High amounts of movement have always been an absolute necessity for me. I did well all through school, but the students in front of me were constantly telling me to stop putting my feet on their desk’s basket and shaking them.I even rock back and forth in bed until I finally fall asleep. In college, we had the pleasure of sleeping on bunk beds…for 4 years. No one wanted me on their top bunk because they knew they would be falling asleep in an earthquake simulator. Movement is comfort to me. Movement is natural for me. Movement is who I am.
As I was reflecting on this over the summer, my desire to offer more movement for my students kept growing. I have always felt like the tables and chairs confined us as a class; like being in them created this distance that separated us from each other. I wanted to offer them the freedom to move, wiggle, bounce, shake, or stand, but at the same time bring us closer together as a class.
My classroom is typically pretty high energy and it incorporates a lot of movement- but I still felt like I needed to offer students something more to better meet their sensory needs. When I got the green light from my principal, I was determined, and terrified, to take the next step in offering my students options for alternative seating.
I teach Spanish at two buildings, so I knew that to really implement and test it well, I could only incorporate alternative seating to its full extent in one building to start. Financially and physically, I wanted to do it well and did not want to stretch myself too thin, so I committed to transforming one of my classrooms with the hopes of transforming the second one in the future.
There have been some AMAZING successes, some “face palm” worthy fails, and a lot in between. Overall, I have watched students that used to struggle with behavior be able to self-monitor and handle the responsibility of freedom in their learning. It is not the magic method or perfect prescription to fix behavior problems, but it sure offers support in the class management department when so much less of my time can be spent asking students to sit correctly in their chairs.
If you are interested in bringing different methods of seating to your room, here are some tips to get you started....
- Ease into it - Add in a few items at a time. Stability balls, cushions, bean bags, raising desks so students can stand- these are all small things that can start to transform a classroom.
- Teach- and reteach- and teach again the expectations. I made a video for behavioral expectations and students know these tools are a privilege. I am constantly refreshing the rules and reminding them of acceptable behavior vs non-acceptable behavior. (Excessive and distracting bouncing on balls, choosing to stand and blocking someone’s view, etc)
- Embrace the new look- At any given time, my classroom looks like a zoo/messy basement. Kids bouncing softly on yoga balls, some flopped over on bean bags working on their stomachs, others standing and pacing in the back of the room and everything in between. I love control and letting go of the perfectly neat and organized classroom is tough at first. If students are on task and focused, I have learned to accept my new normal.
- Develop a system and routine. I have students draw popsicle sticks with their seat assignment. I teach 6 sessions of 50 minutes per day, so when I greet them at the door, they draw a stick that says “Orange ball” or “Green bean bag”. Students have the option to either accept that seat assignment or say “no thank you” and grab a regular chair. There are students who prefer the traditional table and chair, and of course I always offer the traditional seating option to those students. Ideally, I would love a class set of stability balls, which seem to be the favorite of almost all kids. I am slowly working towards that point, but for now, I am unable to offer them to every student. Once I have enough for each kiddo, I will adjust my procedures and routines slightly to match my new inventory.
There have been ups and downs and all arounds (literally on the exercise balls) the past four weeks, but I feel so passionate about offering these opportunities to students. They are learning. They are engaged. They are feeling free. They are moving.
I would LOVE to talk with you about offering different styles of seating in your classroom. I have many fails you can learn from, some victories to take encouragement from, and tons of ideas and tips for how to make this a success in your classroom. I am by no means an expert, but have learned so much from simply going for it. Please feel free to email or call me with any questions you may have!
Here's to getting your move on,
Spanish Teacher ~ Elementary