Flexible Seating in Fourth Grade

Thursday, November 16, 2017
I've been wanting to bring you this blog post for a LONG time, but I've been waiting for the perfect moment to get the perfect pictures of my room. I wanted to wait until I had tried this new design out for a while before I brought you a lengthy post, hoping I could answer questions in my post.

But I've realized this new design in teaching and learning will never be "done". It's constantly evolving to meet the various needs of all my learners. So, here's what I've got so far. As always, let me know what questions you have! I'd love to help you on this journey and I'll update this post as I learn more.

Be sure to check out some of my older posts on Flexible Seating. A few years ago I interviewed a few teachers on their experience with Flexible Seating and here's what they said...


First, let me say that I work at THE COOLEST school. We have the most amazing administration and PTO. They have supported me in all that I've done. Most recently, we welcomed our local news station into our room to do a story on our new classroom design, check it out!


Alright, let's take it back to where it all started. In April of 2017 I was lucky enough to attend a workshop lead by Rebecca Hare. You should check out her work, it's amazing! During this full day workshop I got to visit other schools where she helped teachers redesign their space. My biggest take away from the day - everything has a purpose! When you're redesigning your classroom really challenge yourself to consider the purpose of the space.

Here are a few pictures from the spaces we visited...

This teacher purchased these couches & coffee table from Ikea. I ended up with similar couches in my classroom (a little less expensive), more on those later.

Couch: Klippan Loveseat, Black | Coffee Table: Tingby

This dry erase board is made from several panels of "shower board". I found that it's also called "Thrifty White Tile Board" at Home Depot. You can get one of these panels for just $13 and it's dry erase.


The red beanbag chairs you see here are Big Joe chairs. The rest of the furniture you see here is Ikea.

Bean Bags: Big Joe | White Tables: Lack Side Table | Lap Desks: Byllan | Standing Desk: Ikea PS 2014


Finally, this is the teacher's work space. Yes, that is it! That's all the space she takes up in the classroom. I dream of consolidating down to a few physical files some day...it's a work in progress!

After our trip around town to visit area schools we were tasked with creating idea boards, blue prints, plans, etc. Our fearless leader, Rebecca Hare, suggested that we stick to an organized color pallet. I mean, after all she is an interior designer. Below you'll see my "idea board".


Unfortunately I created my blue print outside of my classroom, so I wasn't 100% sure about my spacing. In the end I was able to tweak my design and make it work in my classroom!


At this point in time, this was all just a dream. When I got back from my workshop I shared my Idea Board with my administrator who then shared it with our PTO. Right away PTO offered to help fund my project! I was shocked, excited, nervous and so ready to take on this new challenge.

I then spent the majority of my summer online shopping and creating a budget. Below you'll see a detailed list of my purchases.



You'll also notice that I could find where most of these items were located in the Ikea Warehouse without trekking through the entire store. This saved me SO much time and kept me from loading up a cart and busting my budget as I went through the Ikea maze.


If you're planning an Ikea shopping spree like I did, plan on bringing backup! I brought my mom and it was still a struggle - those Ikea cart wheels are funky!


Oh, and did I mention you're going to want to find a small army that you can bribe to put all this together?! I shared this photo on my class Facebook page and recruited some kids and parents to come help. I paid them in pizza :)

Alright! Now for the moment you've been waiting for...here's my classroom!




Disclaimer: These BEAUTIFUL Kallax Shelves from Ikea make organizing your classroom library a little bit tricky. Those awesome bins we all love and use to organize our books will not fit side-by-side on these shelves. The opening is 13 inches. I searched FOREVER to find bins small enough to fit side by side and I couldn't find anything. Also note that these shelves do not have backs. I hot glued 2x4s in the shelves to push the books out more and prevent them from slipping through the back. So far it's working great!




Two commonly asked questions about this area...

1. Where did you get that large area rug? This is actually two rugs put side-by-side to create a bigger rug. So much cheaper and you'd never know!

2. Where did you get the rolling crates from? My mom actually found these years ago at Homegoods. Of course, we've never seen them again! The brand is called Quirky. I've had trouble finding an online store, but I see their products on Amazon from time-to-time.



One of my favorite classroom hacks has got to be with these Big Joe bean bag chairs. The kids absolutely LOVE them and they certainly show. I know that you can purchase refills...but you can also beg your classroom families to send in packing peanuts! These plump up the chairs and actually help them to hold their shape better than the Big Joe brand beans. 

Tips & Tricks to Running a Flexible Seating Classroom


Have a place for all of the stuff! 
At the beginning of the year I didn't have the beautiful cabinets and cubbies you saw in my previous pictures. I was panicked, where were my kids going to keep all of their stuff? I purchased some plastic drawers and each student got a drawer. They held up okay...it wasn't the best, but we made it work!


Have more "seat spots" than students.
One of my biggest take aways from the PD was that students should always have choice when picking a learning spot. If you only have 20 options and 20 kids...well then you've just introduced a game of "run across the room as fast as you can to get the best spot". Last I counted there were 35 "seat spots" in my room and I have 20 students. This has helped to cut down on the rushing to chose a spot and truly gives students choice!

Think about food in the classroom and have a plan!
We do a daily snack and I knew that my rule was going to be "no food on the soft furniture" which was fine. Most kids chose to sit on the floor anyway. But then Field Day came around and we had to eat in the room. AND parents joined us! I was panicked...where were 35 people going to eat lunch - we only had 3 real tables!

Plan ahead. I encouraged students to bring in picnic blankets and told them they'd be having an indoor picnic. They loved it!

Yes, there are arguments over spots.
I'd love to tell you this never happens...but it does! No matter how we discuss making good choices, being considerate of others, etc. arguments do pop up. I've really challenged myself to zip my lips and watch from afar as students work it out. So far, I've only needed to intervene once! I've learned so much about my kids and I've been so impressed with how they've handled these...disagreements. They can do it! Have faith. Walk away and let them problem solve.

Yes, there are popular spots.
The couches are a HUGE hit. We held a class meeting to decide how to handle who sits on the couches and when. My kids suggested that you should only be able to sit on the couch during one subject per day. They do a great job of policing each other on this rule. I have never had to address this one. 

Another hot spot are the white board spaces. Something about the chance to write on things with dry erase markers is super engaging! I love my dry erase small group table, it's probably my favorite piece in the room.


Remember that white board hack I mentioned earlier? I had my husband cut down a piece of shower board and back one of my shelves for another writable surface. It's just as popular!


Yes, It's Hard! 
Be prepared for rough days. The first two weeks of school I literally thought I had lost my mind and even considered going back to a traditional classroom. I pushed through and stuck it out and I'm so glad that I did! I can't ever imagine going back. My kids have never been so engaged!

What other questions do you have? Let me know in the comments!





1 comment

  1. This a great blog, thanks for the nice furniture setting. What a very conducive environment to work from. Keep up the good job!

    ReplyDelete

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