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.

Before:


After:




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!

49 comments:

  1. Absolutely gorgeous!!!! I love how thoughtful you were with all the options for alternative seating...there's enough for everyone, but not too much. I would love to hear how the lowered table works out (which I'm sure it will work out perfectly!). I've toyed with the idea for awhile but have committed yet. We have tables in my room too, with carpets and pillows and I agree with you so much...I know where I like to sit at home when I'm working and it's not at a desk all of the time! Thanks for sharing your beautiful, beautiful room :)

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    1. Thanks so much!

      I'm mostly nervous about the lowered tables. I'm worried that they won't like them, or won't be comfortable. I'll post an update after a few weeks with pictures. :)

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  2. Looks amazing. We have lowered tables, stability balls, and hoki stools in our class. Please come help me rearrange!
    Laurie
    Chickadee Jubilee

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    1. Those hoki stools look really neat-I hadn't heard of them before. Pricey, though!

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  3. Where did you purchase your black book shelves? I'm looking for that same idea. I've had tables for 2 years now for my third graders and love them. Haven't thought about lowering them...think I'll try it too!

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    1. The ones that hold my chapter books and students supplies are from Walmart. The shelves that hold my picture books were made by my dad. The Walmart ones hold up pretty well, but I used a staple gun to secure the back (it's made out of cardboard). I also spray-painted the back of the shelves, and added extra screws at the top. You can read more about them here: http://settingupforsecond.blogspot.com/2013/08/bookcase-repair.html

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  4. What a beautiful classroom!!! Thanks for sharing the photographs...and ideas!!

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  5. I teach Kindergarten, which is now more like first grade, very few centers...so I have been toying with this same idea in my head. I love your room!!

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  6. I have had half of my double desks lowered(no chairs) and half normal height with chairs, for ten years now. Where students sit is always an option and we change twice a month. I can not tell you how much my students love sitting at the lowered tables! I also let them lay on their stomachs or work on different tables around the room. As long as they select a 'good fit' spot where they can do their best work, I am one happy teacher! Try it, you will love it and more so your students will love it even more! One benefit, I have noticed is that students sitting at the lowered tables have neater handwriting.... might be due to a stronger core, perhaps!

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    1. So reading an investigating alternative seating, I am strongly thinking of changing my seating design and was just wanting to hear from others about what works and doesn't work with this seating idea.

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    2. I would like to know the height of the "low table" please!!

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  7. Wonderful Universal Design for Learning! Education is not a one room fits all.
    Special Ed Teacher

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  8. Your classroom idea has been making me really think all summer as how to set up my room for the new year. I can see the advantages to those students who need a bit more movement or core strength therapy. I would need to tweek some of your ideas, but who wouldn't? We can't all be the same. I would definantly be stepping out of the box and my team mates might think I have gone crazy, but I do feel passiontly about the differentiating for those who need it. How did the rest of the year turn out? What would you do differently for the new school year? Thank you for sharing!!!!!

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    1. Hi, Dawn!
      I ended up switching my classroom back to the way it was (all high tables) in May. I gave my students so many opportunities to choose a spot that worked for them, but most of them continued to sit near friends, which resulted in a lot of talking. I may try to switch it up again, but I'm starting the year with tables.

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  9. Oh my goodness! I absolutely LOVE your flexible seating options! It is really something I am focused on as I set up this year. I like the colors with black, green and blue as well. Thanks for sharing the pics. I had not thought of some of those ideas and I will use them!

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  10. Where did you get the shelves that hold the pencil boxes, earphones and composition books?

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  11. If you decide to cover your pillows, I found some great vinyl covered fabrics at etsy. They have a bunch of different ones. What is nice is they are somehow still stretchy like stretchy fabric. Lots of cute patterns from Dr. Seuss (with and without words) to different colors of chevrons. Sold in squares (18") and by the yard.

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  12. Do you happen to know where your school purchased the stability balls from?

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    1. I do not know, sorry. Our PTO purchased them.

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  13. Where did you get your polka dot rug? Love it! I'm in the process of setting up a learning center classroom and it would be perfect.

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    1. The rug is from Overstock.com. It was pricey, but it's held up well! http://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/Safavieh-Handmade-Soho-Bubblegum-Black-Multi-N.-Z.-Wool-Rug-5-x-8/4395219/product.html?refccid=XSMXPXQDWL3Y4F2O2ZHWXOJUXQ&searchidx=7&option=5982684

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  14. I have 22 exercise balls in my classroom. I have used them for over 5 years now. I wanted to take the legs off some of my tables last year, but talked myself out of it. I love the way you set yours up. I will HAVE to do it this year!! Thanks for sharing

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  15. I love your set up. What is the square footage of your classroom? I would love to make this kind of set up work in my room.

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  16. I also love your set up. I was thinking of eliminating my reading table and have the small groups sit on the carpet. It looks like you do not have a reading table. Any suggestions on making it work?

