Flexible seating is a huge craze in education right now. I argue that it is not a craze, but a new way of designing a classroom with students in mind. Most classrooms that claim to have flexible seating oportunities fall short. Flexible seating means that students are free to choose their seating option.
A true flexible seating classroom will not have names written permanently on desks. This is a gentle release process for my classroom. The year starts with name tags that slide into clear name tag holders every morning. The child picks a seat for the day. I laminate the name tags, and adhere clear pockets to each seating option for the child to slide their name into. This allows students to “claim” their seat in the morning. As the students show more maturity in the seating arrangement, they are given more responsibility. Eventually, about half way through the school year, the name tags disappear completely. The students are free to roam and sit where they please for the activities they are completing. If this is done gradually and over-time students do not argue over seats. Seating is seen as a best-fit for the situation rather than something you claim for the day. A student may pick a desk to eat at, then pick the floor to write at. I also allow my students to use the hallway outside of the room to record in. They leave the door open, and sit in the hall where I can see them.
Another thing that gets in the way of truly flexible seating is the lack of options. The available options should include sitting on the floor, kneeling at a surface, sitting at a chair (wobble stool, balance ball etc…) and standing. I also provide various sizes of seating, because not every kid is the same height.
Below you will see that the beauty of fully-flexible seating is that you end up with zones for activities rather than claimed micro areas that are unusable by the class for the rest of the day. All areas have the ability to evolve over the corse of the day. The best part? The kids are responsible for picking a place where they are successful. I don’t re-arrange seats when my class is having a bad day, I have a conversation about picking a partner and work area that will make you successful. I can honestly say that the kids spread out all over the room, and this helps with classroom management.
The last item is far-fetched for a lot of people. This year, I have chosen to fully implement the word flexible into my classroom environment as a whole. My seating can be pushed to the side to create an entirely floor-level space. This allows us to do large scale projects without the desks getting in the way. We used this to run our Sphere Bolt robots in teams this week.
Flexible seating has been an amazing year and a half adventure for me. I always start the year out with desks, and a way to claim a seat. I then, based on readiness, remove the barriers of full flexibility. I cannot say enough about student voice, choice and comfort flexible seating allows me.