Saturday, June 4, 2016

Flexible Seating: Questions Answered!

I get many common questions from people when they hear I do flexible seating in my classroom.  I have posted a couple other times about flexible seating in my classroom (here and here) but I thought I would do one post that answers all the questions I get about flexible seating. 

Let me preface by saying I do not believe there is only one way to do flexible seating.  Also, I am in NO WAY perfect or an expert on this.  I find that many teachers are very interested in trying flexible seating but are nervous about doing so, so I am simply sharing my experiences and what works for me and my students in the hopes that it helps you implement successfully or inspires you to give it a try!

So here we go!

*Warning*  This will be a lengthy post as I try to answer all the questions!

How did you introduce flexible seating to your students?  Do you start from Day 1 or introduce one type of seating at a time?

In my classroom, I 'assign' students spots at first.  They would come in every day and their name would be on a different type of seating.  For example, little Lily comes in day 1 and her seat for the day is a crate seat.  Day 2, she is assigned to a Wobble Chair (which are amazing BTW!) for the day.  Day 3, she is assigned a stool, and so on until she has tried all seating options for a day.  Throughout these first days, we are having class meetings and discussions about the rules of and how to properly use these different types of seating.  We also talk about which seating they liked/didn't like, which would be best depending on what they are doing, etc.  For example, if you are reading a book, where would you be more comfortable?  How about if you are doing a cut/paste project?  Working in a group?  Which friends do you work well/not so well around?

I make sure to train my students VERY well on this, because with all things teaching, the better you lay down routines and procedures, the better the chance your students will be successful with it.

After each student has tried each type of seating and after I feel we have established rules and procedures well (roughly 1-2 weeks), I move into letting them choose their own seating.  They are SO excited for this that it goes well because they do not want to lose the privilege of choosing for themselves.  They take this responsibility very seriously.

Did you have any challenges with students choosing to sit next to their friends and getting distracted?

This piggybacks well with my answer to the last question.  No, I do not have many issues with this due to the fact that I took the time to set up my rules and procedures in the beginning and I stick firmly with them.  Students know that if they do not choose a spot that works well for themselves, then I will pick one for them---and they do NOT want that.  So while every once in awhile I will have to move a student, the majority of the time they do a great job of picking spots for themselves.

Do students sit in the same spot all day?

My students choose where they want to sit for each activity of the day.  When we switch to a different activity, they make pick a new spot.  So for math time, they may choose a crate seat next to their partner at a table.  Then when we go to reading time, they may prefer to sit alone on the carpet.

My only rule is they have to stay where they chose for the duration of the activity.  So if you chose a crate seat for math, that is where you stay until math time is finished.  This eliminates them constantly roaming the room as opposed to working.

I teach lower grades/upper grades.  Do you think flexible seating would work for students this age?

My kindergarteners can do it, so yes!  I think that flexible seating works (and is best practice) for students of any age as long as you set it up effectively in your classroom and give students the tools they need to be successful.

Where do students keep their supplies?

This was probably the toughest part of flexible seating for me because I have always been a community supply classroom.  We had table buckets and each table shared supplies which worked nicely.  Since I got rid of most tables (and students were no longer assigned to tables), that obviously had to change.

I went back to having individual student crayon boxes where they keep their crayons and pencils.  They keep them in their cubbies along with their reading journals, writing folders, etc.  This way they grab them and take them wherever they go and put them back in their cubby when finished.  I kept scissors, glue, markers still technically as community supplies.  They are in baskets on a shelf and when a student needs them they grab one.  

What types of seating options do you have?

At the moment, I have a rectangular table with 'regular chairs', a rectangular table that I removed the legs from and students sit on the floor at, a U table, an old re purposed coffee table I found in my garage, 4 stools, 6 crate seats, 3 Kore Wobble Chairs, 2 hexagon tables, and some pillows (I recommend ones with removable pillow cases so you can wash them!).  I also have shelves around the room that students like to stand at and work on top of, as well as a classroom set of clipboards that students can use when choosing a spot on the carpet to work on.  

