Dear Future Teachers,
Welcome back to the third installment of the Flexible Seating mini-series! If you haven't already, make sure to check out the first two parts of the series: What Is Flexible Seating In The Classroom? and How To Make Flexible Seating Work In Your Classroom. So far, we've discussed what flexible seating is, what it looks like, and how to successfully plan and implement flexible seating in the classroom. The concept of flexible seating may sound exciting, but it's important to plan for keeping the peace between students so that they may fully enjoy the benefits of their new classroom setup. This post will focus on preventing and handling any issues or conflicts that may arise in the flexible classroom space.
Fighting over seats
With all these cool new seating options in your classroom, it's likely some students might fight over where to sit. It's imperative to have a plan in place for handling any disagreements with students, as well as take preventative steps to ensure fairness when students select seats. I have highlighted some suggestions from teachers who have implemented flexible seating in their classrooms below:
Rotate students through each seating choice. Multiple teaching blogs have stated that the first week of flexible seating is one of the hardest. One recommendation is to spend the first week rotating students through each seating option so that everyone has the chance to try the new seats. In her article, The "What, When, and How" of Flexible Seating, Nicole Bayer reports that when the novelty of the seating arrangements wears off, students tend to gravitate to the seating that works best for them. As a teacher, you can also guide students to the spots that work best for them after introducing each student to all of the stations.
Enforce rules for flexible seating privileges. The Lucky Little Learners blog shares that when students fight over seating, she reserves the right to choose the seating for those students that day. Be firm with your students to show them that fighting over seating will result in losing their choice for the day. It also encourages students to work on problem-solving and compromise together.
Rock-paper-scissors! Shane Saeed shared on her TikTok account that her students will play Rock-Paper-Scissors if they both want the same seat. Whoever wins gets that seat for the day/activity.
Put seating areas on time-out. In Lucky Little Learners, the teacher shared that if there was a particular section of the room that sparked a lot of arguments, she would put that area on "time-out" for a couple of days so that no one could use that space.
Decide on a system for how students will choose their seats. After browsing through different blogs, I found that teachers have different approaches to how they allow students to select their seats for the day/activity. Some teachers use a first-come-first-serve approach to encourage students to get to class on time. Other teachers have students start at a home-base and will call on specific tables of students to choose their seats, alternating which table chooses first each day. Another teacher lines her students up in assigned rows on the floor, calling on a new row of students to choose their seats first each day. A fourth option would be having students rotate every week to try a new space and give others a chance to try their space. Choose what is best for YOUR classroom!
Check out this TikTok with tips from Shane Saeed (click here if embedded video does not appear).
No one wants a messy classroom! Here are some tips from teachers on how to keep your flexible classroom from becoming too messy or disorganized.
Have students clean up their spaces when moving from their spots. Whether students are moving to a different station, or leaving the classroom for the day, they should be cleaning up their supplies and any trash from their space. A teacher named Paige Bessick shared on her blog that if any spots are left unorganized or messy, the class is instructed to go back to clean their spots before being allowed to leave.
Designate snack areas. If you are in an elementary school classroom, Paige Bessick recommends having snack time at a table, or a space in the classroom that isn't hard to clean in case of a spill.
Create a system to keep seating options organized. With different seating options around the room, it's also important to be mindful of the staff that have to sweep or mop up the classrooms. I recommend creating a system to place the different seating options in bins, stack them on tables, or find stackable seating options to use in your room. At the end of the school day, students are responsible for putting their seat in the designated area.
Many of you may wonder what storage of school supplies might look like in a flexible classroom. Where would students put their notebooks, pencils, and other materials? There are several ways you can choose to have students store their supplies.
The Lucky Little Learners blog post on flexible seating describes using crate seat shelving to hold supplies typically stored in desks.
Angie Olson, the writer of Lucky Little Learners, also uses community bins to store supplies like paper, markers, crayons, etc.
Cubbies! Cubbies can work excellent as a means of storing any notebooks, folders, pencil pouches, and more!
Portable supply bins! Teacher Paige Bessick has supply bins for each student with handles so her students can easily take their supplies from station to station.
Flexible seating will have its challenges, but it is important to stick to your guidelines and stay consistent in your enforcement of classroom rules. If the first week seems a little chaotic, don't give up! There are a lot of tips and tricks out there to help you best manage your flexible classroom space. You can also come up with a detailed plan with your principal and students to create manageable expectations for your class. Almost convinced to make the switch? Next week will be the final post of my Flexible Seating mini-series, and I plan to share the various benefits of flexible seating as told by teachers or other education experts! Make sure to subscribe to my blog on my Home Page so you won't miss it!
Flexible Seating in the Primary Classroom: Your Questions Answered