Tuesday, October 25, 2016

ONE Simple Way to Start Using Flexible Seating in The Classroom!

One of my points of focus in the classroom this year is to incorporate more choice in the classroom environment, and to meet a variety of needs for students (from both emotional and kinesthetic approaches) in order to make them more comfortable and therefore more engaged in learning. I detailed a lot of the changes that I made to the classroom this year in my classroom tour video.

I know that I've been very lucky in the form of receiving grants and having a super supportive principal who has helped me create a lot of the changes in designing my room. I realize that a lot of teachers and schools can't afford to replace every chair or desk in the classroom in one fail swoop. Therefore, I've been thinking about the kinds of small changes - simple changes, low-cost changes, even FREE changes - that teachers can make in their classrooms in order to start moving towards a future-ready/21st century classroom that utilizes concepts like flexible seating options.

My number one simplest idea for moving towards a flexible seating concept in your classroom would be to bring in lap desks! Students probably already love sitting or laying on the floor or outside in the hallway. You can make things a little easier, a little more productive, a little more appealing by offering up lap desks to use during class. It encourages students to move around more and to get comfortable. 

Both students working in the hallway with lap desks. One student chooses to sit on the floor, while another prefers to bring a stool out into the hallway. 

Students work 1:1 with Chromebooks at my school, and some of them love having the lights off in the classroom while working, but others may prefer light. I allow students to work out in the hallway, which gives students either lighting option while working. I also allow students to listen to music using headphones, if desired, so long as they are staying on task during class (we use Hapara, so it is easy for me to see what tabs students have open at any time, if needed).

I have a rug in the classroom, and four beanbag chairs, so students will opt to sit on the floor, in a beanbag, and even lying on the rug occasionally! All of these options are more comfortable for students if they use a lap desk. The scene in the photo above could easily be any classroom with students working out in the hallway - you don't need fancy furniture to give students flexible seating options to start!

I was able to purchase a handful of laptop desks at the beginning of the year from Amazon using budget money that I had available. Here are some sources and pricing that I've come across:

You may be thinking, "But I have no money at all? How am I supposed to get lap desks for my room?"

...My favorite way to acquire items for the classroom is to ask my PTA for donations! Not monetary donations, but via unused items from home - many families will have a lap desk (or two?) that they no longer use and would be willing to donate to the school. You never know until you ask, right? And best of all, it's FREE!

You may also be thinking, "Students can sit on the floor without a lap desk, why would they be necessary?"

And the truth is, they're really not. But having them makes choosing an alternative seating option more "special," more desirable even, and moving around and having choice will make your students more comfortable in the classroom space. When students feel more comfortable, more relaxed, they're easier to engage in learning and motivate to learn. Even though my room has beanbag chairs and wobble stools, I still have kids who would just prefer to sit on the hard floor! A lap desk makes it just a teensy bit nicer. 

Once your students, faculty, and admin start to see the value of flexible seating (invite them into your classroom to observe!), you'll have a stronger case towards adding other seating options to the space in the future!

-Mrs L.

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