Have a seat! Classrooms offer flexible seating options for students
Enter Shannon Green’s classroom and you might see students reading in a camp chair, sitting on a milk crate, balancing on a stability ball, or standing at a tall desk.

Green’s first grade classroom at Maine Memorial is one of several classrooms district-wide that now offer flexible seating options for students.

Flexible seating is the opposite of the traditional classroom assigned seating arrangement of desks, or tables lined up in rows. Instead, a variety of seating options that are placed throughout the classroom are available to students to choose from.

The comfortable learning environment promotes movement, rather than sedentary behavior, and has been found to promote higher brain function, engagement and productivity.

Homer Brink third grade teacher Briana Burghardt committed fully to the flexible seating model this year after researching the topic and learning about the benefits for students. A PTA grant helped with the purchase of some of the seating, enough for about 20 HB teachers to give it a try in their classroom.  Some teachers have purchased  seating for their room, or made items, like cushions, themselves.

In Burghardt’s room, while there are still regular tables for seating, the majority have been replaced by other options including: bean bag chairs, scoop seats, backrest pillows, stools, yoga mats, beach chairs, and floor tables with cushions.

Flexible seating promotes movement, which actually helps students to better focus on the task at hand. This is  especially beneficial for students with attention, or sensory issues.

“Children need to move,” said Green. “The traditional desk/chair does not encourage this. The new seating arrangements allow for the children to twist, bounce, lean, etc., as needed. This minimizes distractions and improves focus. I also see that they are more comfortable and just seem happier.”

“I allow my students to move about the room as needed to find their best ‘working spot’”, said Maine Memorial second grade teacher Rene Contrera. She defines a working spot as an area that allows students to do their best work, stay focused on the teacher or on a task, and allows them to concentrate without being distracted, or distracting another student. “We spend a lot of time at the start of the year talking about what that looks like and how to find a good working spot.” 

The ability to chose their work space is empowering for students, especially younger children. “This flexibility allows them to really take ownership and responsibility of their own learning,” said Contrera. “They start to figure out what works and what doesn’t as far as being able to attend to task, stay focused and complete their work.”

The flexible seating classroom also helps to foster a sense of community among the students. Because there is movement and change, students learn that they must work together to organize and share supplies, and to keep their classroom tidy.

“After the implementation of the seating within my classroom, there were certain adjustments that needed to be made, especially at first grade,” said Green. “However, we have gotten into the swing of things and this type of seating has truly improved the students’ independence, fostered a sense of community within the room, and helped fill that need for movement that every first grader needs within a school day.  I am extremely happy that I pursued this for my class!”
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