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Is Flexible Seating a Good Fit for Your Classroom?

Posted by Christen Barbercheck on

Many students spend their days in classrooms that resemble the offices of hot Silicon Valley startups. A few bean bag chairs in the corner. People sprawled out on colorful rugs. A super comfy, overstuffed couch or chair. And maybe even high tables or desks that allow you to stand as you work. It’s all part of the flexible seating trend that gives students choices about where and how they work.

Chances are you know a fellow teacher who loves flexible classroom seating. But is it right for you? And your students? We took a closer look at this trend and found some signs that you might be ready to give flexible seating in the classroom a try. Read on to find out if it’s time to say goodbye to (at least some) of those traditional desks and chairs.

 

You’re Looking for a Creative Way to Empower Your Students

Can helping your students reach greater success be as easy as changing up the furniture? At least one study suggests it might. Researchers at the University of Salford Manchester found that a primary school’s physical design can help students increase their performance in reading, writing and math. Two important factors in those design criteria: ownership and flexibility.

Of all the classroom seating arrangements, a flexible one gives your students the most choices to direct where and how they work. This can help foster a sense of ownership that carries over into their school work. Researchers identified a number of other more specific classroom design elements that might help your students, including breakout zones, distinctive room design, student work on the walls and fun, comfy furniture. 

 

You Don’t Mind a Little Extra Classroom Management

Setting up a flexible classroom is one thing, but you need to be prepared to maintain and manage it over time. Bean bag chairs can break open. Your school’s facilities staff may or may not be prepared to deep clean those new rugs or floor cushions. And you might find a few of your fun, decorative touches don’t stand up to daily student use as well as you’d like.

There’s also the task of managing how students move through a new environment. Maybe the new overstuffed chair in the corner becomes everyone’s favorite spot. You might need to place a Time Timer PLUS® 20 minute on the table next to it and institute a 10- or 15-minute limit. Each student sets the timer to the agreed upon limit and moves on when the colorful disk disappears. The timer’s visual nature allows other students to see when they can take a turn.

 

You’d Like More Collaboration and Communication

We all know the environment we’re in impacts our mood and behavior—whether it’s our favorite coffee shop or the paint color on our living room walls. This applies to classrooms, too, and those desks—even if you push them together—aren’t always the best way to encourage collaboration and communication among your students.

Low tables, floor cushions or even high-top tables with stools may help your students open up to each other and truly work together on projects. There’s less formality in these flexible options that might help students build stronger relationships or open up in new ways. Kids also get more physical activity as they move from space to space or choose to stand at that high table. This extra movement can help keep their energy up for group work.

 

You Want to Create a Fun, Happy Environment for Students

You and your students are going to be spending a lot of hours in your classroom together. So why not make it a fun, expressive place? One that you all look forward to heading into every day. Moving to flexible seating in the classroom gives you the perfect chance to add more color and personality to the classroom. You can even ask your students for ideas on how to improve the space. (We trust you’ve already started your Pinterest board!) Together, you can create a classroom design with the kind of positive energy that supports learning.

few bean bag chairs in the corner. People sprawled out on colorful rugs. A super comfy, overstuffed couch or chair. And maybe even high tables or desks that allow you to stand as you work. It’s all part of the flexible seating trend that gives students choices about where and how they work.

Chances are you know a fellow teacher who loves flexible classroom seating. But is it right for you? And your students? We took a closer look at this trend and found some signs that you might be ready to give flexible seating in the classroom a try. Read on to find out if it’s time to say goodbye to (at least some) of those traditional desks and chairs.

 

You’re Looking for a Creative Way to Empower Your Students

Can helping your students reach greater success be as easy as changing up the furniture? At least one study suggests it might. Researchers at the University of Salford Manchester found that a primary school’s physical design can help students increase their performance in reading, writing and math. Two important factors in those design criteria: ownership and flexibility.

Of all the classroom seating arrangements, a flexible one gives your students the most choices to direct where and how they work. This can help foster a sense of ownership that carries over into their school work. Researchers identified a number of other more specific classroom design elements that might help your students, including breakout zones, distinctive room design, student work on the walls and fun, comfy furniture. 

 

You Don’t Mind a Little Extra Classroom Management

Setting up a flexible classroom is one thing, but you need to be prepared to maintain and manage it over time. Bean bag chairs can break open. Your school’s facilities staff may or may not be prepared to deep clean those new rugs or floor cushions. And you might find a few of your fun, decorative touches don’t stand up to daily student use as well as you’d like.

There’s also the task of managing how students move through a new environment. Maybe the new overstuffed chair in the corner becomes everyone’s favorite spot. You might need to place a Time Timer PLUS® 20 minute on the table next to it and institute a 10- or 15-minute limit. Each student sets the timer to the agreed upon limit and moves on when the colorful disk disappears. The timer’s visual nature allows other students to see when they can take a turn.

 

You’d Like More Collaboration and Communication

We all know the environment we’re in impacts our mood and behavior—whether it’s our favorite coffee shop or the paint color on our living room walls. This applies to classrooms, too, and those desks—even if you push them together—aren’t always the best way to encourage collaboration and communication among your students.

Low tables, floor cushions or even high-top tables with stools may help your students open up to each other and truly work together on projects. There’s less formality in these flexible options that might help students build stronger relationships or open up in new ways. Kids also get more physical activity as they move from space to space or choose to stand at that high table. This extra movement can help keep their energy up for group work.

 

You Want to Create a Fun, Happy Environment for Students

You and your students are going to be spending a lot of hours in your classroom together. So why not make it a fun, expressive place? One that you all look forward to heading into every day. Moving to flexible seating in the classroom gives you the perfect chance to add more color and personality to the classroom. You can even ask your students for ideas on how to improve the space. (We trust you’ve already started your Pinterest board!) Together, you can create a classroom design with the kind of positive energy that supports learning.

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