle seats all get put up on a table or in a bin.


9. Will you do it next year? 
YES!  There are definitely some things that I will change and a lot that I will keep the same, but giving my students choice in the classroom has been a game changer.  So many of my students don't have control in other areas of their life and allowing them that control in the classroom has seemed to help them tremendously.  

10. Overall, what do you think? 
Overall, I LOVE it!  When trying to decide if I was going to go for it, I did a lot of reading and research on what's best for students.  I decided that students just don't learn like they used to and requiring them to sit at tables, in chairs or at desks was not what was best for their learning.

Like I said above, so many of my students are grasping for control of anything in their life.  If I can provide them opportunities to feel that sense of control, I'll do everything I can to give it to them.    

I am so glad I had the support of my principal and took the plunge to try flexible seating.  If you are thinking about it or questioning it, don't' be afraid to search around and ask for help.  There are a lot of teachers who are trying it out.  If it doesn't work for you or you don't like it, you can always go back to what you had.  

If you are looking for some funding, check out Donor's Choose.  It's an easy way to request some funding for your classroom.  I got my wiggle seats and stools from a Donor's Choose project.  Don't be afraid to ask your students and their parents too.  They may have extra pillows, mats, stools or rugs they are looking to get rid of that they would be more than happy to donate to the classroom.   The rest of my seating options, mats, pillows and rockers, were bought with PTO money that we get every year.   

When in doubt, go for it!  You can always go back.  

For now though, good luck!  And please reach out or comment below if you have more questions.  We are a teaching tribe trying our best to help our students and each other.  

Now, onto enjoying my last 4 days with my group of firsties.  Whether you've started summer or will soon, I hope it's a time for you to relax and recharge. 









8 comments

  1. Where did you purchase your rockers?

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    1. Hi Sherri, I got some of them at Walmart and some at Aldi. I know there have been a shortage though because so many teachers are looking for them.
      Paige

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  2. Thank you for your post!!! I really have been thinking about moving to flexible seating just based on my students from last year and how different they were when it came to how they wanted to learn. I do have one question though, do you have a teacher table? Like to have guided reading or a teacher station? How does that work?

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I would say just go for it, you can always go back. I do have a teachers table. If you look in the very last picture of this post you can kind of see a small rectangle table in the back corner. I used to have a larger table (5x3 ft), but changed to a 3x2 ft table to make more floor room for mats and rockers. Also with using reading and writing workshop I do more conferring with students at their workspace than bringing them to my table. I hope that answers your question. Good luck! Paige

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  3. Amazing post! Thank you for all the detailed information! I am interested in making the jump to flexible seating next year. I have always let kids pick where they want to be in the room for Daily 5 and writing, so I don't think it's that much of a change. I am wondering, though, how to start this at the very beginning of the school year. I am trying to picture the first day of school when there are so many procedures to teach and the kids are brand-new to first grade! On the very first morning(s) of school, would you have them all at a table spot and then introduce the flexible seating options sometime within that first day/week?

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    Replies
    1. Hi there, I'm sorry I didn't respond to this sooner. I must have missed this comment. As for starting the year, I didn't introduce flexible seating until a couple days in. You're right, the beginning of the year has a lot of procedures and routines to learn. I focused on getting those taught and mastered, then I introduced flexible seating. It's hard to not introduce it soon because of the tables (higher and lower) and the excitement they have when they see the rockers and stools. If you have more questions, please email me at ourelementarylives@gmail.com.
      Thanks,
      Paige

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  4. I'm so glad you posted all this information. I'm curious to know how learning centers work with the flexible seating.

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    1. Hello, I'm not sure what you mean by learning centers, but everything we do worked with flexible seating. If they worked in groups, they would find a spot to work. If they were working independently, they found their own spot. Please email me at ourelementarylives@gmail.com to clarify and I can hopefully help you more.
      Thanks,
      Paige

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