Flexible Seating: Too Good to Be True?

flexible seating

Have you heard of “flexible seating”? I had not until last spring, when this blog popped up on my Facebook news feed.

Written by TEDx Talk speaker and educator Kayla Delzer, it introduces a classroom concept she innovated after having an epiphany one day:

“I was working at my local Starbucks and, looking around, I realized that everyone seemed to be happy, engaged in their work, and relaxed.”

This caught my interest for 2 reasons:

First, when I’m not teaching I work in an office at the monastery. Well, “work.” I don’t get a lot done there. If I want to be productive, I go to Starbucks or another local coffee shop.

Second, if my own joy and productivity are enhanced in a place with more seating options – not to mention moving-around options – wouldn’t it stand to reason that it might work for my preschoolers, too? (Kayla’s premise.)

Walk into a Starbucks and observe the layout: Tables with chairs, sofas, upholstered chairs, stools, and, in good weather, outdoor seating. Some chairs are grouped for conversation, while others support solo work. Some are perfect for curling up with a book.

The point is, we are welcome to choose the best spot for us. Why not offer that to our students?

Kayla notes we have not changed the look of the classroom for over 70 years. Maybe, as she asserts, it is time to make a change, and maybe this is the best change (at least for today).

“Our classroom environments should be conducive to open collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking.”

Kayla shares the results she’s seen in her own classroom along with research.*

The benefits include “burning more calories, using up excess energy, improving metabolism, increased motivation and engagement, creating a better oxygen flow to the brain, and improving core strength and overall posture.”

The upshot is improved academic performance, better health and better classroom behavior.

I started thinking about my own classroom, and decided to give flexible seating a try, at least with one student who was having trouble staying in his chair, focusing and getting his work done.

I attached his worksheet to a clipboard and handed it to him with a box of crayons. I told him to pick a spot in the room to work on it. He knelt on the large group carpet, put the clipboard on the floor, and, with elbows on the floor and bottom up in the air, began to work.

Wow! It was one of the only times this child finished his work with no behavior problems!

Now I want to try it with all my students, but will it work in preschool? Will it work for me? It will require giving up some control (although Kayla points out that flexible seating helps make teaching student-centered and not teacher-centered).

After more research (see blogs listed below), I am ALMOST ready to try it.

Have you done it? Do you know a teacher who has done it? Do you have any articles to share about it? What have you learned? Do you think it’s too good to be true? Or spot on?

I have to make up my mind soon. (I’ll be getting my classroom ready in about 2 weeks.) Help me out!

Here are some additional blogs:

http://luckylittlelearners.com/2016/01/flexible-seating.html

http://www.kindergartenworks.com/kindergarten-teaching-ideas/roll-student-work-spaces/

http://www.kindergartenworks.com/classroom-setup/alternative-seating-in-kindergarten/

*Here are a few of the studies Kayla refers to:

http://ajjuliani.com/work-the-problem/

http://nycphysicaleducation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Effects-of-a-Classroom-Based-Program-on-Physical-Activity-and-On-Task-Behavior.pdf

https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-03-01-10-tips-for-using-brain-based-methods-to-redesign-your-classroom

http://www.isbe.net/EPE/pdf/reports-webinars/epe-fact-sheet.pdf

4 thoughts on “Flexible Seating: Too Good to Be True?

  1. I use it as we move further into the year. (Once I’ve gotten to know the kids well) I have many areas of the room they can move to and I offer clip boards, quiet corners, standing space and wobbly chairs. I always reserve the right to move anyone any time. Novelty seating seems more interesting to them than novelty table space. They also prefer cubby corners and hidey-holes. 🙂

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  2. Thanks for your reply, Kelly. Do you use traditional seating at tables?

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  3. These are definitely interesting points. I like how you compare it to your own experience at Starbucks. I teach 5th graders. I often allow them to move about the room and sit or stand where they please to collaborate or work individually. I am not one for always requiring sitting even when students are at their desks working. However, I will say I typically ask my students to go back to their desks for whole class instruction.

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  4. Thanks Ann. It is great to hear how others have applied this!

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