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Flexible Seating Options

I smile every time I walk by or work in Alissa Thompson’s third-grade classroom. When you peek inside of her classroom, it’s evident students get what they need because of the variety of seating options.
As soon as Alissa’s students finish making their plan at the end of the minilesson, they leave the rug in an orderly fashion and walk to their focus spots. When you look around Alissa’s classroom, you’ll notice kids writing:
  • At their desks sitting in a four-legged chair.
  • At their desks sitting on exercise balls.
  • By a bookshelf while writing on top of it.
  • In scoop chairs with the writing on the child’s lap.
  • On the floor or carpet with their writing sprawled out alongside them.
  • On a park bench (Yes, there is an actual park bench in this classroom!) with the writing beside the child.
Alissa honors every student’s work style because she knows her students are able to focus when they’re working comfortably. What’s best is that every one of her 21 students has their needs met with the flexible seating options she provides.
I asked Alissa to photograph the variety of seating options to share on TWT when I was in her classroom earlier this month. The photos were taken in her classroom right after her students (who I don’t have parental permission to photograph for this blog) headed to lunch. Even though you can’t see children using the space, I think the photographs will provide you with an idea of possibilities you might want to give your students
Click on each image to make it larger and read more about each space in Alissa’s classroom.
Sitting still is a skill we need to be successful in life. However, sitting still isn’t something we should insist upon all of the time in elementary school because kids need to move. Alissa’s classroom serves as an excellent reminder that kids will work well in spots where their needs are met.
GET STARTED WITH FLEXIBLE SEATING:
  • For more on flexible seating and workspaces, check out pages 50 – 51 in Kids First from Day One: A Teacher’s Guide to Today’s Classroom by Christine Hertz and Kristine Mraz (Heinemann, 2018).
  • Click here to learn more about implementing focus spots in your classroom.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

19 thoughts on “Flexible Seating Options Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for highlighting the possibilities. Flexible seating has been helpful for most of my students. Standing next to a bookshelf to write was the most helpful way for one of my kiddos to be successful. I think the key is having a spot that stays that person’s spot for the whole work time is the key to ensuring stamina and engagement. Right now my kiddos have the spring break wiggles! I guess I need more of the rocking seats!

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    • That’s great that you have lots of different seating options!

      I would suggest having a class meeting and creating an anchor chart of your expectations for students to choose their own spot. Then have the kids practice choosing a “Working Spot” that is best for them. I always make sure students know that if a spot is not working for them, then I will move them, and choose a good working spot for them. Hope that helps!

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  2. I was just about to order scoop rockers and the wobble seats with grant money, so excited to see this. I have so many Kindergarteners who want to work, but sitting traditionally just doesn’t work for them. Whatever to takes for them to work, I’m all over it! Thanks for this great post!.

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  3. Our principal has a yoga ball chair around his conference table. We often take turns avoiding sitting there. I gave it a go last Friday. You know, it wasn’t half bad. Perhaps if I had one at my desk, I could concentrate better. The teachers here have been slowly negotiating flexible seating as well. An option I didn’t see in your demo class is a stand up desk. I like those too. Such a respectful place to be when we offer student choice in how to work.

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    • She doesn’t have stand-up desks, per se. Rather Alissa allows the kids to use bookcases as stand-up desks. (That’s in one of the photos.)

      I’ve long thought of trying out a yoga ball chair in my home office, but haven’t had the time to look for one yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the choices that flexible seating offers and have had various options for about five years now. One option that isn’t mentioned here is standing to work. In my current classroom I have a tall table they can use, but in my old classroom I used the top of a cabinet, the window counter, etc. They could also choose to stand on a rocker board. Usually my kiddos have no problem choosing, but when one particular option gains popularity I let them choose for a week, and/or one gets to use it for one part of the day and another for another activity. Here are some photos from one of the earliest posts on my blog– http://www.kidpeopleclassroom.com/2014/02/weve-got-to-move-it-move-it-standing.html And here is a standing table in my current room, though in the pic they are painting– http://www.kidpeopleclassroom.com/2017/03/great-drawing-marker-and-other-stuff.html

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    • I had one year where I taught with tables instead of desks. However, there were 32 kids in a room meant for 20, so other than some benches and floor cushions, we didn’t have enough space to have all of these options. Like you said… in my next life.

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  5. Love this post and these ideas! I’ve tried some different seating options this year. What I struggle with is how to manage Choice vs demand. What if 8 kids felt the park bench was where they work best? There isn’t room for 8. How is that negotiated? I’ve rotated kids through different seating choices but haven’t found a way to let them self select the seating option each day. The pictures were great!

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    • I’m so glad to hear that you are using different seating options!

      At the beginning of the year we spend time as a class going over the expectations of how to use each seating/standing option and all students get to try out each option. I also set the precedence that there are absolutely NO arguments over where to sit or I pick where you sit for the day, and no one wants that.

      My students have the option to move around the room freely throughout the day and change where they sit for different parts of the day. For math, some students move right up front on the rug for the instructional lesson, then move to a different spot for independent practice. That same student may change to a standing spot for writing. So although kids start in one place in the morning, they really move around to many different spots throughout the day. They know that they can be anywhere in the room as long as they are on task and focused on their work.

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      • Alissa, I have so many questions for you! 🙂 Do you have some spots that every kid wants and how do you facilitate that? I know you said that if they argue, you assign them a spot, but how do you make sure kids are getting to try out different spots in a fair way? Like, if a person gets to the classroom first, do they get to pick their spot? Currently, I have tables and each student is assigned a spot at a table. I have crates with covers I think you do too), portable lap desks, and carpet squares. I was rotating kids through the lap desks and crates but that is not really letting them find what works best for them. Would love to talk with you more about this!

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      • Kathleen, At the beginning of the year I do assign seats for the first few weeks and switch kids around so that they can try out every option, and get an idea of what works best for them. For the rest of the year, students enter the classroom and make a seating choice each morning. It does help get some of my students to get to the room quickly in the morning, so that they can get the spot they want. The most popular spots are the bench seats, wobble stools, and balls in my room. I think one of the reasons my students don’t argue is because they know they can move around the room to different spots throughout the day. It also helps that I have more options available than kids. It sounds like you have some great options for your kids, and I would like to get some lap desks for next year:)

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