“I have a differentiated classroom” is a phrase we often hear from teachers today. Most teachers differentiate learning by adding variety to classwork and daily lessons, putting “busy” children in close proximity, or using technology to enrich and engross the students in the lesson. But what about classroom environments? What about changing something as common as the chairs the students sit in or the desk at which they sit?
This question popped in my head as I was grading papers one night and my husband saw his usually scattered wife, lying on her stomach, much surprised at her strict focus. I was grading paper after paper, not moving an inch, and my ADHD was not an issue. I began to think on this, and how I could apply my focus discovery in my own classroom as a solution to students and their lack of focus and dwindling stamina. And why not use this in the classroom? It came to me what it would be like if my students were able to find a comfortable position in which they learned best.
I did not invent “flexible seating”, but I began to look up what other classrooms were doing with different types of seating. As I researched, I realized what I was getting myself into and the price this new classroom could cost. So with budgetary constrictions, I started with telling my students, “Okay everyone, pick a spot around the room; make yourself a comfortable reading spot. For example, you may lie on your tummy or sit crisscross-applesauce, but you must try to stay focused.” This first trial effort proved worthy and children responded well. Even with the simplicity (not to mention it’s free!) of a student getting to lie on the floor or sit crisscrossed there was a difference. I found an increase in focus, leading to an increase in stamina, leading to an increase in educational growth! Perhaps not the Holy Grail I was looking for, but it was an improvement. This year I decided to amp up my differentiated classroom to a higher level and add more flexible seating!
I know what many teachers might be thinking, “Kids are too stimulated. Why can’t they just sit in a regular chair and at a regular desk?” Well, I partially agree. Children are at times too stimulated with technology, media, and a busy world. They often have everything they need at their fingertips, and are constantly entertained, but it is still my job to teach this new generation of learners.
In my classroom this year, children can use the old stand by of desk and chair as well as bean bag chairs, “wobble” chairs, bouncy balls, beach chairs, yoga mats, and “comfy” corners. With flexible seating, I have a more productive classroom and happier learners. For example, my wobble chairs serve many different purposes. These chairs have rounded bottoms that causes the chair to wobble in all directions. It helps students who are becoming restless and gives them the opportunity to move a little. The wobble chairs work the students legs, core, and back, giving them a little exercise while doing classwork! With this differentiated style, students are able to focus better on their lessons, and they are able to focus on me as I teach. They choose where they learn best. It is not a problem-free environment, but most problems are easily remedied. The students are empowered knowing they have created their own success. They figure out where they learn best! They feel empowered, and I feel triumphant with their success. Win, win!!
Many experienced teachers might find these solutions obvious. But I, as a young, new teacher, have found the differentiated classroom a mecca for all learning types and a haven for all those students in need of alternative seating that is tailored to meet their individual learning styles. Who best to choose what a student needs to be comfortable in learning but the students themselves? Alternative seating creates an effective learning environment where students can feel that a school is designed for them and not just the lucky kid who can learn in any setting.
What do you think?
How have you incorporated flexible seating into your classroom? How has it impacted student learning?