For the past couple of months, I have been helping one of my model classroom teachers create a flexible seating classroom. What started as a project to arrange her room for writers’ workshop became a complete overhaul of her space. When I was a coach, I spent a lot of time helping teachers organize their room for our literacy program. We had specific guidelines we used to help us create a literate environment. However, I never had the opportunity to create such an excellent area for kids as I did helping her.
Now I don’t know about you but the end of a school year is when I started thinking about organizing my classroom for next year. So I thought I’d share what we did in hopes it might help during summer planning.
Before I help you plan, I want to share with you why I think flexible seating is such a crucial component to a 21st-century classroom. One of the goals for my model classrooms is to build an authentic, responsive environment that reflects the real world. I believe in allowing for student choice in the classroom; especially when it comes to where they do their work.
All learners are different, just like we are. Everyone has preferences where they do their assignments. Some like to work at a desk, on the couch, or even standing up. Students should have these same opportunities in the classroom.
Planning a Flexible Seating Environment
Step 1 – Take inventory of the furniture in the classroom. Some of the furniture can be repurposed in different ways while others take out of the room. Our motto: If it doesn’t serve a purpose; get rid of it permanently.
For example, the teacher desk. This piece of furniture is usually the first thing to go. It is too bulky and takes up way too much room! In a 21st-century classroom, start thinking how you can go digital rather than needing a ton of space to house papers. You will find the more you use technology, the less “stuff” you need in the classroom.
Step 2 – If you are a self-contained classroom, organize your room into subject areas. I like to do this, so students know the location of all materials in the room.
For example, we are required to hang anchor charts up on the wall. Therefore, add a math chart in the math area, a science chart in the science area, etc.
These different areas house the manipulatives, center activities, and anything else used during that subject. It makes it easy for students to locate information and materials needed during the day.
Step 3 – Start looking for furniture once you organize the materials. I recommend getting rid of student desks and finding tables. We were able to find several tables in the school nobody was using. We also looked around our house, Wal-Mart, and at flea markets for unique items for the room.
Also, remember in step 1 when I told you to think about how to repurpose some of your furniture? Step 3 is when it’s time to be creative.
One example, of how we repurposed something from the original arrangement was to use an existing bookshelf as a “cafe style” table. We just scooted the shelf against one of the walls, added some baskets to the top shelf to house materials, and found some great barstools not being used in the science lab. We found a cute carpet at Wal-Mart and presto…we have a “Starbuck-like” flexible seating area for students.
Step 4 – Now that you have found your furniture, plan your room arrangement using this nifty tool. You may decide you don’t want some of the furniture you found. One of the goals for a flexible seating classroom is to provide more space and more choice for students. So remember less is more.
Step 5 – Add the finishing touches. I love this part of the process. Below are pictures of the end product plus more flexible seating ideas.
Flexible Seating Options
We decided on seven distinct areas for the classroom. I would have liked to have done eight, but we didn’t have a big carpet for the whole group lessons. Hopefully, my model classroom teacher will purchase a big rug to place in front of the SMARTBoard.
Our seven areas include:
- Small-group reading table (not shown)
- Table dropped to the floor with carpet underneath and mats around the table
- Roundtable with yoga balls for seating
- Rectangular table lowered slightly with milk crates and cushions for seating
- Smaller table raised using bed risers for a standing table (We added a bar stool for seating if desired.)
- Bookshelf with barstools for “cafe style” seating
- Reading center with a couch and cushions for independent reading
Now that we have the classroom organized and ready for students, it is now important to turn our focus to procedures to ensure the classroom climate is conducive to learning. I’ll let you know as I learn more.
Have you tried flexible seating in your classroom? If so, tell me about it in the comments.