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How Teachers Use Flexible Classroom Seating to Help Students Succeed

a student with flexible classroom seating

The flexible classroom seating craze has swept the nation’s classrooms, and for good reason: teachers know that getting students moving during the day sets them up for academic success. We’ve seen teachers from all grade-levels and subjects excited about the benefits of flexible classroom seating, from Kindergarten to Middle School to High School.Experts are excited too. Writing in Edutopia last year, Kayla Delzer cites academic research that supports this kind of classroom setup:

“Simple in-class activities can boost performance. Studies suggest that children who participate in short bouts of physical activity within the classroom have more on-task behavior, with the best improvement seen in students who are least on-task initially.”

So you’re ready to join the flexible seating revolution — awesome! But where to start? Before you order those yoga balls and Hokki stools, let’s take a look at how teachers are actually implementing this sort of flexible classroom classroom setup, from the supplies they order to the rules they enforce.

Find Support for Your Flexible Seating Project

By the Numbers

What type of flexible seating is best for your classroom?We took a look at the most-requested items from all of the flexible classroom seating projects posted on DonorsChoose.org for the first half of the 2016-2017 school year. Here’s what teachers ordered:

A graphic of flexible seating requests on DonorsChoose.org

Wobble stools were by-far the most popular flexible classroom seating option, followed up by yoga balls and items for foot movement (that includes bouncy bands, wobble cushions, and balance boards). Floor seats were also popular, and included everything from pillows to inflatable reading chairs. The “other” category includes items like clipboards or lap-desks to help students work in their new seats.Once you’ve picked your flexible classroom seating options, the next step is to introduce your students to the new classroom setup. Two DonorsChoose.org teachers have a few ideas to get you started:

Mrs. Koetsier sets the rules for Flexible Seating

I have reminders on every table in the room that let kids know the "Flexible Seating Expectations." The basics of which are:

  1. Choose a seat for your best LEARNING,
  2. We follow a "first come first serve" system, but
  3. Students will get a chance to pick new seats at the beginning of each new block,
  4. All seats are treated with respect,
  5. Any disputes are solved with "rock, paper, scissors,"
  6. Seats are returned to their "home base" when done so that the room stays organized.

We are 8 weeks into the school year now, and we pretty much have it down! Kids choose their seats without much direction at all, and only rarely do I need to give reminders about the expectations. Kids are more comfortable, more relaxed, and better able to focus on the task at hand compared to when they are required to sit in a rigid, uncomfortable position.It was tough relinquishing some of that control of having a seating chart or assigned seats, but it just works.

Students excited about their flexible seating

Mrs. Jackson sets up “Smart Seats

During the first couple of weeks I had students try out all of the different seating options to familiarize themselves and find what works best for them. Now each morning as students arrive, they put their things away and are instructed to find a "Smart Seat" - this is a place in the classroom where they can be successful, do their very best work, and make smart choices for behavior.Since implementing flexible seating in my classroom my students are more engaged, on task and focused during lessons and centers throughout the school day. I have less disciplinary issues to resolve, as we now have one simple rule: "Mrs. Jackson reserves the right to move anyone at anytime." As a result, no student ever wants to be moved, so they are more conscious about their behavior and how they use their class time.I firmly believe switching to flexible seating was the best decision ever made for my students.One more story before you head off to start a new DonorsChoose.org project for flexible seating:After Mrs. Cass added flexible seating to her Dallas classroom, her local newspaper came by see how it was going. They talked to one student, Quaylon, who perfectly summed up how flexible seating helped him learn:

"It helps me because when I get wiggly, I don't have to act crazy. I can just bounce or wobble."

Who can argue with that?

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