Where did you buy everything that you use for flexible seating? 

I actually hardly bought anything....I already had a classroom set of clipboards (collected from the dollar store over the years) and some crate seats.  I took the legs off one of my existing tables and lowered it to where kids could sit on the floor at it.  I left one table as it was with regular chairs.  I then took an Ikea trip and bought a few inexpensive items.  

You can read in detail everything I did and purchased in this blog post.

Do your kids argue over seating?

It has happened (I do teach K after all!), but not often.  I eliminate part of this by calling groups of students at a time to choose their places.  I never just send off the entire class at once.  This would likely cause chaos, flexible seating or not.
Also, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, another thing that helps with this is are the rules and procedures.  Students know that if there is any arguing then neither of them will sit there, and I will choose their spot.  Again, they do NOT want this.

Lastly, over time this just becomes normal to them--it's just how things work in our classroom.  It is like when a kid gets a new toy--it tends to be amazing and their favorite for awhile, but after the newness wears off it is just like any other toy.  It also works like this for our seating.  No one type of seating is 'the best' to fight for anymore because they are used to it.

How did you introduce this to the parents?

I don't really 'introduce' it.  If parents ask about it I of course answer their questions but I do not make a big deal of pointing it out.  Again, it is just how our classroom runs.

All parent questions I have answered have been more out of interest and curiosity rather than interrogation, and I have had really good feedback from parents.  They love that I am trying something different that we feel is best for students.  Some parents have been amazed at the improvement in their child's focus and behavior at school.

What about procedures when you have a sub?

This has been one of the toughest parts.  Subs haven't necessarily seen or been in a flexible seating classroom so they are not sure how to manage it.  I have a typed up page in my sub folder that specifically explains our flexible seating procedures.  From there, I must trust my students to keep up the procedures while I am gone.  But we all know how that goes at times....;)  So I tell my sub that if there are any problems or he/she does not feel comfortable, then just go ahead and assign students seats for the day.  They can handle that until for a day or two until I get back.  :)

I have a small classroom.  Do you think I could still do flexible seating?

YES!  In fact, this is one of the main reasons I tried flexible seating myself!

I have a tiny classroom.  Between 4 rectangle tables, a U-table, and a carpet area, we were maxed out on space.  I'm talking like when kids were sitting at their chairs, they were knocking their chair into the person sitting at the table behind them.  There was no way to walk in between tables.  Also, only having 4 tables meant having 6 students at one table which was very crowded.  We were always on top of each other, which turned into a lot of bickering and arguing.

Switching to flexible seating actually gave us more space.  I removed 2 rectangle tables which opened up our room a lot.  We are also now using every nook and cranny of space in our room.  Students will find the craziest spots to work in!  We are now so spread out around the room which has eliminated so much of the bickering between the students.  They are no longer stuck squished between the same friends all day every day.  They now get to choose who to sit by and sit by many different people throughout the day.  It has worked wonders for our classroom community.


Which kinds of seating do your students like best?

This changes.  We got our Kore Wobble Chairs mid year this year and the students went crazy for them!  They allow them to wiggle around a bit while working.

I was most surprised by the fact that so many of my students love to stand while working.  They will just find a shelf to stand at and work on top of.

Other than that, I would have to say they choose all other seating options pretty evenly.  Your best bet is to have plenty of options for them to choose from!  

You teach kindergarten--what about their name tags?

We have just been keeping them in their cubbies with their crayon boxes.  When they need them, they go grab them.  I have seen some teachers taping them to the bottom of crayon boxes or having students keep them inside crayon boxes.  For me, just keeping them in their cubbies worked well.

What do your students think about flexible seating?

Again, this just becomes a norm in our room so they really don't find it revolutionary enough to talk about whole lot.  We do talk about what a big responsibility it is for them to be able to choose what is best for them, so they are proud of themselves about that.  They also love explaining to 'grown ups' and other teachers how it works in our classroom.

