How I Use Flexible Seating

I’m coming at you with probably one of the most unpopular opinions in education at the time. My opinion, and let me emphasize that it is, in fact, my opinion, on flexible seating is not what everyone is buzzing about these days. No, I’m not a fan of this whole “Choose where you sit today and then switch it up tomorrow,” or the “When you come into class, you get to pick your seat based on whatever is left.” Honestly, the thought of that makes my body tense. Because of the type of person I am and how I function as both a teacher and learner, this classroom management style would not benefit me in any way. And I know there’s others who feel the same way.

I’ve had friends who are parents and other people (educators and not) ask my opinion on this hot topic. My response is always, “I believe students should have a home in the classroom, a place to land.” The typical flexible seating classroom has different options for the students to sit that day or week, be it through a rotation process or student choice. That means every day/week a student is having to accommodate to their new space and figure out how to make it work for them. I see this like moving from home to home. If you were a child who was living that life outside of school, like I did as an elementary student, coming into the classroom where you’re having to acclimate yourself to a new space takes a lot of brain power… and that’s not even for students who are dealing with ADHD/ADD, OCD, anxiety, etc. who will be easily distracted by such constant change.

There is a lot of countering opinions, and believe me, I’ve looked at tons. I do buy into the engagement and ownership aspect and how certain types of seating can improve ADHD/ADD behavior. However, very little research has been done that proves these factors. It’s more so a popular trend that teachers are trying out to see if it works for them and their students. If it does, all power to you! I would, however, ask you to consider your population of students to see if this is something that will benefit their emotional well-being. Is there chaos in your room that is being promoted by the set up of your room, not because “this is a rough group of kids.” Are all students really focusing the way you think they are? Keep these things in mind as you experiment.

Based on my post so far, you would think I don’t have flexible seating in my classroom at all, but I do. I have the Nugget couch, the floor table with pillows, the ottoman chairs, round “butterfly” chairs, a stage that my kids use as a bench, high-top chairs, a tent with pillows, Otto storage stools, etc. I do love having them in my room as collaboration options for my students to work in groups together or as places to read.

When they go into groups, which is about 60% of our class time, rarely do they stay at their seats to work. They all choose the flexible seating options. I asked a few students if there was a reason for that and they all said it’s because their desk is “their space” and they don’t want people there. I was a bit surprised because I thought the answer would be “because we like sitting in the cool seats more,” but they assured me they just prefer no one to be at their desk. This reassured my thinking that everyone just needs a place to call home in my classroom.

Educator’s opinions about flexible seating is different. The way it is successful in certain classrooms is different than others. I only share my opinion in hopes that some who are either struggling with making it work in their classroom or on the fence about starting it will consider the other side, the not-so-beautiful instagram side.

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