Sunday, April 29, 2018

Considering Flex Seating

    I am sure many of you have read articles on the topic.  When I was in college, my understanding of flex seating was allowing some students to be able to stand in the back of the room.  Over the course of the past year, I have read more articles and seen more pictures online of flex seating.  Seeing educators bring in rugs, stools, yoga balls, and more intrigues me.

     The various options for seating reminds me of coffee houses and playgrounds around the nation.  For every student, there are options to sit.  In my classroom, students have desks with chairs connected to them.  About the only regular option I have for flex seating is letting a few students sit on my counter during class.

     In case it isn't obvious, I am looking for serious ideas behind flex seating.  Here are a few of my concerns, that I would love help in resolving:

1. How do you do whole group instruction?  I know how many in the Twitterverse feels about lecture, but I do not believe in throwing it out completely.  The twenty minutes or so that I tell stories and we have conversations I find invaluable.  It has allowed for me to help my students collectively weave deeper meaning in the past, and for students to engage in productive conversations that do not exist otherwise.  I am curious how my readers who have both flex seating and whole group instruction balance both?  Do you have all students move their chairs to the source of whole group instruction?  Do they stay sitting the same way?  I am excited to hear answers for this! :)

2. What furniture do you recommend?  I have a counter, the desks mentioned prior, and some stools from my wife's classroom currently.  Are there other kinds that you would recommend?  Any particular brands?

3. Are there any occasions where you assign seats?  What if one particular group is always taking a group of seating that others want to use?  I'd love to be able to buy 30 EZ-Boy chairs, but I've got a feeling that won't be happening anytime soon.

4.  How did you introduce Flex Seating into your class?  Do you start the year with it?  Did you gradually introduce more and more?

If any of you have answers -- especially if you have experience with Flex Seating -- I'd love to hear it!  Thanks in advance!


  1. Great questions! I love that you are asking instead of just jumping in. I’ve seen others do this and then back out because they think it didn’t work. They just didn’t implement slow enough!
    1. I have a carpet area for whole group and I’m 3rd. Can’t speak for MS or HS though.
    2. Wobble stools, stools, pillows with low tables, standing tables, exercise balls, regular desks and chairs as well. I have a little of everything but also keep some traditional seats for those that might want it.
    3 and 4 go together for me: I start at the start of the year with guidelines on how to appropriately use each seating option. I start with assigned seating and rotate kids through ALL options the first few weeks of school. This way they have tried all options to see what they like and don’t like. Then after a few weeks, I start letting them choose but ask that they switch at every transition. We talk from the very beginning that they are to choose the seat that best helps them learn (not bc it’s fun or bc a friend is sitting there). They also need to be aware of ALWAYS picking the same seat. I have never assigned spots and rarely do they fight. Occasionally, someone will mention how so and so always sit in the same spot. If that’s how they learn best, then I’m usually okay with it. Our only rule is they are using the seat inappropriately I will ask them to move or choose where they move.
    Hope that helps! I’ve been doing it for several years and I love it!

    1. These are some great ideas! Thank you for sharing!

  2. My room is half and half on the flexible seating. I have pillows, stools from Ikea, padded crates, and padded buckets - however they are used for:
    independent reading time
    partner reading / group project time
    teacher table (small group / RTI)

    for whole group we are at desks/chairs.

    My rules are fairly simple:
    if they RUN to grab "dibs" on a certain type of seat, then they go back to their boring old desk.
    no tipping the stools/buckets (that's the momma bear in me!)

    I hope to incorporate the flexi seating more in the coming years, but as a first year teacher this was the most I could handle this year!

  3. 1. I have a learning carpet where we have a sit up learning position for large group. I do teach first grade so may be different for older kids. Sometimes kids just sit where they are-depends on the task.
    2. I have stools, chairs, pillows, disc seats, benches, wobble stools, beach chair, scoop chairs, folding stadium chairs for the floor, floor cushions.
    3.I meet my kids in the hallway every morning right outside my door. I have a numbered seating chart that I change daily. That is the number group that gets to choose seating first. They then only get to switch seating after one of our three recesses, and only to places not marked by a pencil box.
    4. This year it has been from the beginning of the year, but I teach kindergarten social skills once a week, so they are familiar with it from the year before. We take the first few weeks to practice and fix.

    1. The numbering idea is very clever. Thanks!!

  4. I currently have standing desks, floor sitting desks, desk in groups, parents, and individual, padded crates, stools, pillows, rugs, rockers, floor seats, balance balls, and wobble stools. Some I introduced at the beginning of the year and others as I got them. When I introduced them, I modeled how to use properly and how to put away. I chose not to assign seats or create an order as to who sits where when. Right now it’s a first come first serve basis. It starts off chaotic, but eventually students begin to figure out was seats work best for them and what doesn’t. I allow students to sit where they would like each day they come in and they can switch seats as they need to. I teach while group with them already at their seats, so they are kind of everywhere. I am still new to flex seating, but I am enjoying it more and more. I wish I could get rid of most my desks to have more tables and things, but that is going to take a ton of convincing :) I would recommend that if you have students who may benefit from let’s say a wobble chair you may reserve it for them and if they don’t need itvthatvdaybthey can pass it on. Good luck!

    1. I would love to get rid of the desks in exchange for tables too. Someday! Thank you for your thoughts!

  5. I love flexible seating and would never go back! I have 4th grade. We sit on an area rug for our mini-lessons which is what I call my instruction time. 10-15 min max. I have seen older students bring chairs or stools to a meeting area. You can do flexible seating by having kids choose a new seat each week, or each day. Or, if you have them all day they could choose a new seat each subject! I have seen some teachers have a home base where kids choose a seat for a week then they switch after that. I have done it where my tables are hokebase and my other furniture is up for grabs sometime, depending on the activity. It depends on the class. And what they can handle. I have large round tables I found in our district’s surplus. I also bought pieces from Ikea and Craigslist. A new thing I have been using to get furniture is Facebook Marketplace. We are redoing a shared space with flexible seating. Many people will give you things if you tell them you are a teacher! It is amazing! I also have tall bistro tables, a round table with legs cut off that kids can sit on or around on the floor. I have a couch and a comfy chair. I also have a dining room table and chairs that are kind of high.

    The first year I did it was at the end of the year. I found a few pieces and incorporat d then into my room. It was a good way to test things out. Like I said before, discussing rules and expectations are the key!

    1. These are all awesome suggestions. Thank you so much!!!!