Imagine going to school and being able to sit in a beanbag or lie on a pillow on the floor to read your favourite book! Further still, stand at your desk or even sit on a stool. Teachers at Sunshine Beach State School have seen the benefits of providing a flexible seating routine in their classrooms.
Flexible seating moves away from the traditional approach of students having their own desk allowing students to choose their seating option.
Traditional desks can make students territorial or possessive over their space and supplies while flexible seating encourages students to share both. Regular movement is also used as a tool to use up excess energy, improve metabolism and increase oxygen flow to the brain.
Year 3 teacher, Vanessa Flint, had been thinking about using this approach for a few years and is now beginning her second year operating her classroom with this mindset.
“I always considered myself a very traditional teacher and one day I came to realise that there are constant changes in curriculum and pedagogy, yet classroom layout and environment had seemed to stagnate. I started to read about using a flexible seating approach and I was excited to give it a try. Having a supportive principal certainly helped and seeing the improvement in student engagement and independence has made it worthwhile. I also think the students are empowered by the opportunity to choose their own seat.”
Parent feedback has been encouraging with some parents sharing that they think it is a great opportunity for the students to make decisions about putting themselves in the best situation for their learning, concentration and enjoyment in the classroom. One parent commented, “Our experience of flexible seating has been incredibly positive. The results after introducing this model were almost instant - to a calmer class, and a more responsible and independent set of learners. The classroom set up seemed to be very organised and the kids were encouraged to be independent. My daughter feels empowered by the decisions she can make and seemed to make great choices when she was allowed this autonomy. I was so impressed by how the children operated in this environment.”
Christine O’Toole, Year 2 teacher, has been operating a flexible environment for two years and feels it has been a wonderful change for many reasons. “Our learners take responsibility for choosing a 'smart seat' for their learning which has made them think carefully about what they need to achieve their best when working on different tasks. Last year, we would often see our learners come inside in the morning and totally rearrange the tables to best suit their needs. We also jointly construct a seating agreement that each learner agrees to follow which outlines the expectations of flexible seating for our room. Flexible seating has enhanced our sense of community and has assisted each learner to also take others into consideration as we learn. It has been beneficial to those learners who have a need for freedom in their day as they have been able to make a choice right from the start of their day. Having the opportunity to make this decision has also been great for those learners who need to feel they have control over what they do. There is also lots of moving around which is great for learners who are active. We absolutely love our classroom and so many people who visit comment on what a lovely room we have. There's no going back for us - flexible seating is here to stay!”
Providing a flexible seating environment fits well with the school’s Glasser Choice Theory philosophy. Students are given opportunities to make positive choices regarding responsibility, effort and behaviour daily.