Alternative Seating in the Classroom

Flexible Seating in the Classroom

I have been seeing things float around the inter-webs that really intrigue me. It’s the idea of alternative seating. Teachers (and now researchers) are finding that allowing students choice and movement in their seating arrangements can greatly improve behavior and academic performance.

I have already posted about using yoga balls in my room and how well it worked for my students with ADHD. I have since seen sooooooooooo many more options that I LOVE. If you are new to alternative seating, or inching your way closer to thinking about it as a real possibility for your classroom, hopefully this post will show you different ways to make it work in your room.

First, what do you use? Well, from what I’ve seen, it can be anything! Teachers have used bean bag chairs Stabili-T Stools, carpet spots, bath maths, camping chairs, crates with padding on them, small tents, stability/exercise balls, lap desks on the floor, pillows, big totes with half the lid cut off (see below), peanut balls and just the plain old floor.

(NOTE: None of these links are affiliate links. I just searched on Amazon for some of the terms I had heard from other teachers. Seriously, who has heard of a peanut ball?? Not me. But they are pretty awesome.)

I know that looks kinda funny, but I have heard it helps kids feel safe and calm when they work. It can be really effective with kids that have sensory issues.

 Stabili-T Stools

I love the idea of using the Stabili-T Stools. My friend Debbie at K is for Kinderific did an awesome post on how she uses them with her SpEd students here.

I also like using crates with removable pads on them. That way you could store materials inside.

Some more pics of what you can use from Mr. Cayer’s room:

I really like the idea of standing desks and bicycle desks. Our kids need more time to MOVE! This is a great way to let them wiggle while they work!

Some desks and tables can be set to a higher setting for standing so you don’t have to buy anything new. The bike desks are pricey, but if you got your principal on board or wrote a grant, you could build up a few each year. You can find more information about the bike chairs, along with this spectacular 11 second video of a girl pedaling here. The ball chairs are around $70-$100 on Amazon.

Here is a bike chair in action:

The possibilities are really endless. Annnnnd now that my post is starting to also feel endless, I’ll move on to how kids get to these fabulous seating choices.

The more choice and freedom we can give our students, the more they learn and grow. However, finding seats and sitting next to other students can be challenging for some kids (or groups of kids) no matter the age. I have heard some teachers call it “Make a wise seating choice” or even just “Smart Seat”. This draws the student’s attention to not only WHERE I sit, but WHO I sit by. You can go over what these mean to you in your own classroom. Do you want kids to be able to sit by each other? Can they handle knowing who will distract them and who won’t? Will they move if they are uncomfortable or are distracted? Do you want your kids to be able to create their own sitting spaces (i.e. under their own desks on the floor) or do you want to have only certain areas of alternative seating?

 Setting Up for Second Blog

As with anything, I would MODEL, MODEL, MODEL. Show your students what it means to quietly pick a spot and start working. Show them what it looks like and what it sounds like. Alternative seating can become a routine procedure just like lining up or turning in work.

A teacher I spoke with said that her students are split into groups or tables. When it is time to work, she will alternate between which groups she calls first. The first group calls gets to pick their spots first. The second group goes second and so on. By alternating it daily, each student will get a chance to pick their spot first. This teacher has regular desks for students who prefer that work environment and alternative seating choices. She also lets them pick their own spots.

This teacher at Kindergarten Works has a great post on how she lets her kids choose their own seats.

 Choose their own seats

One last video from Edutopia about how teachers have used alternative seating in their rooms. It’s kinda cool to see it in action.

Finally, will you have some administrators and parents who will freak out when they hear that their kids won’t be sitting at desks? I’m gonna venture a wild guess and say yes! Some people might not understand what it is you are doing. Invite them in! Once they see the power in choice and of choice, they will come over to your side. They will also see that there are regular, old, normal desks or tables that their child can sit at too and that should stop most of them from having a coronary.

I found this FABULOUS note to parents that a teacher posted on her website. I would highly recommend sending out something similar. (Click on the picture to see the full text, with additional links, on her website.)

Note to parents

If you are looking for more ideas, I have a Pinterest board full of pictures, ideas, and blogs. My Alternative Seating Board can help you figure out what will work in your room!



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Meet the author
Cassie Tabrizi
Cassie Tabrizi
After being in elementary education for 14 years, and as founder of Create-Abilities, Cassie is passionate about helping fellow educators empower their teaching.
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