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Classroom Management: FAQs on Flexible Seating

Janelle Cox

By now, you have probably heard about flexible seating. You may have even walked past a classroom that uses it, or thought about trying it out in your own classroom. Many teachers are transforming their classrooms by implementing the flexible seating classroom management option in an effort to create a more a student-centered learning space. With so many teachers moving away from a passive learning environment, and moving towards a classroom management learning space that encourages student involvement, curious teachers have a lot of questions about this topic. These questions include, “Where do you purchase the seating? How do you introduce it to the students? How do you manage chatty children?” If you want to learn more about flexible seating, we will try to answer all of these questions and more.

Classroom Management: Where Can You Purchase the Seating?

Depending upon your budget, you have a few options. If your school is unable to help finance the seating, then you can either purchase the items yourself, or ask for donations. Before dipping into your own pocket, you can first go online to Donorschoose.org, GoFundMe, or Class Wish and list the items that your classroom needs, and people on the site will donate the items for free. Next, you can go to a secondhand store like the Salvation Army or Good will to purchase the items for cheap.

If your school is able to finance some or all of the items, or you choose to purchase them yourself, you can find a lot of seating options right on Amazon.com. You can buy a sit/stand desk cart for as little as $50. You can also purchase a Stay-n-play (with feet), which is essentially a stability ball that has feet on them so the students won’t fall off of it, for around $20. Pillows, bathmats, and crates can also be purchased on the site for cheap, at Target or Walmart.

What Seating Options Should You Have?

Your seating options are endless, and you can let your imagination run wild if you wish. From comfy, pillows and beanbags to stand up desks and tables, you can do whatever you feel will suit your students’ needs. Here are a few suggestions on what many teachers like to use in their flexible classrooms.

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  • Pillows
  • Beanbags
  • Stand-up desks
  • Stand-up Tables
  • Stability balls with feet
  • Bathmats
  • Crates
  • Yoga mats
  • Wobble chair
  • Boundary chair

Should There be the Same Number of Seats as there are Children?

There should be more seating options than there are students in the classroom, and here’s why. First of all, not all students are going to work well in all of the spots that you have provided, so it’s important to have enough extra spots in case you have to move a student. Second, when you give students an option on where they are going to sit, and there are only five spots available for their favorite seat, you need to have another “Close” option for that child. For example, let’s say that Brady loves the stability ball when he’s working on math, but all of the balls are all taken, so he needs to have a close option to choose from, like a wobble chair or a bean bag chair. It would be a shame to incorporate flexible seating in your classroom to have students not be able to choose where they work best from.

How Do You Introduce and Implement Flexible Seating?

To introduce flexible seating, you must begin by setting some rules and expectations. Model and demonstrate the seating options and how to sit on them while working. Create a chart or bulletin board for students to reference while they work. On the chart, make sure to list the ground rules, such as choose a seat that will allow you to work your best, sit on the seats appropriately or you will get moved, and if the seat is not working then find a seat that works for you.

As long as you stick to the rules and make sure that the students reference them and abide by them, then the implementation should run smoothly. It’s also wise to mention to the students that this way of sitting is a privilege, and you can go back to the traditional classroom setting if this doesn’t work out.

How Can You Manage Chatty Children?

With flexible seating comes some chatter, especially when you first implement the setup. But you will see as you go on throughout the school year that the chatter will dissipate. This is because students love the options of the seating, and they will do whatever it takes to be able to keep them, even if that means not chatting with their neighbors. Also, students choose a seat that allows them to work well, so that usually means they get into their work and don’t need to chit chat with their friends. However, if you do find that students are talking too much, you can manage that by creating enough space in between the seats, as well as moving the students (on their preferred seat) by themselves.

Should you rotate the Seating Options?

Absolutely. Flexible seating is all about creating a learning space that is student-centered. The easiest way to rotate seats is to group students together (by color, row, etc.). Then, for each subject, you take turns allowing each group to choose where they want to sit. For example, the blue group chooses for math, so now the green group gets to choose first for reading.

If you are willing to ditch the desks and give up some control, then flexible seating can be a great asset to your classroom. In time, your students will become aware of what seats help them learn best, and for what subject. When you empower children to be a part of their own learning, you will see they will become more engaged and motivated to learn.

Do you have more questions that were not answered in this article? If so, please feel free to ask in the comment section below and we will get to them as soon as possible. 

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.