…The teachers have nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of bulletin boards, classroom set-ups, and flexible seating danced in their heads. That sounds about right as we head into the busy back-to-school season! Teachers everywhere are busy setting up their classrooms and turning their four walls into a magical learning environment that inspires and welcomes their students. Part of setting up a classroom involves the design of the room- particularly, flexible seating options. What is a flexible seating classroom? A classroom with flexible seating includes a variety of seating options that the students can choose to use while they work and learn. Years ago, for many teachers, the idea of flexible seating seemed like a new, scary, and intimidating concept. Today, flexible seating options, resources, inspiration, and products are popping up almost everywhere.
Although classrooms with flexible seating can often look more spacious, not to mention creative and fun, the move from traditional seating to flexible seating involves much more than appearances. Let’s take a look at what research says!
What Research Says About Student Choice
One of the foundations of the flexible seating initiative comes down to student choice. Teaching and guiding students to make their own choices is one of the most valuable lessons we can give to our children. In fact, it’s so important that parents and guardians start this process at a very young age with babies and toddlers. “Do you want milk or water to drink?” “Would you like to put on your blue shoes or your brown shoes?” “Do you want to walk to the car or march to the car?” As a mom to a toddler myself, I’m constantly providing choices for my toddler because it boosts confidence, helps him learn cause and effect, increases independence, and promotes problem-solving skills. The concept of choice is equally as important within our classrooms.
- Dr. Marzano explains that providing student choice within the classroom led to students perceiving as more important and motivating.
- Providing choice in where students sit allows each child to find a comfortable spot in the classroom that works best for him or her. A comfortable classroom keeps students focused and limits distractions both physically and psychologically. (Herman Miller, 2008)
- For years, Montessori Education has embraced a classroom environment that includes a set-up that accommodates group work, quiet independent spaces, and decor that provides a feeling of home. Dr. Montessori’s work has led to highly independent students who grow into responsible citizens and lifelong learners.
It’s fair to say that providing choices when it comes to student learning is critical and necessary. Therefore, it makes sense that flexible seating – a classroom that allows for and promotes choice when it comes to seating options for learning, REALLY WORKS to engage students, minimize behavior issues, increase attentiveness, and boost learning independence. As a result, I knew I wanted to add lots of new flexible seating options into the set-up of my first-grade classroom this fall. My goal was to create a classroom that was bright, child-friendly and inviting.
Favorite Flexible Seating Options
Hands-down, my most adored pieces of flexible seating that I added to my classroom this year has come from Lakeshore Learning’s Flex-Space furniture line. I’d love to show you some of these favorites that I hope will quickly become my students’ favorites, too!
A big thank you to Lakeshore Learning and their wonderful Flex-Space line for sponsoring this blog post. This review and my opinions are entirely my own and I only support brands, resources, and products that I truly use and love!
This is my FAVORITE spot in my classroom this year! It feels so cozy and home-like, especially when I have the lights off and all of our lamps on. The Lakeshore Flex-Space Couch can be wiped down and the color is gorgeous and bright! I added some IKEA pillows, the IKEA storage shelves and tubs, and painted an old coffee table that I had in my basement. The coffee table will be a great floor table for my students to work on throughout the day. The Flex-Space Wobble Cushions are tucked underneath the table at the moment. I think my students will love using these durable pieces of flexible seating while they sit at the coffee table and collaborate with one another!
Balance balls are an affordable way to add flexible seating options to your classroom. The Lakeshore Balance Ball is truly made of high-quality material. Unlike a lot of the thin and flimsy balance balls that I’ve tried in the past, this one is made to last! The one pictured above is the 17-inch balance ball. It’s really easy to move around the room, so I can see some of my students using this at their table in exchange for their traditional chairs. The ottomans are from Target and I chose these as seating options because they double for storage and they could even act as “tables” that students can play math games on. (You can learn more about our math games here.)
Doesn’t this little area with these Comfy Floor Chairs make you want to curl up with a book beside a friend?! These chairs are truly ah-mazing! The best part is that they fold flat for easy storage. The little table in between the chairs in this picture is actually the Lakeshore Student Lap Desk. It’s really well made and I know my students are going to get a lot of use out of it while they work around the room. It will make a great spot to work on our Chromebooks or write a great story during Daily 5!
