*This post was originally published on Becker’s Insights on Early Learning Blog.
How do you work and learn best?
Do you sit, stand, or lay? Do you use a desk? A chair? Or, do you plop down and get comfy in your bed or on the couch with a good book or device in hand? Does your preference change day to day based upon the specific situation? Does your mood ever influence these decisions?
There are no “right” answers!
Early childhood educators across the nation are transforming their classrooms into flexible, student-centered spaces to support the diverse learning styles, preferences, and needs of 21st-century learners.
Flexible seating is far more than a fad! It empowers students to make decisions about how they learn best and its effectiveness is grounded in scholarly research. Speaking from personal experience, it truly does leverage learning by helping to equip our future workforce with the critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, and citizenship skills needed to thrive in tomorrow’s world. And early learners, especially, need opportunities to move and think freely throughout their day.
Here are three quick tips for facilitating flexible seating in your early learning classroom:
1) Change Your Classroom, Change Your Practice
The coolest, shiniest, new piece of flexible furniture won’t magically convert your classroom into an optimal flexible learning environment unless you make a mental shift in your classroom practices also. Instead of being a “sage on the stage” you must be a “guide on the side,” providing students with more voice and choice in how and what they learn to foster student agency.
2) Flexible NOT Free-for-All
Flexible seating does NOT mean that you have to relinquish all structure and embrace chaos. Kids need to feel safe and secure. Modeling rules/routines for how to use each flexible seating option is a must! Teach and reteach the expectations throughout the year. Post photographs of students using the new furniture in appropriate ways for quick, visual reference. If preferred, create flexible seating rotation charts. Or, employ the logical consequence that if they abuse it, they (kindly) lose it. Students need to understand that the freedom they are being given is a privilege; one to enjoy and respect!
3) One Seat Does Not Fit All
Students need a variety of flexible seating options! Are your students fighting over the same spot? Consider purchasing, crowdfunding, or treasure hunting through thrift stores for comfortable items of all shapes and sizes to accommodate both independent and collaborative work. And remember, sometimes the best option for a student might be no seat at all! So, declutter some counter spaces of differing heights and let the kids have at it. As long as they’re engaged, does it really matter if they’re sitting or standing?
If your classroom is in need of a little refurbishing, here are eight of Becker’s flexible seating options that I’ve added to my wish list! What’s on yours?
- School Age Vinyl Sofa
- Kids Kore Wobble Chairs
- Carry Me Cubes
- Library Trio
- Primary Colors Chair Cubed Set of 4
- Backjack Floor Chair
- High-Back Bean Bag Chairs
- Teacher Seat with Back Support