Students seem bored and disengaged? Maybe it’s time to reorganize your classroom environment through a flexible seating arrangement.
For teachers and students, a stale classroom environment can make the most exciting lessons fall flat. Some students who are seated in the back of the room might not engage due to their distance from a teacher who is standing in the front of a large class. Other children might be located near windows or doors, which can lead them to daydream through a lesson. Using flexible seating to rearrange and refresh a classroom will increase student interaction and allow teachers to focus on what’s important.
1. Beanbag Learning
While it might seem beanbag chairs will encourage students to fall asleep rather than work hard, using them as flexible seating in station-based learning areas can allow students to slow down and discuss projects in a relaxed setting. Whether brainstorming regarding an upcoming group project or dedicating time to complete work for a flipped classroom assignment, this type of seating can improve the student experience by reducing the structured, traditional desk and chair setting.
2. Using Stability Balls in School
Not only for fitness-obsessed gym rats, stability balls have a purpose outside a workout. Using stability balls in a classroom will help children remain focused and involved. Teachers like this option as students will not be able to slide out of view by slouching down to avoid being called on during a lesson. Also, as a tool that is used in fitness, the stability ball can help children improve posture and combat obesity while learning.
3. The Magic of a Carpet
Though this addition shouldn’t take up an entire classroom, laying down a large area rug in a section of the classroom can serve many flexible seating purposes to increase student engagement through shifting the class setting. Use this area to take a break from the school day with some light stretching or yoga, or hold a group reading period for all students, whether they are younger or older. Regardless of the activity, encourage — but don’t force — students to remove their shoes, which will increase relaxation and maintain cleanliness of the carpet.
4. Couches and Coffee Tables
Though this could make a classroom resemble the set of “Friends,” adding couches, armchairs, loveseats, and coffee tables to a classroom provides opportunities for students to complete group work and collaborate on projects in a setting that allows everyone to be heard. This more intimate flexible seating setup provides a more casual environment that resembles spending time together at a friend’s house. Add an area rug, as mentioned above, for added comfort and more seating options.
5. Mix it Up
Adhering to one seating plan throughout the entire year isn’t necessary. The beauty of flexible seating lies in the promotion of a more relaxed, creatively driven environment. As more furniture accumulates over time, rearrange the class seating plan and replace heavily worn or soiled items. If possible, encourage students to help decorate furniture. One idea would be to refinish a coffee, dining room, or conference table with dry-erase paint. Implement a classroom policy that has children occupying different seats each day. At the end of each class session, students can leave messages of encouragement or inspiration for classmates who will occupy the seats next.
Work with administrators and custodial staff to economically source any old furniture that might be stored in a school basement or storage unit. Don’t forget to reach out to parents either via email or through a class social media page to ask if anyone would be willing to donate any clean, gently used chairs, tables, desks, or supplies that could help with a flexible seating effort. Once the flexible seating arrangement has been implemented, don’t discourage students from taking a seat where they are most comfortable, as long as they are not distracted — or a distraction to others — and continue to grow.