With any new “must have” thing that appears in the education sphere I take time to evaluate it before I implement it in my classroom.
Flexible seating was no different. When I saw that teachers were once again spending their own money to pay for education’s latest and greatest trend – I wanted to wait and see how I felt about this.
Teachers (in some places) are now expected to implement flexible seating in their classes by using their own money to buy these new seating options. I have spent thousands of dollars on my classroom thus far in my career – I have purchased technology, school supplies, classroom library books etc. I am not inclined to jump on this trend and fully change over the classroom that requires me to buy all new furniture for my classroom.
I thought I was alone in waiting to see if flexible seating was right for my classroom, but then I saw these two blog posts from fellow education bloggers Kayse Morris from Teaching on Less and Jackie from Learning in Room 213. Finally, I knew I was not alone. As educators, we do not have to jump into every new idea that arrives. It is ok for us to research it and try it out slowly in our classrooms.
I do like the idea of students have more flexibility in their classroom seating, but I wanted to facilitate this on a budget as well as in a way that ensured authentic student learning.
The following five tips are how I implemented a budget-friendly version of flexible seating in my middle school classroom.
I went to my local JYSK and purchased these portable carpets. In my classroom, I call these small carpets reading carpets. They are stored next to my classroom library. When students are reading or working on independent work they can ask to use one of these carpets to work on the floor. The great thing about these carpets is that they fold up and can easily be put away. I do not have a large classroom so space is always at a premium.
Flexible Seating Choice Cards
I frequently mix up my seating plans by changing up how I make the seating plan. Some days I randomly number the desks and then assign students numbers as they walk into the room. Other days I hand out half of a card from a deck of cards and the students had to find the matching half taped to a desk.
Eventually, the numbers rub off the desks, or the cards get bent. I do not want to keep numbering desks or buy new decks of cards. I also want a system that would allow for easy group creation for group work.
I created these flexible seating cards to solve the problems with my previous systems. These cards can be printed out on card stock and laminated to help them last the whole school year.
How Do The Cards Work?
1. Decide if you want to tape the desk card to your desks or just place the card on the desk before students arrive to class. Personally, I find that in the upper grades too much movement happens to tape items to desks. I will just be placing the desk set on each desk, and having a student collect them before instruction begins.
2. Then decide which version of the card you want students to find as their seat – numbers, pilot alphabet, a deck of cards or Morse Code. Then hand each student one card as they walk into the classroom. The students then have to find their new seat by matching their small card to the foursquare desk card.
Replace Desks With Tables
At my school, the custodian has a storage area full of leftover furniture. One of my co-workers converted her entire classroom to tables from individual desks at no cost to them or the school. This option only works if you have a purposeful space for students to put their materials when they arrive to class. The classroom can become messy fast once you replace the convent storage space that desks contain.
Non-School Looking Chairs
A proper guided reading table was purchased for my classroom, but it did not come with chairs. I went to IKEA and purchased 4 stationary chairs and 1 rolling chair. Students always want to sit in these chairs either at my guided reading table or at their desks because they are different than the school board provided chairs. Search for reasonably priced chairs at nearby stores. I like plastic chairs because they are easy to clean and disinfect. Fabric chairs are too hard to keep clean and free from other unpleasant “visitors”. I have four of the ADDE chair from IKEA as well as one of the ALRIK chair. These are a huge hit with students and inexpensive for classroom furniture.
Every summer my local grocery and hardware stores have big sales on the fold out camping chairs. These are great because they come in fun colours fold up so they can be stored in a corner when not in use. Maybe I will buy the fancy maple leaf themed ones that come out for Canada Day celebrations.
If you decide to try out flexible seating my advice would be to start slow and look for options already available in your school. A little detective work can go along way to saving a lot of money. Talk to your school custodian and administration to see what furniture might be hiding in storage rooms. Finally, remember that the best thing you can do for your students is to provide well-planned lessons and an organized classroom. Fancy chairs and lightning won’t automatically make learning better.