Sunday, August 21, 2016

How to Manage Flexible Seating

     I knew that when I started Flexible Seating, I needed to set the tone at the beginning of the year to set my class up for success. During the first week of school, I made sure that every student had an opportunity to try out every seat at least once.  As the students sat in a new seat, they would complete the simple evaluation that I made.

I then took all of the info and did simple tally marks next to each type of seating.  It was obvious very quickly that the traditional seating came in at the very bottom of the list.  This information was very valuable to me in many ways.  The most was to make sure that each student was in a seat that they loved for our very first district mandated testing on day 4.

     Before I turned my students lose to start choosing their own seats, they first had to have sat in every seat in the classroom.  I kept a simple checklist and moved my students four times a day.  Each time, I made sure that they were also with a new groups of students.
     On the day that the students were first given the opportunity to make their own seating choice, we had a meeting to begin our day.  We discussed how everything had gone and completed three charts.  I wanted the students to have the ownership of the flexible seating classroom.  The headings of the charts were "What it is"  "What it isn't"  "Rules".

      After several days of rotating, the students were able to come up with great thoughts which led to some meaningful conversations.  I think if I had told them all of this at the beginning, they wouldn't have had the buy-in to the flexible seating.

     Now, my students have completely been turned over to choosing their own seats.  We change seats after each subject which is four times a day.  We rotate through choosing seats in alphabetical order.  Once a student is first to choose his seat, he then becomes last and moves back up.  This means that with twenty-six students, it only takes six days before each student gets to be the first to choose their seats.  

     Our day goes something like this:  

     My students and I meet on the rug as we begin each subject.  This is our meeting place for instruction, discussion, read alouds, reading together, watching a video, etc.  After the students know what work they need to complete, they get to make the decision of what seating arrangement works best for them for the situation.  I haven’t had any student stay in the same seat all day long.  
     I use the signs included in this free packet to post on the board.  This helps remind students of expectations and the seating choice that will help them be successful.
      I have been absolutely amazed at how changing the atmosphere of the classroom to more of a home feeling has completely altered the way my students perform.  It’s been nothing short of AWESOME!

     If you are thinking about changing to flexible seating and have questions, I am happy to correspond with you and help out.   

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Flexible Seating Classroom Reveal

In my last blog post, I talked about how I completely changed my traditional classroom to a Flexible Seating classroom on a BUDGET.  If you are just starting you will want to read it here.

Today, I have my classroom reveal to share with you.  I hope you are as excited as I am!  

My 4th grade classroom is 25' x 27'.   This is the smallest classroom I have ever taught in, yet I think it looks and feels the most spacious!  

I have 26 students and 29 actual seating options plus other options.  (Hard to believe from this picture, right?)  I'll count them for you as we go along.

Here is the view from my door.   I built upon the bright pink, green, blue, purple, orange, and yellow that I already had in my classroom.
These are standard pillows with bright pink pillowcases for low seating.  (Seats #1-4) 
 Looking from the front of the room to the back where you can see my classroom library which extends behind my door. 
 Here is a closer look at the black leather gaming chair next to my classroom library.  (seat #5)
 I found these bright stools just a couple of days before school started and added them to my computer area. 
 These stools are not part of the daily flex options.
 Looking from our meeting rug to the back of the room.  These are the cubbies for my students to keep their supplies.
 My teacher stuff is located behind my small group table.  I got rid of my teacher desk four years ago when I moved to this smaller room.  I have a small desk for my computer.  I have three pink and green stools for flex seating.  These are very sturdy with storage inside.  I found these on an online yard sale during pre-planning!  (SCORE!!)  (seats #6, 7, 8)
 This purple basket was given to me.  It is perfect for our pillows to use for "extra" flex seating.  Students can choose this option along with a blanket or a towel.  I have used these for many years.

