Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mid-year Update: Alternative Seating

It's hard to believe that the school year is almost half-way over!

I spent some time over winter break re-arranging my classroom. Ever since the school year began, I have been toying with the idea of alternative seating. I first heard about the concept about 5 years ago after seeing The Sisters at a workshop. They mentioned that they do not have a desk or seat for every student. As an adult, how often do you sit at a table or desk to read, scrapbook, plan lessons, etc.? (Personally, I love to lie on the floor with a pillow under my stomach.) Our students may feel more comfortable, have longer stamina, and focus better when sitting at some place other than a table or desk.

In November I began allowing my students leave their table spots, and work on the floor. I allowed them to sit anywhere for Daily 5, so I began to expand this option to math, writer's workshop, spelling, etc. They could just grab a clipboard and sit or lie on the floor. I noticed immediately that they were more focused and quiet. I'm not sure if this was because they were spread out around the room, or because they were allowed to choose their own spots. Either way, it was working!

I began looking at other seating options. At one point I was considering doing a Donor's Choose project for a classroom set of stability balls. There is a lot of research supporting the use of stability balls to help children focus. However, after experimenting with them a bit, I have realized that they are not a good fit for all children, and I would hate to ask for (and store!) a bunch of stability balls that weren't being used.

So I began to look at other alternative seating options. Here is what I came up with.

Looking straight into the room:

View from the door looking left:

View from the door looking right:

2 saucer chairs from Walmart:

2 bean bag chairs (I have been using these all year):

Our PSA purchased stability balls for teachers to share. I checked out 2 for students to try:

My students have shown a lot of interest in the low table that holds our mailboxes, so I lowered 2 of my regular-sized tables.

I purchased 8 pillows from Gordman's. (I looked into making them, but it was pretty pricey!) I found a variety of sizes and shapes in my classroom colors. The only bad thing is that they are spot-clean only. I figured if they get really dirty, I can always make washable vinyl covers. They can sit on the pillows when sitting at a low table, or when lying on the ground. My one rule for lying on the ground is that they can only lie on their stomachs. I don't want them to put their heads on the pillows (lice!), and I don't want them to lie on their backs and fall asleep. :)

The bad thing about pillows is figuring out how to store them. They take up so much space! I think I'm going to put the yellow ones away for now, and store the others in these bins. Students can take them around the room and use them as-needed.

I used to have all of my mini laptops set up at this built-in counter, and it drove me crazy!!! Students were VERY chatty during Listen to Reading time. They would actually click on the exact same stories at the exact same time so that they were all listening together. (The things they come up with!) I also didn't like this setup because of the wasted counter space.

So I decided to put the minis in plastic drawers. I drilled a hole in the back of the drawer for the charger, and used a binder clip to keep it from slipping through the hole. It's a pretty tight fit in the drawer, so I'm hoping it works ok. Students will just take out a laptop, and use it anywhere in the room. The bins on top hold wireless mice. This also opens up the counter space for another student seating option. For some reason, they LOVE to sit at the pull-out shelving that is intended for computer keyboards.



Because of the way I moved my tables around, I had to figure out a new arrangement for my bookcases. I even considered other options for student supplies, but the bookcases really do work well. I decided to set them up in the back of the classroom. There is still plenty of room for me to open up my cupboards.

A few of my students love to stand, using the cop of a bookcase as their writing surface. They even choose to do so during independent reading time! With the bookcases set up this way, they can stand in the back of the room.

When we return from break I am going to spend a lot of time going over expectations with my students. We will be making charts that show the expectations for the different types of seating. I also plan on making a rotation schedule for the saucer chairs, stability balls, and bean bag chairs, because I know they will be the popular seats.

I'm a little nervous to try alternative seating, but I'm also excited to see how my students will do!