Carrie shared with us the ways she’s adapted her classroom to better meet the needs of her students by creating a space that allows them to get up, move around, and choose where they’ll learn best.
As a middle school teacher with twelve years experience, Carrie knows a lot about how much these students have to move around. Inspired to create a space that best met their needs, she did her homework on flexible seating, implemented it in her classroom, and shared what she’s learned.
What inspired you to try this practice?
Students become so nervous and fidgety when they are forced to sit in a seat for an entire 55 minute class. They stop engaging and that is a huge disservice to them. So, to remedy this I researched flexible seating arrangements and how to introduce continuous rotations throughout the class period that would work for my 7th grade ELA students.
What furniture do you have in your room that allows students to take a break from their desks?
I have a couch, rugs, pillows, a bar with stools and open floor space – no space is off limits! Students can sit at my own desk, at my table. They can lay on the floor. There are no limits to how they can get comfortable.
What surprised you about introducing flexible seating to your classroom?
Several things! First, I was surprised by how easy it is to design a flexible seating arrangement to accommodate 32 students. Second, how excited they were to try something new to help them become more engaged and enjoy my class. Seriously, it’s a game-changer.
I was also surprised by how nervous I was to even try it. But patience is a real virtue: IT TOOK TIME. Each year, it takes about one full month (sometimes longer!) of implementing the transitions, the expectations and the schedule. Having used flex seating for 4 years, I get into the groove faster which relaxes me more and enables my students to adapt faster. Even after the introduction, they are still learning and not every day is hugely successful (they are teenagers!), but it is really starting to come together much quicker. And my classroom data supports this move. This has made me a better teacher. I’ve evolved as a teacher because I had to get better with failure.
How do students play a role in designing the space?
When I first introduced flexible seating, we had a conversation about it as a class. Students were into it! But it was awful for a few weeks. They felt vulnerable about not knowing what to do. But we persisted and expected it to work. Understanding by design that there is no end, it’s always evolving.
Students are given control in my classroom. We practice self-advocacy. Students are assigned a space part of the week, but on other days they are responsible for making good seating choices that will support their learning. For this to be a truly caring classroom and make this work, students need to learn how they learn and have to own the fact that they’re in charge of my classroom.
Thank you so much, Carrie!