Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: Flexible Seating

Flexible Seating


Well hello all you Not So Wimpy fans!!  I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to be a guest blogger on the Not So Wimpy blog.  I am Amanda Quisenberry and I teach 3rd grade for a wonderful school in West Texas (GO PIRATES).  I am married and have three fantastic kids who are growing up way too fast.  I am just starting my 5th year in the classroom, and I still can’t believe how blessed I am to get to do what I do everyday.  

I never thought in one million (word form) years that I would ever be asked to write for Jamie’s blog.  Why you ask?  First of all, I DON’T WRITE.  Anything, ever.  I almost didn’t apply for graduate school because the 500 word essay totally freaked me out.  However, if you teach in Texas, then you are familiar with T-TESS and all that that implies.  

Anywho, my personal goal this year is to implement Writer’s Workshop, which is why I stumbled upon Jamie’s blog one sunny day in June, and my life has not been the same since.  Seriously, now I actually print things in color. I also thought if I expect my kids to write, then I guess I better write, too.  So when Jamie asked for people to submit our names and ideas, I jumped at the chance.  With both feet.  Into sub zero waters.  Without a life jacket.  

But I made it, and I am here to tell you all about how I utilize flexible seating in my classroom.

STOP!!  DON’T RUN AWAY!

Many teachers shudder at the thought of flexible seating.  I did too at one point, but I am here to tell you, if it is done right, it can be a game changer.  Let’s go back to July 2016 when I first jumped on the flexible seating bandwagon.  I bought really cute chairs from Target and a couple of yoga balls.  I stuck those suckers out there and called it done.  Sounds good, right?  What could possibly be wrong with this scenario.  

Ummmm, WHAT IS RIGHT WITH THIS SCENARIO?!?  For starters, I did not put any type of system into place for who was going to get to sit in the fun seats and when.  I mean, they are mature 3rd graders, they should be able to handle this.  Let’s just say that within two weeks I had given all the “fun” (notice my use of quotations this time) seats away.  

However, I was bound and determined to find a way to make it work.  I obsessed all summer long about how to implement a functional flexible seating arrangement for the new school year and by golly, I think I’ve got it.  

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART

Some may think the most important part might be the actual seating, but for me, that was the easiest to tackle.  I kept 7 desks as is, took the legs off 3 desks, bought some kid friendly beach chairs on clearance at Target, 3 lap desks from Michael’s, and found a fun round table in storage at my school.  Flexible seating options done!!  

Now, what do I do with all of this?  Anyone who knows me will probably tell you I am uber organized and structured so the idea of NOT having assigned seats was something I could not wrap my brain around.  How do I manage who sits where?  What do I do with those kids who just aren’t making the right choice?  Do I get rid of all my desks?  So many questions and so few answers.  

Last year, our school stopped using SmartBoards and this was how I held my kids accountable for taking their own attendance.  I am pretty sure I was late on attendance everyday.  You see, prior to that, my kids all had a balloon that they could “pop” when they arrived.  Whoever’s balloon wasn’t popped was absent, and I desperately wanted to get back to the kids doing something to mark their attendance.  The only thought that kept coming to me was clothespins.  And then it hit me like my 3rd pregnancy did.  

Why not combine attendance with the ability for the kids to choose their own seats? Thus the Flexible Seating and Attendance chart was born.  I am taking suggestions for a better name.

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Here are some of the pictures from the chart that is hanging in my room.  I actually have five other choices as well, but I figured you would get the idea with just these pictures.  As you can see, there is a picture of that choice with the rules a student is expected to follow if they choose that seat.  The numbers represent how many kids can pick that choice.  Each student has a clothespin with his or her name on it that is clipped to the left side of the chart.  

The chart hangs right inside my door so the first thing the kids do when they come in in the mornings is move their clip over to the other side and place it on a number to show they are present and what seating option they are choosing for that day.  If someone comes in and wants the RelaxiRug but both numbers are covered, then that choice is not longer available.  Bummer. This has actually worked great for me.  I have not had any issues with kids moving other kids clips or fighting over seats.  

“BUT MRS. Q, I AM ALWAYS LATE...I don’t ever get to choose what I want.”

At my school the doors open for students to come into the building at 7:15.  For those kids that arrive that early, they must go sit in the cafeteria until the first bell rings at 7:45.  Now, I do have some kids whose parents show up right around 7:40 and they are allowed to just hang out at the entrance until the bells rings.  

What this means is that those kids who have been here since 7:15 don’t actually get first choice.  The kids that come down from the cafeteria are usually the last ones in the room, and they get the less-fun leftovers.  I thought long and hard on how to handle this situation.  

At first, I was using Class Dojo to randomly pick two people at the end of the day to go ahead and make a choice for the next day.  That worked, but one day while the kids were getting the room cleaned up and getting ready to go home, I had two sweet friends who were doing everything the way they were supposed to.  They had gone through the checklist of Stack and Pack Procedures, done them all, and were sitting quietly at their spots showing me they were ready to go.  

So guess who gets first choice now? You got it.  The first two people to Stack and Pack correctly and sit at their spots quietly get to choose their seats for the next day.  It works like a charm.  For now at least. I am sure I will need to come up with something more creative in the future.  

“BUT WHERE DOES ALL MY STUFF GO?”

Community supplies, community supplies, community supplies.  Need I say it one more time?  We utilize community supplies in my classroom and it keeps the mess down to a minimum.  My kids have certain items they know they are supposed to keep at their desk every day (box with pencils and crayons, Unfinished Work folder, binder, and IPads) and nothing else.  I am always very specific with how I want things to be left when we line up to go somewhere.  

Once everyone is lined up, I check around the room and if anyone’s spot is messy, they have to go clean it up before we can go anywhere.  I was a stickler about this the first two weeks and now I rarely have to ask anyone to go back and straighten their spot up.

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These are just a few examples of how my kids are expected to leave their spots when we go somewhere.  I cannot even begin to tell you how much this has helped keep desks and lockers cleaned out and decluttered.  For those kids who are sitting at a traditional desk, they have to clean their stuff out everyday because there is no guarantee they will sit there again tomorrow.

COME ON PEOPLE...REFOCUS

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I am just about finished, but I also wanted to share my Refocus Desk with all you patient readers. This is exactly what it sounds like.  If I have a student who is not making the best choices, or just isn’t staying on task, he or she will go to the Refocus Desk for 10 minutes.  After that 10 minutes, they are allowed to go back to their seats.  

However, if they have to make another trip the the Refocus Desk, they will lose free choice for the next day.  Now, I wish I could tell you if this actually works or not but I can’t.  I have never had to send anyone to the Refocus Desk more than once in a day.  The kids realize very quickly that it is not a fun spot to be.  So hey, I guess it does work.  Woohoo!!

HAPPY FLEXIBLE SEATING

I leave you with pictures of my kiddos enjoying their seating.  I hope that I have enlightened you a little about flexible seating.  It doesn’t have to be a monster, but can be if not approached with a well, thought out plan.  I would also like to thank Jamie Sears for this incredible opportunity to step out of my box and trusting me to do it.  


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Thanks for reading,

Amanda