This post is part of our summer 2019 series showcasing unique classrooms. Be sure to check out all our teachers who have been selected to see what they’ve done in their rooms.
1. Describe your classroom set up:
My classroom is set using flexible seating options. You’ll notice the use of many tables and that is due to what was available in the building and to save on the pocketbook. I create a large U-shape to allow for a large gathering space. We gather here for minilessons and class meetings (and the occasional share-out depending on the type). I have another large space which is our classroom library area that allows students to spread out as well. Active seating includes stability balls, IKEA stools, pillows, low-to-the-ground rockers, regular chairs, saucer chairs, lawn chairs, wave desks, and collapsible ottomans. I keep my space limited and in the corner as the focus is on the students and their learning.
2. Why did you choose this particular layout?
I chose this set-up because more and more students have a hard time staying engaged for long periods of time and active seating helps with that. The use of different seats throughout the day provides the structure of knowing what’s available with guidelines but allows for student choice as well. I love that students can choose a new seat each day and sit where they are comfortable. They move around all day long, and switch seats depending on the subject and/or activity as well. This movement keeps the focus on learning rather than stopping for so many brain breaks because they’re sort of built-in to our day with the movement and flexibility allowed.
3. What is your favorite part of your design?
My favorite part of the design is the library area. I love how cozy it is with the pom-poms hanging from the ceiling and the different active seating options. It’s visually pleasing and brings in some color without being distracting.
4. Did anything surprise you about how your students reacted to your classroom (behavior, enjoyment, etc.)?
This was my third full year implementing active seating. I’m never surprised by their reactions now as they love the change from a previous grade level that doesn’t allow much movement or change-up in traditional desk-seating. Since I’ve used flexible seating for several years, I know to anticipate that the yoga balls will be a point of high contention at the beginning of the year but everything eventually works itself out nicely. Now when the year starts, we choose seats for the next day before leaving school for about the first 2 weeks. This ensures everyone has a chance to “try out” the different seating options and allows students to learn a bit about themselves (and get over the “newness” of things). I typically have students try them out at BTSN and use sticky notes to create a graph before leaving. This is a great visual for the first day when we go over flexible seating rules and have discussions about fairness. After the first few weeks, we recreate the graph and notice changes–SCORE! I LOVE when I can sneak some curriculum into every part of our day!
5. What is the biggest piece of design advice you can provide for someone who is just starting to think “outside of the box” in terms of classroom design?
Don’t be afraid to GO FOR IT! I saw an article about flexible seating at the end of April one year. I texted my principal about it on a Sunday night. She approved, and my class started pilfering for tables in the building the next day! It was great to try it out with students for just a few weeks and that already knew the expectations of the classroom. I would NEVER go back to traditional seating. Anything new will be a challenge and adjustment, but you can reflect and make changes along the way. Both students and parents appreciate a willingness to create a great, loving, safe, friendly space for the class!
For more inspiration from Lauren, make sure you check out her website, Teaching with Beauty.