I’ve likely written about this before (but I’m too lazy to go back through my posts) but I’ll do it again because it’s the thinking it through that helps me.
In my first decade of teaching there was a gradual evolution in my thinking around my students and my role in the classroom. I began my career a fairly traditional teacher, doing things the way I had known them as a student. Not everything, but more than I like to consider now as I look back. My students has assigned seats. That’s where they spent the majority of their time.
Slowly, I relaxed and allowed students to work on the floor or elsewhere around our room. By the beginning of my second decade I had let go of a lot of the control I had previously felt I needed. In the past ten years I have accumulated a variety of furniture and broadened the options available in our room.
An early goal in this process was to offer students tables at different levels (thanks to another teacher in my district who talked about doing this). We have two tables that sit low to the floor, three tables that are pretty standard height, and one table that is called our ‘tall table’. One result of making this change was that I ended up with tables of different sizes as well as different heights. Suddenly, instead of having tables that all sat four or six students, I had tables that only sat two.
This will be our ‘tall table’ this year. My plan is to have it against the wall, but it’s quite possible the students will move it to fit more kids if they want. No chairs or stools or anything at this table. It’s for those who want to stand while they work.
These are our standard height tables. The one that is made of two, typical school tables will have typical school chairs. Last year that table was often completely empty or completely full. There wasn’t a lot of in between. The table in the next picture has white folding chairs from Ikea. The table at the bottom has Ikea stools as well as the office chair. Lots of seating options.
These are our two small tables. One is in the classroom library area and the other sits right beside the carpet at the front of the room. We also have a half-dozen throw pillows students can use when they sit on the floor.
We also have beanbags and these round little chairs. We have five beanbags, all of which are showing their age. We have eight to ten of the little round chairs.
We also have a ton of clipboards to use when sitting on the floor or the couch or, really, anytime they want.
Right now the clipboards are all together, but when we are unpacked they’ll be in two different containers in separate places in the room to make them easier to access.
When things are working the way they should I can focus on students’ learning, thinking, and emotional well-being rather than where they are working. We have conversations at the beginning of the year about the options and how to decide what will work best for you at any given moment.
We definitely hit snags throughout the year but I feel confident that I spend less time addressing seating and behavior now than I did when I assigned seats.