Saturday, 2 July 2016

Flexible Seating Task 4: Reflections

Take a look at the flexible seating options one 4th grade teacher added to her elementary classroom on a budget.  She shares some of her management tips too!
 
Read my first posts on this topic here:
Putting in all Together

I've been using flexible seating in my classroom for the last term of school: from spring break on.  Now that the desks are pushed aside, the carpet rolled, and the cushions are in my basement after a much needed wash, I thought this would be the ideal time to write down my reflections.

Here is what I had available for flexible seating:

- 4 trapezoid tables (put together to make 2 hexagons)
- 4 desks lowered to kneeling height
- 4 desks lowered to crate seat height
- 12 regular height desks, (1 group of 6, 1 group of 4, and 2 individual)
- 1 standing height table (fits 2, attached to the group of 4 desks)
- 4 crate seats
- two bath mats for kneeling
- one fit ball
- one wobble stool
- 4 wiggle cushions
- 1 bowl chair
- 3 big readers pillows
- 1 lumbar pillow (the kids called it a caterpillar)
- a class set of clipboards
- a class set of yoga mats
- one huge carpet space
- two plastic lap desks

I shared this photo on Instagram after day 1 with flexible seating.  Right from the start the kids loved it!  The freedom to choose their own working spot was much appreciated.  Due to having limited amounts of some items I started off with a sign up.  As students entered the room in the morning they would place their name magnet under their area of choice.  If that area was full, they'd have to select something else.  Signups occurred first thing in the morning, after recess and after lunch.  We did the signups for about two weeks.


Almost immediately, I noticed the volume in my room go up.  However, if I stopped to listen, there was a huge increase in collaborative talk.  So, despite preferring a quieter room I learned to embrace it.  The discussions became more high energy, with more questioning and deeper thinking.  Who am I to argue with that?  I've always sat my students in groups, so I am not sure why the increase.  Maybe just their comfort alone, or maybe the fact that they chose the people they were sitting with.

After a few weeks the signup went away and it was up to the students to manage their own seat selection.  This happened with very few problems.  I did have one who liked to eagle eye the prime spots and try to take them when someone would get up to grab something, but a reminder about how seat selection worked helped.  I did have friend groups who traveled together.  I didn't say too much about it unless they were off topic.  They would look at the schedule to see what was happening that day and discuss a best choice spot for them all which I thought was pretty neat. 


One of the expectations with flexible seating was that I had the right to move anyone at any time.  And I did move people.  Probably one per day.  Often it was repeat offenders who were having trouble selecting a spot best for their learning (which, at the end of the 3 months time was improving).  They did very well with this.  There was no aruging ever.

I often had students self select the individual desks, which I found interesting.  This happened more frequently for writing tasks.  I will be keeping at least two individual spots in my set up next year as well.

In my class, we already used community supplies.  So, students didn't really have a lot in their desks.  But, what they did have had to go somewhere.  I scored this mailbox in the boys change room (where furniture goes to die in my school).  A few girls gave it a good scrub and some labels and it was good to go.


It worked, but wasn't perfect. I didn't like how their folders hung out of it.  If they were reading more than one novel it didn't fit and had to be stored on top.  People said their pencils were stolen.  It ALWAYS looked messy.  I've ordered pencil boxes for next year to help contain the small items.  I'll also be using a larger mailbox system.  I wasn't really on top of the cleanliness of this mailbox.  Next year I'll have to be more strict.

What else will I be changing next year?  I'm moving to a new classroom and with that came some new furniture.  I'll be taking my trapezoid tables and some of the traditional desks.  I'll also be getting 4 collaborative desks at standing height and 4 at regular height.  I'll be adding a circular table to the mix as well.  I get to have 7 additional fit balls added, 6 wobble stools, and 6 wiggle seats.  I'm really excited for these additions as they were sought after items I just didn't have the budget to purchase myself.

 

A quick list of other thoughts on the topic:
- Be sure to have enough table tops spots for art, science labs, and lunch
- Be sure to have more spots than the number of students in your room (if it's the last seat available, it isn't really flexible seating, is it?)
- Traditional desks and chairs are okay.  There will be students who prefer them.  Don't take the concept too far and do away with the traditional items.  They still have their place.
- Some students may require a desk with their name on it and items inside - I had 3.  Allow them the opportunity to say they need this if they do.
- Check in with your students frequently.  Ask what's working and what isn't.  We had to adjust the desk height on the crate seat spots a few times to get it right for them.
- Offer as much variety as possible.  My fit balls will not all be the same size next year.

The best comment I heard from my students was when one said "Finally! A desk made for me!".  He is quite small for his age and feet never reached the floor in a traditional intermediate desk.  I'm so happy I've made the leap to flexible seating and I won't look back.

Take a look at the flexible seating options one 4th grade teacher added to her elementary classroom on a budget.  She shares some of her management tips too!

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