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The Flexible Classroom Management Option

Janelle Cox

For decades, teachers have stuck with the traditional classroom setting, because frankly, it worked. Today, many teachers have opted to try a new, flexible classroom management style, where the learning space is designed with student engagement and interaction in mind. After years of research, educators have found that while the traditional classroom management setup worked, it didn’t work for all students. In today’s education system, teachers are moving away from passive learning environment and moving towards a space that encourages student involvement. The flexible classroom management approach can be configured in many ways; with alternative seating, flexible tables and teacher desks, student choices, and even the flipped classroom. Here we will take a closer look at the flexible classroom, as well as how to design a collaborative learning space and create seating options to help engage students.

Classroom Management: Giving Students a Choice

Flexible classrooms provide a learning environment that gives students a choice of what kind of learning space works for their individual needs. It allows the student to figure out how they learn best for that particular lesson. For example, if you were to walk into a flexible classroom, you might see one student at a standup desk, one student lying on the floor, and another student sitting on a balance ball. Educators have found that when you give students a choice, they choose what works best for them. Teachers have found the most effective way to have a flexible classroom is to rotate seating options. Once the teacher sees how each individual student works best, then she is able to come up with a schedule where they can rotate student seating for specific subjects.

Ultimately, teachers who have implemented flexible seating within their classroom have found students to be happier and participate and collaborate more, as well as become more engaged and enthusiastic in their learning.

A Flexible Learning Space

A flexible learning space is a space that is very unlike the traditional classroom. There are no rows of desks lined up, or a teacher’s desk placed strategically in the front of the classroom. A flexible classroom has at the very minimum three different types of seating, large desks and/or standup desks, or a set of four desks placed together to form a collaborative work space. You will find flexible bookshelves placed in various places around the classroom, as well as beanbag chairs, couches and maybe even pillows placed in a pile in the corner of the room.

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Children of all ages love to be on top of things, underneath things or hidden. Flexible classrooms allows for children (overtly shy or bold) to find a place in the classroom where they can work at their best, or even find a place where they can take a moment for themselves.

What Research Says

It not surprising that research has found the flexible classroom to be extremely effective. We already know that there is a substantial amount of evidence that shows physical activity improves cognitive function, that’s just one of the reasons why many schools are implementing fitness labs in addition to their physical education programs. The flexible classroom, where students are able to move about, makes for quite a physical day, which can help burn more calories, create better oxygen flow to the brain, and help increase student motivation. Research has also found that these short bursts of physical movement help students stay on task, which is great for classroom management.

The Flexible Classroom on a Budget

If your school district gave you the “A-OK” to create a flexible learning environment, then that probably means that you will have the budget to order standup desks (which can be quite costly), sit-and-play balance balls, wobble seats, or anything else that your heart desires for the classroom. But if your school district gives you the “OK” but does not have the funds, then there are ways that you can create an innovative, collaborative learning space. Here’s how.

  • Ask for Donations – Write a letter to parents asking for donations whether it be money, old chairs, pillows, bookshelves, or tables. Or, go online to Donorschoose.org or GoFundMe or Classwish and list the items that your classroom needs and people on the site will donate the items for free.
  • Secondhand Shop – Go to a garage sale or a secondhand shop like the Salvation Army or Good will to purchase items for cheap.

If you are willing to ditch the desks and give up the power of the seating chart, then you will find the many benefits of a flexible classroom. Your students will become increasingly aware of the types of seating that suites their learning the best. And when you empower your students will choices, they will become more engaged in their learning.

Do you think the flexible classroom is taking over the traditional classroom learning environment? What is your take on flexible seating? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say.

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.