Dear Future Teachers,
Last week, I began my mini-series on Flexible Seating. If you haven't already, make sure to check out my post titled "What Is Flexible Seating In The Classroom?" to learn more about the concept of flexible seating and how it may look in a classroom space. As I mentioned in my previous post, flexible seating will take a lot of planning to be implemented effectively. If, like me, you are interested in flexible seating but aren't sure where to begin to create such a space, this is the post for you! I wanted to dedicate a post filled with tips and reflections from teachers who have created a flexible classroom to give more guidance on how to successfully transform your classroom into a flexible seating space!
"Flexible seating is about more than simply having a variety of different, fun seats in the classroom. It’s about utilizing student voice, creating buy-in, heightening collaborative learning, and prioritizing students’ needs concerning the environment in which they learn." -Brooke Markle
Determine the needs of your students (Source 1)
Every classroom is different, so what works for your classroom might not work in another class, and vice versa. Take into consideration how many students you have in your class, how much space you have to work with, and to what extent you want your class to be flexible. You may find that you want to use flexible seating for quiet reading time and traditional seating for group work, for example. Think about your lesson plans and envision how you would like your students to work based on their needs.
Have a vision for your room (Source 2)
Visualize your classroom space with flexible seating. This is a great time to decide what items you are willing to throw out and browse through flexible seating options to pick out what you would like to introduce to the classroom. It is not necessary to throw out all traditional seating, which is a common misconception. There are so many options to choose from, you can get creative with your design! Looking for some ideas? Check out this link listing 21 kinda of flexible seating options.
Design a collaborative space with various seating options (Source 2)
Schools in Albermarle County Schools in Virginia have implemented flexible classroom learning spaces. Three design elements that appear to work well for the schools in this district are: 1) including at least three different seating options, 2) using flexible bookshelves, and 3) grouping tables together for collaborative classroom activities. Different approaches may work for your classroom, and you can experiment with multiple ideas to find what works best for your class; but collaborative learning is a major tenant of flexible seating that you can facilitate through your classroom design.
Introduce the options to students and parents (Source 1)
It is likely that your students will be excited to discover these new and fun seating options. It is important to come up with a plan for introducing the seating arrangements to both students and parents. Creating guidelines and enforcing those guidelines for students is key. Parents might be completely unfamiliar with the flexible seating benefits, so this is your chance to explain the research backing up flexible seating as well as remind them that the seating arrangements will still be structured carefully.
Establish guidelines with students (Source 3)
After all of your strategic planning, now it's finally time to tackle implementation of your flexible seating options. As I mentioned above, you will need to have guidelines for your students. Before letting students try out their new seats, spend some time going over the guidelines together. You can also let it be known that you reserve the right to move students who are not following the guidelines. I would recommend posting the rules somewhere in the classroom as a visual reminder of the expectations students are to meet while utilizing their seating choices. (Image sourced from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/663225482622247557/).
Ask students to try a different location each day; you can start small (Source 3)
By having students try out different seating options, they will better be able to determine the seating choices that work best for them. Moving students around also ensures that all students are able to try out every option available to them. It is suggested to start small and work your way into full implementation of your flexible classroom. For example, you may want to use flexible seating for one or two activities to allow students time to adjust to the guidelines and make sure they understand how their seating choices work. In the video below, teacher Shane Saeed gives advice on how to successfully implement flex seating (or click this link!).
Unfortunately, many teachers often have to fund their own classrooms. Savvy classroom shopping is an acquired skill for educators. If you really want to create a flexible classroom, don't be intimidated by costs. There are plenty of ways to find seating options without draining your bank account. You can go through your school's storage, search through thrift stores, ask parents and friends to donate items, set up a GoFundMe or utilize DonorsChoose, or buy from recent college grads who may be selling some dorm furniture. For more ideas, check out this TikTok below, posted by Shane Saeed (or click this link!).
Make plans for subs! (Source 1)
Finally, it is inevitable that you will need a sub to cover your classroom at some point, and that sub may be unfamiliar with the flexible classroom arrangement. You may choose to use only traditional seating on days that the students will have a sub, or you can leave a detailed plan highlighting the expectations for using flexible seating so your sub will know how to enforce the guidelines.
Wow, that was a lot of information! I searched across websites to compile suggestions for the planning and implementation of flexible seating to hopefully guide your journey to creating a flexible classroom. Even with a plan to implement flex seating, educators know that transitions in the classroom don't always happen seamlessly. You may be wondering "What do I do if my students fight over their seats?" Next week, I will discuss how to best handle different conflicts that may arise with flexible seating. If you have any questions or stories you would like to share regarding your flexible seating experiences, feel free to reach out to me via my Contact Form on my Home page or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.