This is a little peek at my whole group carpet area. (My carpet came from Kids Carpet.) The huge and comfy floor pillows are Lakeshore’s Giant Comfy Pillows in orange, green, and blue. They make this spot look so inviting, cozy, and warm! I absolutely love that the pillowcases unzip and can be thrown in the washing machine. This is really important anytime you are having fabrics within your classroom! The Flex-Space line has truly thought of every detail when it comes to flexible seating!
I hope you loved getting a little tour of all of the new flexible seating options I’ve added to my classroom this year! I can’t wait to share this beautiful space with a new group of students. I just know they are going to love these options that allow for an easier way to hold discussions, work in groups and partners, or even find a quiet spot to read independently. In the picture above, I’m sitting on the Lakeshore Beanbag (the big size) and it’s perfect for sharing a read-aloud with my students!
Flexible Seating with a Twist of Traditional
One of the most popular questions I have received about my new flexible seating options is: “Is your classroom entirely set up for flexible seating?” Even though I’ve shared how valuable flexible seating is, the answer to this question is actually no! I fully believe that flexible seating is so important to students, but it’s also important to me for students to have a set spot in the classroom from time to time. Specifically, having furniture such as a table to work at when needed.
Have I completely confused you now?! Here’s the thing. Students need choice. They thrive on it. Therefore, flexible seating options allow for me to reach all learners within the classroom environment. However…
There are certain times throughout the day when I want my students to be sitting at a table or hard surface, and times when I need them to have a designated spot that is entirely their own within the classroom. For example, we are in our seats during our math mini-lessons, some science experiments, and during some writing activities. For some teachers, this is not needed and full-blown flexible seating (without any designated spots) works for them! The point of this part of the blog post is to share with you that I believe it’s okay to do what works for YOU as a teacher and for your students. My students have SO MANY opportunities during the day when they get to sit and work wherever they’d like. Likewise, there are also a few times during the day when they sit in their seat for a brief period of time. That’s okay, too!
So how did I mix my viewpoints of flexible seating with a twist of traditional seating? Since this was a big summer of reflection for me when it came to classroom design and set-up, one important change I made is the move from desks to tables in my first-grade classroom. I felt like the desks were far TOO traditional for the way we learn and work together in our room. Tables, however, allow my students to collaborate and work together more easily and effectively. Tables create an open-concept within the classroom and they set the tone that we are a classroom family who works together. Tables also help to facilitate student discussion, and oral language has a huge place in my heart within the primary grades. To put it simply, tables make more sense in our classroom and our attempt to promote 21st-century learning.
As you can see in the photograph below, I opted for two round tables and three rectangular tables from Today’s Classroom in order to mix up the design and allow for further choice within the room. Today’s Classroom has TONS of options for classroom furniture and they were so wonderful to work with!
The round activity tables that I purchased from Today’s Classroom can be found here. The rectangular activity tables can be found here. The quality of the tables are wonderful and I know they are going to last for years, be durable, and promote collaboration in my room!
Our beautiful tables allow us to utilize a ton of flexible seating in our classroom, while still having space for a designated “space” or “seat” for each student when needed. It’s truly the perfect mix and a great solution for my students’ needs and contributes beautifully to my teaching style and the learning environment I had set out to achieve.
If you fell in love with some of the pieces that were highlighted in this blog post, I’ve included an easy list of links for all of the items that are shown in the image below. These items come from the Lakeshore Flex-Space Line.
Flexible Seating Can Be Flexible
Is there only one specific way to do flexible seating? No way! That’s the beauty of it. I hope that this review of flexible seating options has been helpful for you. I am SO excited to share these new classroom features with my students. I also hope that if, like me, you want to implement flexible seating but also keep some aspects of traditional seating in your classroom, that you see how possible and easy it is to mix the two. You can offer plenty of choices and places around the room for independent, partner, and group work, but at the same time, your tables and desks (my suggestion is to push your desks together to form tables) can be used at times, too. If you’re doing what works for your students, then always be proud of yourself!
If you enjoyed the images and would like to pin it to Pinterest to refer to in the future or share with a friend, feel free to use the pinnable images below. As always, thank you so much for spending some time in my classroom today. I hope you’ll stop in again soon!