Back in September, I made some BIG changes in my classroom.. I had been reading about alternative seating and its benefits and was ready to try it with my second graders. Here we are now in January and I am sooo glad I did it! There's been lots of talk again lately about changing to alternative seating. In October I wrote a blog post for ITeachSecond sharing the ups and downs of alternative seating in my classroom after the first 6 weeks of school. I have decided to share that same post here, in hopes of reaching more of you who are thinking about making the switch. Today I'll be sharing my original post from October. Later this week I'll be back with answers to some of my most asked questions about alternative seating. The best advice I can give - try it!
That being said, since this was going to be something I TRIED - and wasn't completely sure about! - I didn't want to invest money is seating that wasn't going to be used. I was determined to use what I could find and borrow, but was willing to spend a little money to make it work. I also knew that I was going to have to put some clear guidelines in place to make this work.
So how have things been going? I am excited to share that my kiddos have ROCKED choosing their spots and they LOVE having choices for where to sit as they work. Here's what they said:
"I like being able to choose where I sit to work. I can sit where it works best for me."
"I sit in different places for different things. I like to write with a clipboard in a camping chair, but I like to read sitting in a regular chair."
"Choosing our seating makes us responsible."
"It's important to have a comfortable place to work and everyone is different."
Let's take a tour of my classroom and I'll show you my seating choices and let you know how each one is working with my kiddos. We'll start with an overall view of my room - from the front, side and back. You can see it's pretty open. That's what I wanted. There are different seating choices throughout the room.
This was my first idea for alternative seating. Thanks to Greg at Kindergarten Smorgasboard for the idea! I got four bath mats from Target and WalMart. I didn't get the cheapest ones because they seemed thin and I was afraid they would wear quickly. I also chose colors that wouldn't show dirt too quickly.
Not many negatives for these! The only issue is while they are better than working on the floor, some of my kiddos still find it uncomfortable after a while.
This was an easy one to switch out. I replaced the two chairs I used in that space with stools. (I had used these stools in my room last year for my listening center. I spray painted them black last year.) The table is put at regular height.
This has worked really well, too! Only problem - some of my kiddos tend to fall off :-) We did a quick mini-lesson on how to correctly sit on the stools.
This table is currently at regular height again, with stools. Even without the legs the table was too high for my second graders to be able to comfortably work while sitting on the floor. Some tried kneeling while they worked, but it wasn't very comfortable. Even my tallest kiddos has trouble with it. I really want this alternative to work so I'm playing with the idea of making my own table and putting it on wooden blocks or something so it is the right height.
I got these chairs from Amazon (link HERE) after seeing a similar one on a Periscope from Meg at Meg's New Box of Crayons. A little pricey, but I knew they would work. They could be washed off and wiped clean, were easy to move around the room, and they are adjustable to different angles.
Not really a negative, but the fact that they adjust meant we had to talk about putting the chair in one position and leaving it there while you work. No making "click click" sounds all the time and not getting anything done!
I knew if some of my kiddos were like me, they were going to want to spread out when they worked. I always have an open rug area in my room, so this was a no-brainer. (I also have another smaller rug area in the back of my room.) The one thing I did differently was to place the rug in the middle of the room, rather than in a corner.
None. I do encourage my kiddos to use seating like the bath mats and picnic chairs on the floor, rather than on the rug. That way more students have a place to work that is not on the cold tile.
This was as close as I was getting to a standing table. I couldn't afford to buy another piece of furniture, and the counter top is the perfect height for second graders. They can work right on the counter, or grab a clipboard. There is a table in front of the counter, which I thought might be good if they needed extra space as they worked.
This has not been a space that has been used much in my room. At first I thought it might be because there was too much stuff on the counter nearby. But even after clearing a more open space, none of my kiddos chose to work there. I asked them why this choice wasn't working - they all said they didn't like to work standing up. I'm thinking this may just be the make-up of my class this year. The good thing is the counter isn't going anywhere, so if things change later in the year, the choice is still there.
The final seating choice in my room are my three camping chairs. I've had these for a couple years (I got them from Five Below). Prior to this, we used them as a special treat for independent reading. They are always in demand, so I knew they would be a popular choice this year.
I can't really think of any negatives for these chairs. They are a very popular choice! They definitely work best for students who can work with a clipboard on their lap.
There you have it! My experiment with alternative seating is no longer an experiment - I plan on keeping seating choices open for the year, and will do this next year, too! My students have become responsible for their learning choices and this has made them more invested in their day. The are quick to get started with their activities and are staying focused and engaged longer.
Have you thought about trying alternative seating in your room? I'd be happy to help you out by sharing my ideas and thoughts. Leave a comment, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Start small! Look around and see what you have available and how things can be repurposed. Then go for it! If it doesn't work, you can always go back to a traditional seating plan. But I bet you'll find at least something that you love about alternative seating - and most importantly, so will your students!