Are you wondering what is flexible seating and if the benefits are worth the effort? If so, you've come to the right place. I will be entering my 16th year of teaching and for the past 5 years or so I have been hearing about flexible seating classroom, flexible seating ideas, flexible seating chairs and the overall benefits of flexible seating.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but my biggest challenge as a teacher has always been keeping students engaged. Not the whole class. I’m good with about 85-90% of my students, but that additional 10-15% kept me up on many nights trying to figure out what else I could do to help them.
You know the students I’m talking about. Those easily distracted, need to move, and off task precious babies that are the ones who need to hang on to your every word, but just can’t seem to do so. It truly bothered me because I knew they were capable of excelling, but since they lost focus so frequently and consistently, they missed crucial steps or instructions that kept them performing below their true potential.
Flexible Seating Benefits: 10-15 %
I had tried everything I could think of. Frequent redirection, chunking instructions and repeating them often, teaching and reteaching them in small groups, giving them individual copies of the lesson and checklists of what they needed to complete to help them stay on task. It would all work momentarily and then we’d be back to square one. It was exhausting and I knew something else had to exist that was a more permanent fix.
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The Power of Movement
Determined, I started to research. Almost immediately, I started stumbling across articles discussing ADD, ADHD and short attention spans and the reasons that a flexible seating classroom was a powerful way to combat those problems. I also read through many articles that encouraged the power and benefit of movement during the instructional day for students with attention problems.
Using movement resonated with me because a few years ago I had been chosen to and worked to pilot a healthy initiative project in my school. My students had brain breaks throughout the day where we would stand, stretch and move after set periods of sitting.
Brain breaks are opportunities in a day where students are led in movement to give them a break from academic work or mental processes. Brain breaks are meant to help students relax or become re-energized and involve getting oxygen and blood to the brain with guided group movement. It also seeks to get students re-hydrated.
In our fitness program, students were led through classroom aerobic type activities by their teacher for about 5-7 minutes at set intervals throughout the day. Students also received pedometers to track their steps per day to ensure they were receiving an appropriate level of movement daily.
As I recalled the success of that program, I started investigating ways that students could move, without too much interruption in the instructional day or without disturbing other students. Enter my greater understanding of flexible seating classrooms, ideas and chairs.
What is Flexible Seating?
I had heard the term mentioned before, but really didn’t have any thorough understanding of the concept of a flexible seating classroom beyond the fact that they looked cool and expensive. The more I dug into researching flexible seating classrooms was the more I became convinced that it was the solution to my problems.
Flexible seating is the use of varied seating options within a classroom setting to give students opportunities to move and sit in an area that makes them feel comfortable. It has gained popularity in recent years and there are schools of research that fiercely advocate or disagree with flexible seating.
When I started my research on flexible seating classrooms, I was intrigued, but unsure. However, as I looked at the different flexible seating classroom elementary options and thought about the problems I was trying to address in my classroom, I couldn’t help but think that flexible seating would be a great way to help the 10-15% of students I was so worried about.
I was excited about the potential success of a flexible seating classroom since I was searching for a way to encourage sustained reading and writing (which requires students to sit for the most part). After gathering all the facts I could find, I started specifically looking into the different types of flexible seating chair options to see which were the best, most highly recommended and wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Funding a Flexible Seating Classroom and Flexible Seating Chair Options
Though I found some decent deals, creating a flexible seating classroom and purchasing flexible seating chairs was still way beyond what I could afford on my own, so I decided to start a Donors Choose project to fund my Flexible Seating Classroom Mission.
For my flexible seating classroom, I decided to use the following flexible seating chairs: yoga balls, wobble chairs, a low table and floor pillows, crate seats, a sofa and stools. I selected these flexible seating chairs for my flexible seating classroom because most of these could be easily moved to facilitate small group or independent work, with minimal effort.
As I mentioned before, my main focus was in creating a flexible seating classroom setting that would encourage sustained reading and writing, so my flexible seating chairs options needed to provide to comfort and encourage snuggling up with a good book or journal.
I also wanted flexible seating chairs that would suit a wide range of students, since I teach students in Kindergarten through 5th grade. The flexible seating chairs needed to be appropriate for each grade level and accessible to all the students.