Flexible Classroom Seating in Middle School: How I Started the Switch

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Why Flexible Classroom Seating?

Boy, do my students just love to fidget. This year, I have an especially squirrely bunch. It’s been pretty distracting. Even more so now that the end of the year is near. I had heard about flexible seating options before, but didn’t know too much about it. After doing some research, I fell in love. It was the perfect solution!

I’m no expert on flexible seating (sometimes called alternative seating), but I will share with you the steps I have taken to make it happen in my own middle-school classroom.

 

 

Step 1: Research and Plan

I started this whole process by researching and reaching out to some who’ve already done it. I’d recommend the following places to start:

 

 

Classroom Eye Candy: A Flexible-Seating Paradise

Flexible Learning Spaces

Flexible Seating

Flexible Seating – Oh, The Possibilities!

Flexible Seating

Flexible Seating in Middle School

Once I decided that, yes indeed, this is what I want to do, I went to my co-worker to tell her about it. She grew more excited by the minute and wanted to give it a try as well.

 

From there, we created a Flexible Seating Pinterest Board and Google Slideshow to store and share our ideas for the project.

Step 2: Request Permission

Before we started searching for items, we wanted to make sure flexible seating was even allowed in our building. No one else has any sort of alternative seating in our middle school.

We spoke to the principals and briefly laid out the reasoning and rationale for switching over from our traditional classrooms. Luckily, our principals are pretty open-minded and willing to let us try new things. They both agreed!

Other than just the principals, we also let our custodians know. Everyone knows the custodians (and the secretaries) are the ones who truly run the school. We were super sweet to them. We’d be asking a lot of their help in the upcoming weeks and months moving things into our rooms.

 

Step 3: Educate and Inform

The next step was to tell our students and parents about flexible seating. We drafted a note home to parents using a template we found. It basically mentioned what flexible seating is, why we’re doing it, and what kinds of donations we’re looking for.

 

In class, we read the letter with students and showed them the inspiration board we had created. For a few minutes, we brainstormed and discussed some items they might want to see in the classroom and where they might find those things.

The very next day, we had donations. Students and parents started bringing in items. The journey was off to a successful start!

Step 4: Start Searching

So the journey of collecting items for our classrooms began.

Within the first week or two we received:

  • bean bag chairs from garage sales
  • gaming chairs from students’ parents
  • coffee tables from a friend and a fellow teacher
  • carpet squares from a local flooring company

So far, most everything has been a donation.

For example, Reinhold Flooring donated two big area rugs and lots of carpet squares simply because we emailed them with an inquiry. We explained we were classroom teachers on a mission to begin flexible classroom seating. They were very generous and responded to us in just a day or two!

It’s like my mom always told me, “It never hurts to ask!”

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Students choose where to sit during independent work time. Flexible Seating in a Middle School Classroom

I would definitely recommend slowing switching out old tables and chairs for new seating options. We brought in a few pieces at a time. Of course, we had to go over expectations with the students almost immediately.

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We love all the different chair choices! Flexible Seating in a Middle School Classroom

Let me tell you, the first true test was our workshop day. Students have always struggled to work quietly and stay on task during this 45-50 minutes of independent reading and writing time. After being allowed to “Pick a Place”, they were focused like I’ve never seem them before. It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.

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Students can also choose to sit or stand at my podium. Flexible Seating in a Middle School Classroom

It’s working! And the next workshop went the same way. And the next one after that. I can’t wait to see how a full classroom switch will affect our students.

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They’re so focused! Flexible Seating in a Middle School Classroom

We’re still in the midst of searching for several more items. Hopefully, we’ll use this summer to complete our collection. If you’d like to find out more about our finished rooms, stay tuned! We’ll post an update in August! (Click here for my August post and see the finished classroom!)

What are your thoughts on flexible or alternative classroom seating?

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7 thoughts on “Flexible Classroom Seating in Middle School: How I Started the Switch

  1. Christina

    I teach 8th grade and would like to give this a try,but how do you set up for testing days? My administration would be ok,but I’m sure that’s going to be their first question.

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    • On state testing days, we switch rooms to either the library, the computer lab, or a room that has a laptop cart. So, luckily I avoid that. If I did stay in my room, I would hope the routines and procedures would be in place by then.

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    • Christina

      Unfortunately on our campus, I would have to stay in my room. The last couple of years my students are gravitating to a flexible seating arrangement on their own. They like to sit “around the room” with some pillows or mats that I have in my classroom library or request to sit at my table where I work with students one on one at times. They also like to sit at my teacher stool and use my podium to read or work from. I am thinking I may have to setup a hybrid flexible seating classroom.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s a perfect way to transition! If you’re lucky enough to have a large room, I would keep enough tables/desks for each student to have a spot. Then with the extra space, incorporate a few flexible seating options like you mentioned above.

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  2. Laura

    I am considering flexible seating for my classroom next year. Thanks for the great ideas. How many students do you have in your class?

    Like

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