We are 9 days into our new school year. Given all my changes in grade level, how I’m doing math, trying flexible seating, I’d say it’s been a very successful first 2 weeks of school! I’m excited for what the year has in store, even if I am ex.haust.ed.
I know that a lot of people have tried, are trying, or are thinking about trying flexible seating in their classrooms. I can definitely see why it may not be for some people. I’m sharing how our flexible seating transition has worked out so far in the first 9 days of school. I have 6 ah-has from our short time so far that I hope will resonate with others who are thinking of trying it or who are in the thick of it. This is just my personal experience so of course some may have a completely different experience with the concept. A lot of these ah-has are all connected to each other, as you’ll see when I start explaining them.
Probably the most frustrating thing so far has been storing materials and retrieving them. Unfortunately, the new Ikea book boxes are not deep enough for folders, nor are my plastic drawers (although I wasn’t planning on using these for folders). My other solutions aren’t the best for getting items quickly because it creates a traffic jam. I was always trying to be mindful of this, but I also was thinking, “Let’s give it a try.” We still haven’t worked out all the kinks with this, but we are slowly figuring it out. I told my kids part of having flexible seating is to practice being flexible in terms of our initial plans and routines. Which brings me to number 2.
What I originally thought of for materials didn’t always work out. Our homebase stations are working out pretty well though actually. Minus a few students who keep taking things from other people’s homebase. However, we haven’t lost pencils or markers and our notebooks are all stored in the correct spot so we’ve been very efficient with that. My initial plan for seating options though has changed. I was going to have students pick new spots everyday in the morning. I now have them pick a spot once a week. This is the spot they come into in the morning. This is the spot they sit at if we have a guest teacher. If I need them to be at a hard surface for something, I may say, “Go to your spot.” The difference is, they can pick the chair they use- some like the stools, some like the crates, many like the balls, some like the normal chairs and so on. When it is independent work time however, they can sit other places. So when we are done doing whole group instruction on the carpet together, they pick a space to work. They might sit at a different hard surface or find a spot on the floor. I’m finding that I’m still giving choice in both situations, but it also helps for those times when we need a bit more structure (like a test) because sometimes we don’t have full choice.
When I was in like my 2nd day, I started to second guess my choice. “It’d be so much easier with desks- they put their stuff in there, they are in charge of it all, and we can go on our merry way.” Instead of giving up and going back to what I was comfortable with, I continued to rethink things and test them out. Because of number 4.
My biggest worry was that kids would fight over the seats, break them, not use them with responsibility and I would have to police it constantly. It was actually not like this at all. We went over our rules and expectations on day one and we really haven’t had even one scuffle. Students were politely asking to switch seats out to try them and others kindly turned them over. They’ve put seats back where they belong if they move them. They’ve been focused and working in the seats they do choose. And I polled the students and they were really liking the choice and options. Because of this and the money I invested in it, I didn’t want to give up on it yet. I could figure out a way to make the materials work; it just may take some time and creative thinking (or perhaps me letting go a bit).
When we’ve had these issues pop up on our materials, students helped me with the problem solving. They were offering suggestions. I would ask them, “Hey, what if we tried this...” and they would try it and give feedback. They’ve been helpful and flexible in this new adventure because if it works for them, I can make it work for me. It’s about what works for them as long as it isn’t interfering with our class rules and learning.
We had students reading independently for 25 minutes on our 2nd day of school. Seriously. They were LASER focused. The most I’ve seen in years. That includes students stopping and jotting without prompting, students reacting to books, students finishing books and not just abandoning them... I was so impressed. Even more so, because we didn’t have a ‘seating chart,’ students mingled and got to know each other more. I loved when we had some down moments and students would gather in different areas of our room. Some would gather and read together. Others would gather to try to master the cup games we tried. Others would gather to draw or play a math game. I loved that students freely moved around, included others, and demonstrated great self-control in their choices. When I stood back and watched, it made my teacher heart so happy to see a class community truly develop.
So was it all perfect and rosy? No. There were some, “Oh crap- this isn’t working,” moments. But so far, the benefits have far out weighed the downfalls. I’m excited to see how our classroom continues to transform through it all and will be back to give updates as we progress!