I've been experimenting with flexible seating this year. And by experimenting I mean that I gave away all my desks in favour of 5 tables, 3 couches, 10 hokki stools, 25 carpet squares, 1 standing table and a few stand alone desks. I've learned a lot over the course of the first four months of the school year (see here and here for more about that) and am ready to make some changes.
You see, my current model of flexible seating has not really worked for this particular group of kiddos. It hasn't really worked for me either. They are a very social group who are still choosing to sit with friends rather than people who will help them learn. I find it very challenging to be as rigid as you need to be about the rules and am coming home exhausted from constantly regulating student behaviour. Perhaps we didn't model and practice these things enough early in the year. Perhaps my unwavering expectations wavered too often. Who knows. What I do know is that we are ready for a change.
Setting up for change
As a class, we had a discussion about how they felt about the seating arrangement. At the beginning of the year there was a lot of disappointment about not having desks; I thought that had faded by now, but no. About half of the students still want desks - some because they want to learn on their own, away from a group, some because they would like some personal space to store their belongings. A few spoke up about wanting assigned seats so that they were not responsible for constantly choosing where they sat (these were mainly the ones who struggle to make good choices) and most wanted to know where they were going every day. They want their own space. They want to lessen the anxiety and the conflict in the classroom. I can totally get on board with that.
Choosing limited choice.
I value the idea of allowing students choice in their learning. I believe that it empowers them to be self-aware and more active in their learning. However, I do think there is such a thing as too much choice, especially for the little guys. We had too much choice going on and it was leading to problems. So, how to have choice but not too much choice? Here's what I decided to do. Each student wrote on a piece of paper whether they would prefer to work in a group, a partnership or solo. They then wrote 1 person they learn well with, 1 person they do not learn well with and 1 friend. They know that they will have the opportunity to do this every 3 weeks and that I will do my best to accomodate their requests. Once they are set up at their new "home" there will be many times throughout the day when they can choose to work on the floor, at the standing table or on the couches. In this way, they have the comfort and security of a home base but do not have to sit and work at a table all day every day. They also do not have to choose a new spot all the time if they don't want to. Hopefully, this will bring down the anxiety and conflict in the room yet still allow my kiddos to be the best learners they can be.
Over the holidays I have brought in the few extra desks I could find around the school to accomodate those that want to work solo. Hopefully in the new year we will be able to scrounge more desks for those that want them. For now, we will have to make do with knowing that we have our own place within the classroom that we can always come back to and that we are responsible for maintaining.
Check back later to see how we do!
Update - apparently desks are on their way! We will have 18 desks and 2 tables (1 large, 1 small) for the kids to work at. I'm so excited for this next phase!
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about literacy, collaborative teaching and finding new and innovative ways to engage & motivate all kids. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!