Today’s Contributor: Jessica Boone
Jessica is a fifth grade ELA Teacher at Williams Elementary. She is originally from Long Island, New York and has a Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education from State University of New York College at Oneonta and a Masters of Education in Special Education from Texas State University. She also has a 7 month old baby girl at home!
When some teachers and parents first hear or see that I have gotten rid of roughly 75% of the standard “desks and chairs” in my 5th grade classroom I tend to get a lot of confused or “you’re crazy” faces. I have replaced the traditional seating options with a more diverse selection, allowing students to sit in a workspace that helps them do their best. Floor tables with pillows, bar stools with a pub table, stability balls, standing desks and yoga mats are some of the options my students have. This type of environment, as well as the usage of chromebooks, has immensely increased the engagement level in my classroom and I can’t imagine ever looking back to the old ways.
In order to introduce the concept of flexible seating, for the first week of school I had my students try a new seating style every day. This allowed them to find what worked for them and what maybe wasn’t the best work space for them. In order to limit the amount of issues with students flocking towards the favorite seat, the bar stools, I had groups of four students that rotated every day get to choose first. Now that we are a few weeks into school, it is more of a first come first serve basis as most students know where they work best and we don’t have as many issues about who gets to sit where. The students tend to naturally rotate at the popular seats so everyone gets a chance. We went over the expectations daily and each work space was modeled numerous times to ensure appropriate usage.
My students are loving the flexible seating and have really thrived in this environment. Two of my favorite aspects of flexible seating is the increase in engagement due to student choice as well as no more seating charts! If there is an issue, I handle it as the need arises and students can always be moved to different seating spot by a teacher if needed. This is what has really helped keep students focused since they want to stay at the seat they chose and if there is an issue, that privilege is taken away from them for that day.
Along with the flexible seating my students have been using BLEND on the chromebooks; and while it is a long teaching process with 5th Graders, it is worth all the pain! We start by logging in and out to practice that skill and eventually work our way up to not even needing student log-in cards. They are able to access their class assignments on BLEND and work at their own pace, which is a great way for me to track how they’re learning the content. Since adding the flexible seating and using the chromebooks, the students have been so engaged that I have noticed fewer behavioral issues, especially the off-task talking, and overall less off-task behavior. The students have also taken more ownership of their work and becoming more independent, which is what we are working towards before they reach middle school!