If you’ve decided to start flexible seating, I applaud you! My partner teacher and I decided to try it last year. We had read a lot of great things from blogs and articles, as well as the flip side of that coin.. the not-so-good things. We are departmentalized, so that added another aspect to our decision to start flexible seating. Last year we found our own pros and cons, so when it came time to talk about this year, we really considered giving it up. As time went by we decided, you live and you learn right?! We could do things to make it better this year.. and we did! I’m excited to share some tips and tricks of what works in our classrooms this year.
We decided to go into this year with more structure around flexible seating. Think easy and time-saving. Below are 5 helpful things we do to create organized flexible seating in departmentalized classrooms.
ONE: The Choice Charts
I used the same choice chart I made from last year, which is visual and clear. I use one choice chart for my homeroom class and they use magnets to make their choices. My switch class has their own chart in another part of the room and they use clothespins to make their seating choice. We were very clear on setting expectations for making choices without changing or moving another students magnet or clip. At the end of each day, a student has a job to move the magnets or clothespins from the charts for the next day.
This year, I added a circle sticker to represent the amount of that type of seating available. For example, I have three scoop rockers, so I have three sticker dots on the scoop rocker label. This means when a kiddo comes in and all the circles are covered, they have to choose something else because that choice is full. Taking this further, I added numbers where necessary! Last year, a big time waster was the kids arguing over the yoga balls. Yes, one is always better than another, right?! So, I numbered the bottom of each ball AND the circle stickers on the choice chart. The kiddos have to have their magnet or clip on the same number that their yoga ball has at the bottom. I also did this with the scoop rocker colors, so now, one sticker has a “P” for pink, “B” for blue and “G” for green. To do this I used a good ole fashioned sharpie. (As you can see with the photo above, we had a yoga ball pop by this time so I had to cross off #6 on the choice chart.)
TWO: Who Chooses First
My students choose their seating choice based off of when they come into the classroom. Yes, this usually means that the same students who ride the bus and get there right away get the first choice.
I created some “Choose First” passes that can be given to students throughout the day for making good choices and being responsible. This allows different kiddos to choose their seating first rather than it always being bus riders. Get your free choose first passes here! After my time with my homeroom class, we line up in the hallway to switch. If the kids earned a choose first, they go to the front of the line and are the first to choose seating in their other class. If you are not departmentalized, you could still give out choose first passes and allow students to choose their seating first the next morning or at the very end of the day!
THREE: Utilize Student Favorites
My partner teacher and I each have two bungee chairs (because man, they’re not cheap!), and are definitely a class favorite. This year, the students will be able to buy coupons for a day in the bungee chair. Our students earn class money for good behavior and following expectations, so bungee chair is now a coupon they can buy to use any day they like. This has been highly motivating to them and a very positive change this year! Students are no longer arguing over the bungee chair and are treating it with more respect because they paid to sit there.
FOUR: Encourage and Reinforce Positive Choice, Discuss Expectations Often
Every day I am intentional when complimenting positive choices made by my students. This includes students choosing a spot away from a friend, or when someone gives a popular choice to a student who doesn’t get it as often. When I recognize students for making the right choices, they are more likely to continue these positive choices. My partner teacher is QUEEN of reteaching and discussing expectations. They discuss expectations daily (some of them more often) in order to help them be successful. Sometimes I forget that they’re only 8/9 years old, and need frequent reminders and positive reinforcement! I usually talk about expectations with my class at least once a week and more when needed.
FIVE: Teacher Communication
It is helpful to have a quick way to communicate student behavior on flexible seating that morning moving into the afternoon. We made a very simple spreadsheet on Google Docs that we print and pass back and forth each time we switch. We note on the sheet if a student needed reminders or lost flexible seating that morning and we both stay in the know. These sheets are saved and are helpful as a reference later on if needed. See below for an example of that sheet.
Remember, you should not feel obligated to use flexible seating! This year is going much smoother than last year, but we did have to take the choice away from one class for over a month. We came back to school after winter break and have given them back their choice. Both classes have a student or two who have assigned seating, and that is okay! Flexible seating works for most kids, but not all. It works for some teachers, but not for all and that is okay!
Do you have another tip that works well for you? I would love to hear about it! Comment below!