Here's my "flexible seating" journey...
When I began teaching kindergarten...it was REALLY kindergarten. We ate snack, we took a nap, we had recess twice a day, we learned our letters, we played in centers, we finger painted...and we didn't have an assigned seat! It was the way I learned to operate a classroom, it was the way my mentors taught me to teach. The children moved around the room into different areas sometimes at a table, sometimes on the floor, sometimes on a couch, sometimes in a bathtub. The classroom was a place where learning didn't require a desk with a name plate for each child.
Times changed and we have slowly moved to a kindergarten where children learn to read, add, and subtract.When Common Core came out, many teachers gave up the things that had worked for them as they turned their focus to the standards. They moved to more seat assigned work, more directed instruction, more "sit and get" type learning--"sit there and I hope you get it". Teachers moved to more of a "print and go", reproducible, no prep type of instruction where the standards where written on the paper so it must be the best way to teach.
Thankfully many teachers are now seeing that flexible seating doesn't mean you have a "loosey goosey" classroom where the teacher loses control. Instead, they see it is a place where rigor is evident in every lesson. It is a classroom with very specific routines and procedures. It is within this structure that children can be more selective as to where and how they learn. It allows for differentiated instruction, multiple intelligences, and Bloom's taxonomy to all occur not as separate lessons, but as the way the learning is delivered on a daily basis. In today's classroom, the instruction might be a little different. The standards might be a bit more rigorous. But the way children learn best hasn't changed!
What does flexible seating look like? It can look different in each teacher's room. Here are a few pictures of what it looks like in our classrooms. The true goal of seating it to maximize instruction. Flexible seating is different kinds of seating for different kinds of instruction.
Flexible seating doesn't mean that you have a "tableless" room.As a matter of fact, I love my small group table. This is a table I use to meet with a small group of kids while the other children are working around the room. My kids know that this is the spot where we are going to meet together! It is also my desk! I don't have a teacher desk. This is it.
If I am doing a messy craft that involves paint....I would never want to do that on the carpet. I like to use my table for crafts, painting, cooking...things you would use a table for if you were at home! I also have a few small tables around the room. Here are a few that I have used over the years.
Sometimes I do my activity on the floor. Talk about excitement! Crazy, right? Just because we did our shaving cream writing on the floor they were super excited. Why did I do it? I wanted them sitting in a row instead of around a table. I wanted to be sure they were all seeing the word left to right! That is what flexible seating is REALLY about. After we decide what standard we are going to teach, we think about what resources we are going to use, which materials are going to be the most successful in helping our children achieve mastery. But, another decision that needs to be made, what seating environment while be most conducive.
Where's "Their" Spot?
here. This eliminates the need for that desk to hold all those supplies! ALL, every single minute, of large group instruction is done with the kids sitting on the rug. They use a lap board for supporting their paper as needed. With all the kids right there, I can easily see who is getting it and who needs to spend a little more time with me. It keeps the pace moving quickly as there is no need for me to walk around all those crowded tables.
Why Did I Get Rid of Tables In the First Place?
The Classroom is Your Day House
Pattern VS NoveltyWe also know that the brain learns by pattern, but seeks novelty. So we divide our rooms into 5 zones. Each zone has different types of seating, different literacy centers, different math centers, different types of writing tools, etc. The kids visit one zone each day. The fact that they know the rotation, 1 zone each day of the week, establishes that pattern that the brain loves. But, the variety of resources and the different environment provide the novelty that the brain seeks.Within the zone they sit where they want! It depends on what they chose to do as to where they chose to sit...
So that's it! Simple as that! Not a decision I made based on a research paper I read. Not a decision I made because it was the cool thing to do. It was a decision I made because I wanted to create an environment that was warm and cozy. A place where kids don't have anxiety. A place that I love to spend my Sunday afternoons. A place where parents stick their head in the door and say "this is so cool". A place where an academically rigorous curriculum doesn't cause tummy aches.