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    1. I do have a reading table in front of the window. My legs tend to fall asleep really easily, so I'm not a huge fan of sitting on the floor. ;)

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  17. I also love your set up. I was thinking of eliminating my reading table and have the small groups sit on the carpet. It looks like you do not have a reading table. Any suggestions on making it work?

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    1. Sorry for the late response, but I do have a reading table. :)

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  18. Can you please email me and tell me how you lowered the tables for the pillows? We are thinking about doing this in our nursery.

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    1. Sorry for the late response, but I just took the legs off of the bottom of the table.

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  19. Where did you get that polka dot rug?!!

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    1. The rug is from Overstock.com. If this link doesn't work, Google "New Zealand Bubblegum" and it should come up! http://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/Safavieh-Handmade-Soho-Bubblegum-Black-Multi-N.-Z.-Wool-Rug-6-x-9/4395220/product.html?refccid=NBJCJYCY2MLZMFCBUGNN5AKMAA&searchidx=28

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  20. I made pillowcases out or recycled jeans and just put regular bed pillows in them. They work great! I wash them during out breaks and they have lasted for years.

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  21. I also us a tall laundry basket to store the pillows!

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  22. I think this is a great idea. I work as a parapro in a kindergarten classroom and I tell my teacher all the time, when I finally get my classroom I'm going to try different seating. I hate saying sit down, put the chairs on the floor, put your knees under the table, and stock leaning back before you fall and bump your head. Got some great ideas.

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  23. Hi There,I was wondering if you would allow me to use your picture as an example of what my future classroom will resemble. I will document and reference your name and page. I will not take credit for your work. Please contact me chantelle.bze@gmail.com

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  24. I agree with your post! This is one of the most wonderful articles According to me.

    Classroom Desks & Classroom Furniture & Classroom Tables

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  25. I noticed the date that you posted the original post in 2013. Did you have success with the new seating? Are you still using a flexible seating arrangement? I want to try this but wondered if it worked for you, and if it would work for my 1st graders.

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    1. I honestly didn't love it. Maybe it's because I started it halfway through the year. This group also had a lot of diverse learning needs, and I found that the kids continuously chose seating that was not in their best interest. For example, one of my high-needs students that had many OT concerns would lay down on the floor, which was not ideal. I didn't try it the following year, because I was warned that I was getting "the class." And then my class this year... I had to give them assigned everything. They couldn't handle the freedom, no matter how hard I tried to train them. I think it depends on the group, although some teachers would argue that alternative seating is actually best for your toughest students. I was tired of trying to get them to "make good choices" about their seating, and then having to move them when their choices weren't good. It saved me time to pick spots for them. I would try it again someday, though.

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  26. Great information to say the least. I really do appreciate everything so much from this great website.

    Standing Desks & Classroom Tables & Computer Tables

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  27. I love this idea. My only questions is where would you put their backpacks? I'm so used to having them on the back of their chairs.

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    1. We have hooks in the hallway for backpacks, winter clothes, jackets, etc.

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    2. We have hooks in the hallway for backpacks, winter clothes, jackets, etc.

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  28. Much has been made of having a well-designed classroom these days, and with good reason. A number of studies have shown that a poorly laid out classroom can cause problems for both the students and the teacher. Students find themselves more easily distracted and less engaged, and teachers have a hard time finding needed materials and keeping the mountains of paperwork they need manageable and under control. Most of us do not have control over which classroom we are assigned. However, we can all find ways to make the best use of the space we have. As discussed in my last few blogs, teacher centered learning is becoming less fashionable while student cooperative learning is thriving. Additionally, teachers need to take into account various student learning styles and comfort levels to maximize classroom success. Here are some helpful hints towards these goals. Flexible seating arrangements using flexible furniture come in handy. Sitting students in a U for class discussions has been found to be more effective than in rows. This also leads to better all around eye contact and a feeling of equality between students. DigitalBuyer is an office products retailer specializing in fireproof file cabinets & safes, office furniture, industrial materials handling, office equipment, and commercial products. They proudly serve government, education, corporate, and end-users with everyday low prices and personalized service. They provide School Chairs for every grade-level, including elementary, middle, and high school student chairs. Also featuring combination chair desks, and science lab stools. https://www.linkedin.com/company/digitalbuyer-com

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  29. Where did you buy the yellow bins that are holding students' folders and notebooks? Do they tip over, or are they pretty sturdy? Did you ever go back to flexible seating, or was it too hard to manage? I'm trying it this year, but I am nervous! Thanks!

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  30. Hi! I was wondering if I could use some of your photos for a presentation? I will most definitely include the link to your website.

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  31. Hi, WI Teach! I absolutely love what you have done with alternative/flexible seating. I really want to do the same and am writing a grant in hopes of receiving funding for my project. I am need of photos to show my donors what I want to do with the grant funds. I love your ideas so much! Is there anyway that I can use some of the photos of your room for my grant proposal? Please email me at jeckberg2014@yahoo.com and we can chat a little more about this. Thanks! -J.

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  32. Where did you purchase your bookcases from?

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