Welcome to my 2016-2017 classroom! These pictures were taken in January 2017, not back in August before school started. Teachers, you remember those days, right? Before the stacks of papers and piles of guided reading books and mountain of charts... Needless to say these pics are of a room well used!
This is the first school year I have utilized alternative seating. In previous years, my classroom felt cramped and crowded with 25 student desks and chairs. The absolute number one PRO to ditching the desks is all the added space! We have so much space for math tubs, science experiments, and other activities.
Before I get to the pros and cons of flexible seating, let's take a quick tour of the room.
In this picture you can see all the space we have at the front of the room. The dots you see on the floor are Sit Spots. They velcro right to the carpet and they stay there! The custodial staff at my campus vacuum right over them. This huge open area is where the kiddos sit during mini lessons, read-alouds, Morning Meeting, etc. The space also gets utilized during Daily 5 and math rotations.
You can also see two table options in this picture. We call these the low table and the high table. Students may use wobble cushions or stools at the low table or stability balls and chairs at the high table.
I took this picture while standing behind the high table. To the left, near the doorway, you can see five standard student desks. To the right is the teacher table. Students typically use chairs or stability balls at the student desks and chairs at the teacher table. The pile of mess near the teacher table is boxes of 3D solids. (But it always looks like I'm getting ready for a garage sale back there...yikes!)
The next picture was taken from the doorway.
At the back of the room is the classroom library. Those are pillows that look like a lemon slice, kiwi slice, and watermelon slice on the floor. I found those at Five Below this summer. Do you see the laundry basket of yoga mats back there? Another $5 find at Five Below.
Where to buy the options you see here...
I found the stools at ALDI, but I haven't seen any since the summer. The yoga mats and fruit cushions are from Five Below. I'm positive you can still get yoga mats there for $5, but I'm not sure about the cushions. The seating discs and stability balls are from Amazon. I have two different brands of seating discs which you can find HERE and HERE. The prices have gone up since August because I paid $12.95 for one brand and $14.99 for the other. You can get the stability balls HERE.
Pros & Cons
Let's start with the yoga mats. The kids love these for sitting on or lying down, especially when reading. Using a yoga mat makes hanging out on the floor that much more fun. The good news is that the mats add a layer of comfort and store easily in a large laundry basket. They are pretty sturdy too. First graders have to be trained to roll the mats up tight enough for storage. Some kiddos can roll the mats quickly, but some take a long time to get the mats rolled tightly. This can extend your clean-up time. Our class has a Mat Monitor that can help mat users roll the mats up more quickly. You will also need to train your students to walk around the mats instead of on/over them so shoes do not dirty up the mats.
The stability balls were the most popular option at the beginning of the year. The kiddos could not wait to earn their ball seat privileges! While most children like to use the balls, the biggest fans of the balls are my most energetic boys. We practice "seat safety" by keeping our pockets on the balls, our feet on the floor, and taking small bounces. A student is asked to choose a new seat if he is bouncing very high or is rolling under the table by lifting his feet off the floor. The balls are awesome to get some wiggles out and they stack easily on top of the tables at the end of the day. Students must be taught not to put scissors or pencils near the balls. It is very important to stress that these balls are seats, NOT toys, and the balls will not be used for rolling or kicking. My students follow the NO KICKING OR ROLLING policy, but I put the balls away during Open House and other times when younger siblings visit our classroom. Some substitute teachers do not care for the balls, so I usually put the balls up if I will not be at school.
The wobble cushions are awesome! They are super sturdy. The kiddos enjoy sitting on their pockets or on their knees on these seats. The wobble cushions have a smooth side and a textured side. They do not seem to have lost any air since I blew them up in August. The cushions come with a pump, so it does take a little elbow grease to air them up. These cushions stack great on top of tables or shelves. Students should be taught to treat the cushions like seats and not to stand on them. I consider these my best investment and the wobble cushions have remained a favorite all year long.
These low stools are an inexpensive option, but they are not as popular as the wobble cushions. Students prefer to use the stools while holding a clip board to sitting at the low table. Students really like to take out the stools during spelling tests. Go figure! The stools have a handle in the middle of the seat. When you grab the handle the stools fold up which makes them easy to carry to any spot in the room. Since they fold up, the stools are also easy to store between shelves or just lean them against a wall.
The least used seating option is the fruit pillows. They are super cute, but they really aren't that plush. Plus, they get dirty very easily. The cushions get ink and pencil marks on them. Also, students should be trained not to step on them because shoes dirty the fabric quickly. In our classroom, students must use the pillows as a seat, not as a pillow for their heads, just in case we have a lice situation. Knock on wood.
The last seating option, other than just sitting on the floor, is a traditional chair. At the beginning of the year no one wanted to sit in a boring old chair because chairs are old news. But, as the year progresses more and more students use them. Chairs are comfortable, promote good posture, and are a very good option for writing tasks. I'm happy I kept some chairs and did not get rid of all of them.
I don't plan to ever go back to stuffing 25 student desks in my classroom, at least as long as I have a choice in the matter. I like that the students have choices of seating options and they like it too! I cannot emphasize enough that my favorite part of deleting desks is ALL THE SPACE. It's like I have a wide open meadow at the front of the classroom. I hope to expand my seating options next school year, so if you have a seat your student love leave me a comment so I can check it out!
Check out this post to see the seats in action.
Check out this post for a flexible seating freebie.