Flexible seating

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by kcjo13, Aug 17, 2016.

  1. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Aug 17, 2016

    Hello everyone...I used to be a regular poster, but I got out of teaching so I've been MIA for some time. However, I have a question as a parent to a teacher.

    My daughter's teacher is using "flexible seating". I've been seeing this on Pinterest and other places, but last night at open house I got to see her definition of it. Um...I'm not sure. First, her room is pretty small, and it's fifth grade so the kids are getting bigger, and the tables are tiny. Small tables with 5 chairs crammed around it. Daughter is bummed-she's sure she's going to get stuck on the end, like when you go to a restaurant and they pull up a chair, and you get banged into by the waiters all night.

    For me, if I was a student, it would drive me nuts to not know where I was sitting every day, and that I had to change it up all the time. I get anxiety when going to conferences because I need to find that perfect seat. And the second day is worse-will someone steal my seat? In my daughter's room, there was one big red fancy chair. So does it rotate? So she gets to sit there once every 20th switch? First come first served? So because she is a drop off, the bus kids will get the chair? Ugh, my stomach is rolling thinking about that, and I know my daughter has the same feelings.

    So thoughts? How does this work? I asked the teacher, and she was pretty vague. Just, we will work that all out when we get here. Plus, she isn't known for her management so I'm picturing chaos.

    If you were using flexible seating, what would you tell me as a parent, and daughter as a student?
     
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  3. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Aug 17, 2016

    I was in a classroom that was truly extremely small (it was originally the staff lounge for the smallest public schools in the district) for a maternity leave, and the teacher had flexible seating in there, in that she had two "regular" rectangular tales, one "regular" circular table, and a high table with higher chairs, and a low table with cushions. She had specific seats for each student, and while I never was there specifically when she changed them, I'd imagine that she would hear their input / use what she knows about them to rotate them throughout the different kinds of seating throughout the year. Thus, it was assigned seats, but that changed relatively often.

    If I was a parent of a student in a class with seating like I just described, I'd want to make sure first and foremost that my child's basic needs are being met so that they can best succeed in the classroom: that is, is their seating something that will be physically conducive to their success? Or is it going to be distracting them? For example, if I was a kid and sitting on the floor, I would certainly not be able to focus as well, as I always liked/needed having that back to a chair to sit back against. Secondly, I'd want to make sure that there's some form of equity or say that my child has, as otherwise they're not going to feel as welcome in that classroom, and thus will not perform and grow as well! I think if you can address those two big things for every child, it can be plenty successful.
     
  4. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Aug 17, 2016

    I love your question, kc. It's exactly what I've wondered when I see all of those pictures. I have rectangular tables in my room--with 3 or 4 students at each. When kids are working independently, I'm flexible with where they work--sitting or lying on the floor, standing or sitting on a stool at the back counter, sitting on the shelf under the window or staying at their own seat. I would like to, eventually add a high table and a low (coffee table height?) one, but those wouldn't be in use all of the time. I don't know how I would be able to equitably structure seating without the more traditional "own spot at a desk or table" at the core.
     
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  5. ZoeMarie

    ZoeMarie Rookie

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    Aug 17, 2016

    It sounds like she really wants to do flexible seating but hasn't thought it all through- and is going to do it anyway. I would bring those concerns up to the teacher. Part of flexible seating is teaching students to make the right choices about their seating for their own learning. I think this can definitely be done in a 5th grade class but she really needs to manage it. See if you can set up a time to discuss the management of her flexible seating plan and raise those concerns. Maybe it will help her plan accordingly.
     
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  6. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Aug 17, 2016

    I agree...I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, as she had to move buildings and just got back from vacation, and I remember what it's like to have all day meetings and be expected to have your room perfect for an open house. But yeah, it did seem like it was a last minute idea that might not be well thought out.
     
  7. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

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    Aug 17, 2016

    A few of the teachers at my school are going to do flexible seating in their 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms. Although it looks great and the idea makes sense, I too wonder about the management and equity components. I had many of my own students tell me that they prefer sitting in rows because it allows them a more focused setting. The only ones who ever wanted to sit on the carpet or at the large table to work were hoping their friends wold join them so they could play around. The ones who were routinely on task type kids were the ones who always stayed at their own desks to do their work. I'm curious to see how it works for them. If it turns out to be doable, I may look into it for next school year but as of now, I'm doing two large rows and three grouped areas along with my regular carpet and table area.
     
