Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My Experience With Alternative Seating

Happy Tuesday, friends! It's Lisa from over at Second Grade Stories here to share with you my experiences with alternative seating this year.

I really started thinking about alternative seating earlier this summer after reading research about how important it is for students to have input and choice in where they work in the classroom. I know I prefer different work spaces depending on what I'm doing. When I'm planning, I'm usually spread out on the floor of my living room. Creating TpT resources requires a quiet environment with my laptop on a table. Curling up on the couch is my favorite way to read a book. I know that I'm more productive when I'm comfortable - why wouldn't the same be true for my students?

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.

Here's a look at each type of seating in detail.

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.
The bath mats are a definite hit! They are easy to take out and clean up, can be put anywhere in the classroom and more than one student can sit on each one.

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 is a great "in between" way to start alternative seating - regular table, different seats. It's simple and easy. The stools can be pushed under the table at the end of the day and stacked to the side when we're done.

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.

Next up - the low table and cushions. I took the legs off of this table and placed it directly on the ground. The cushions are chair cushions from WalMart. I know kids love sitting on the floor to work, so I figured this one would be a hit!

The idea was great. My kiddos loved sitting on the floor and working at the table. That's about it for the good part, unfortunately.

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.

Winner! I wish I could afford more of these seats :-) They are very comfortable, portable and give great back support, which is important for kids to be comfortable. They are without a doubt the favorite seating choice in my room.

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.

The rug was already there - no cost! It's a great area for kiddos to spread out, or work in small groups.

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.

For kiddos who prefer to work standing up, this is a great alternative. Again, it was already in my room, so there was no added expense, and it was the right height.

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 already had them, so nothing to buy. They can be easily moved anywhere in the room. They are comfortable and stable. Just grab a chair and a clipboard and you're ready to work!

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 secondgradestories@charter.net. 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!

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