 I brought two of my camping chairs from home along with a small table I purchased from a friend.  I have had the lamp for several years in my classroom.  The fuzzy, purple picture frame was one my daughter left when she got married and moved out.  I will take a class picture and add it.  Two clipboards in a basket I already had, finishes off this cozy little area for two.  (seats #9 & #10)

 Looking from the front corner of my rug to the back of the room.  I purchased this plastic treasure chest a few years ago at Walmart.  It contains our blankets and towels for extra flex seating.

 My principal is extremely supportive and as excited about this change as I am.  She purchased these two wiggle stools from Amazon for me.  They work great with this small table I already had in my classroom.  (Seats #11 & #12)

 I was super excited to find this great leather loveseat!  I added two pillows from home and this rug that was rolled up in my closet for another cozy seating area.  
(Seats #13 & #14)
 These two comfy chairs finish out the livingroom corner.  The table was another leftover from my daughter and the lamp was one previously in my room.  (Seats #15 & #16)

The inspirational posters that can be seen all over the room can be found here in my TPT store.  There are 100 in the pack.  I also hang a different one outside my door each morning.  Other students stop to read them and thank me for posting.
The front corner of my meeting rug.  I have had this rocker for about ten years.  I also already had the lamp, bookshelf, and floor pillows.  The scoop rockers can be seen next to the bookshelf.  Desk trays can be used by the students who want to sit on one of the floor pillows as extra flex.  I purchased the beanbag chair from Amazon.  (seat #17)

 A closer view of items that students can grab and go.  Our science, social studies, and language arts textbooks are also on the shelf to pull out as needed.
 These scoop chairs are a big favorite and super cheap at Walmart! (Seats #18 & #19)
 Desk trays from Hobby Lobby are used with
 these large floor cushions my mom sewed several years ago for extra flex seating.
 The view from the back corner of my room.  Having the rug in the middle of the room, really helps give the illusion that my room is super spacious, when it really isn't.
 My principal purchased two stability balls which will go here.  Unfortunately, they are on back order for about another month.  These crates and chair cushions were at my house and became emergency plan B.  I just turned the crates upside down, and tied the cushions on them.  They are working out so well, that I will move them to the small group table with the green and pink cubes when no longer needed here. That will also increase to 31 seating options! (Seats #20 & #21)
 Another great castoff of my daughter was this lamp which gives much needed light in this back corner.  During the school day, my overhead fluorescent lights are usually off and we only use lamps and natural lights from the window.  The book shelf is on wheels so is easily moved when I need in the closet.  This bungee chair was a great yardsale find and is a favorite of my students!  (Seat #22)

This gaming chair found a nook under the backpacks.  During the day, it can easily be scooted out just a bit from the wall.  Don't be afraid to use every available space in your classroom! Students are loving this cozy nook to work independently.  (Seat #23)
Here is thhe ONLY traditional table and chairs in my classroom.  I really felt that I needed to keep one of my six tables, but the kiddos complain if it is their turn to sit here, and really, who can blame them with all of these other great options? (Seats #24-27)

Another view of my classroom looking from the computer table.
 The last two flex seating options have also been favorites.  I had a friend who was taking these two stools to the recycle store and gave them to me for FREE!  (whoo-hoo!!)  I placed these at each end of the cubbies where the taller height worked perfectly.  They also swivel allowing students that need it, that extra movement.  (Seats #28 & #29)
Pulling the cubbies away from the wall, allows students an extra option of flexibility.  Students who need to stand can do so here.

The students each have a book bin for their reading books and workbook along with their notebooks.  

One last view.  I am absolutely LOVING my new flexible seating classroom!  I look forward to hearing from you with your thoughts and/or questions about flexible seating.

Coming Soon - How to begin teaching your students about flexible seating and the management of your day.

Have a GREAT one!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

My Journey Into Flexible Seating - Making the Leap

 What is Flexible Seating? 