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  8. Bo C

    Bo C Rookie

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    Aug 22, 2016

    Agreed, WindyCityGal606. Try it out but let the students decide based on their feedback. Each class is different and may have different feelings about it.
     
  9. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    Aug 22, 2016

    Glad I'm not the only one who hasn't fully bought into the flexible seating fad. I like everyone to have their own desk and chair. I'm open to having some bean bags or yoga balls in back of the room, though, to use during independent reading.
     
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  10. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    Aug 22, 2016

    I've used flexible seating for a year in 5th, and I'm doing it again this year. It can be hugely successful if it's managed correctly. It also depends on how the teacher teaches.

    I don't ever teach a lesson to the whole class with my students in flexible seating arrangements. I teach all whole class lessons and do all read alouds on the carpet. These are not longer than 20 minutes - they are mini lessons. Small groups (which I do in ELA, math, and content areas) are at the kidney table (sometimes on the carpet). During all other times, students can sit wherever they want. What that means is during reading workshop, writing workshop (independent reading, writing, and reading response) and math workshop (independent work, games, etc). During much of reading and writing workshop I am circulating and conferring with individual students. When I switched from assigned seats it barely changed a thing in my classroom because I was already teaching that way - students rarely even used their home base. I always allowed them to sit wherever they wanted.

    I have rectangular tables, a cafe height table, and a little round table. Students also sit at my kidney table when I'm not using it to meet with a group. We have fixed stools, wobble stools, and chairs. I also have a futon, beanbags, and LOTS of pillows and carpeted area. I don't buy fancy "special" chairs because I don't want to have to manage a place everyone wants to sit. The kids change seats so incredibly frequently that it's never "oh no I never get the _____(whatever spot)." If they argue, I choose for them. If I notice a kid is always choosing a desired seat, I talk to them. Everything is handled on a case by case basis.

    Was this a meet the teacher event? The teacher could have been vague because of the nature of those kind of events. I just had one of those today. I am going to explain flexible seating in detail at back to school night, but that event wasn't the time or the place. I probably sounded vague in my responses to parents asking about seating as well, but I know exactly how I'm managing it because I've done it for a year. I also know that this class won't be exactly the same as the class I had last year, so if I have to modify, I will.

    I did this with a class of 28 last year - all different personalities, including some very shy students - and none of them disliked it. I did an online survey where they answered questions about it. I can see that for some it would take some getting used to, but when it's managed correctly, it's really not a big deal.

    Hopefully, this teacher will also manage things well, and everything will be fine.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2016
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  11. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    Aug 23, 2016

    Just because you have anxiety over it, doesn't mean your daughter is going to be anxious about it. If she is anxious about it, it's because she has never had a classroom with flexible seating. Ask her to give it a few weeks and do not impose your own worries or thoughts on the matter - let her make her own judgement call on if she likes it or not.

    If she has issues with it, advocate for her by asking her to talk to her teacher about it. Only if issues pop up, you might want to give the teacher a heads up that your daughter is planning to talk to her about it.

    Personally I wouldn't be able to deal with flexible seating - I do have anxiety about finding a spot to sit (I'm tall and need space to spread out; I'm left-handed and need to sit a certain way to see and write comfortably; etc). But I'm not able to bash a new idea without actually trying it out and seeing how it works out for me with that particular group of peers and teacher.
     
  12. Tulipteacher

    Tulipteacher Companion

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    Aug 24, 2016

    .
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2017
  13. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    Aug 27, 2016

    Most teachers at my former school use flexible seating. I believe the kindergarten and first grade teachers have assigned seats, and 2 second grade teachers. I think the rest of the school all uses flexible seating, though. I was actually the first one at my school to try it. I blogged about it, and my post has been pinned thousands of times on Pinterest. So you may have seen my classroom. ;)
    Honestly, I hated it. I tried it for the second semester of the school year, and never again. I liked assigned seats.

    However, the classrooms that do it from the beginning of the year, and set those expectations from the get-go, just love it. I have only heard positive feedback from my former students. Once expectations are established, there is no rhyme or reason to the seating. Kids get to work, and sit in the place that works best for them.

    Your daughter may surprise you (and herself). She may really like this arrangement as the year progresses. I would definitely give it time. If it isn't working for her, I would just talk to the teacher about allowing her to have an assigned seat. Hopefully she would be ok with that (I don't see why not).
     

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