     To answer this question think about your home.  Do you have only one seat that you sit on each time you sit down?  No.  You sit on the couch or comfy chair to watch television, read, and more.  You sit at the table to eat.  You sit on an office chair when sitting at your desk.  You might even sit on your bed or use a pillow to sit on the floor.
     Flexible Seating in the classroom strives to do the same.  Teachers dread Professional Development (for more reasons than one), but sitting on a hard chair for even just a small amount of time is at the top of the list.  Now, stop and think about how much you dread those chairs.  Think about how tired your back and other body parts feel after sitting on those chairs.  Think about if you had to sit on that same chair everyday all day long.  You would be twisting and turning also.
     Flexible Seating offers different types of seating in your classroom for your students far beyond the hard plastic chair.   Multiple types of seating are available in the classroom.  How to implement that seating is up to each individual teacher.  

Deciding to Make the Leap

     I have wanted to go to flexible seating for several years, although I didn't even realize there was an actual name for it.  First, I didn't because I moved from 2nd to 4th a few years ago.  Then I didn't because we were departmentalized and I wasn't sure how to make it work with so many students coming in and out of my room.  At the end of this past year, we found out we would go back to having our homeroom students all day.  I was so excited.  The time felt right to finally do this.

How do I Obtain Seating Options? 

     The great news is that it does not have to be expensive to change the seating in your classroom.
The main thing to remember is that it is still YOUR classroom.  Changing it up as much or as little as you want is entirely up to you and doesn’t have to break the bank.  In fact, it doesn’t even have to cost you a penny.
     Look at your classroom with a critical eye.  What would you like to keep?  What would you like to get rid of?  I wanted to get rid of most of my tables/desk for several years before I did.  A few years ago, I began by bringing a LOT of comfy pillows into the classroom along with bath towels, beach towels, blankets, and clipboards.  For years, I allowed my students to grab a clipboard and get comfy anywhere on the floor that they wished, as long as they did their work.

#1 - What's in my classroom? 

     The first thing I did was to make a list of all of the furniture options in my room.  I decided that I wanted to change my entire classroom.  I already had a large rug on one side of my room.  I had six large tables with twenty-four chairs.  I decided to keep only one table and four chairs for traditional seating.  I also had two standing lamps and four table lamps.
     I had two small tables that would work well for only two students sitting together.  For one of these tables, I wanted to add wiggle stools, but when I saw the price?? I knew that I couldn’t justify that cost.  So, I quickly e-mailed my principal letting her know what I was planning for my classroom and asked if she had it in her budget to order two of these stools for me and she agreed to purchase two.  She also agreed to purchase two stability balls for the other table.  

# 2 - What's in my home?

I started looking for at more seating options.  I looked around my house and found two small rugs, a couple of pillows, a lamp, a small table and two camping chairs that would work.  It's amazing what you can discover that you already have when you are looking with a critical eye.

#3 - What do I need to purchase? 

     Online Yard Sales through Facebook is the BEST idea someone ever thought of.  I am a member of several, so I diligently checked them everyday and found several items.   Every person sold them to me for even less when they found out I wanted them for my classroom.

Also, check out your local thrift and consignment  stores.  I got this $60 leather couch for $40.

  #4 - Ask your family and friends.

Ask your friends and family if they have any items they will give you or sale for cheap!  I had a friend who was taking bar stools to the thrift store, so she gave those to me for free.  I had a couple more friends that sold me some furniture super cheap!

#5 - Purchase any odds and ends to complete your room.

I bought these scoop rockers from Walmart and four desk trays from Hobby Lobby.  This will give some students a different option from clipboards. 
I really wanted a beanbag chair, but DANG, they are expensive.  I found one on sale during Amazon’s Prime Day.  Normally $42 on sale for $26.  It was just what I wanted, so I made the splurge.


#6 - Finance your room

Consider having a yard sale or selling some of your no-longer-needed items online.  I sold several items which helped to pay for the items, plus helped to declutter my house.

There's still time to make the change before the new school year.  I encourage you to make the leap if you have been considering this type of classroom.  

Coming VERY soon - Classroom Reveal!