How do you do whole group instruction?

Most of my whole group instruction is done from the carpet area.  For these times, I do give assigned spots on the rug because I prefer to make sure my students are next to a good partner for when we do partner shares and talks.  It also denotes their own space so we are not super close or super far away from each other.  When we leave the carpet, they are free to go choose whatever spot they like to work.


I hope this answered all of your questions!!  Feel free to pin the image below to be able to refer back to this post.

To sum up--routines, routines, routines, procedures, procedures, procedures!  Again, I do not feel that there is any one right way to implement flexible seating.  But I do encourage you to try it!

The Power of Student Choice is an incredible thing and I urge you to take the leap!  If there are any other questions you still have I would be happy to answer them in the comments below.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

All About Plants!

Happy summer or almost summer to those of you that aren't there yet!  We are finishing up our 2nd week of summer school, so only 2 more to go!  :)

It got so chaotic with all the end of year festivities, but I wanted to share with you our last big unit of the year before end of the year hit...


There are soooo many fun learning opportunities to do related to plants that we have a hard time fitting in everything we wanted to do!

So here are the things we got to in our 2 week time period:

First we read learned about the cycle of a plant and how they grow.  This is perfect for sequencing activities.  First we discussed and sequenced together on a pocket chart and then students did their own life cycle page.

Next we discussed 4 the things plants plants need to survive and why.   We made these fun flip books:

Then we moved on to parts of a plant and their functions.  We labeled our class chart together:

Students did their own labeling pages:

And they made Parts of a Plant books:

We also read the super adorable book 'Tops and Bottoms' by Janet Stevens.  It starts a good conversation about which parts of a plant vegetables and fruits come from (ie. celery is the stem, potatoes are the root, etc.).  We then did a pocket chart sort:

We then made our own pictures using the pocket chart:


Finally, and my personal favorite, we made and labeled our own handprint plants!  These always turn out so adorable and personalized!  The kids have so much fun making them!  I just love them!

Don't be distracted by those absolutely adorable faces!  ;)  I miss them so much already!

Probably the best part of this unit is that our school has a Community Garden that we all help take care of.  So we applied our learning while helping to start our garden for the spring!  

Our class planted red onions.  They had so much fun planting in their own little cups:

We then took these into our classroom to care for and observe for a couple weeks.

During this time we kept Daily Plant Observation Journals where students drew and recorded what happened to their plant each day.  Red onions were great for this because they changed quickly so students were excited to come in every morning and see how their plant had grown.

This is one of my personal favorite journal entries this year  :)

The students loved observing their plants.  After a couple weeks, our school had a gardening day where we got to go outside and plant our onions in the community garden.  This was probably the most fun part of this unit for them!  They are so proud that they helped to take care of the garden.

All of these activities are from my All About Plants unit.  It is packed with activities and is such a fun, hands on, and engaging unit.

All in all I would say it was a very successful final thematic unit in Kindergarten!  Thanks for taking a peek at our learning, and if you are still in school--hang in there, the end is near!  :)


Sunday, May 1, 2016

One of My Favorite Activities of the Year--Hatching Chicks!

I love love love spring!  Not only for the beautiful and much needed warmer days, but also because it is an awesome time to be in kindergarten!  Everything just seems to start 'clicking' with the kiddos this time of year and it is SUCH a fun time to teach them!

And with spring comes one of my favorite activities of the year--hatching chicks!  If you know me at all, you know I love to keep my lessons as hands on and engaging as possible, and it doesn't get more so than this!  Instant engagement from the moment the eggs arrive!

We used to get our eggs through a local university's extension program, so if you are thinking about hatching chicks in your classroom that may be a good place to look in to getting eggs.  However, ours stopped the program last year so we have had to look elsewhere--good thing our principal is married at a veterinarian!  They really came through for us!  I got 7 eggs plus a brand new incubator (from Amazon) for my classroom this year.

Before we even get the eggs, we start learning about them.  We need to know all about them to be able to take care of them right?

First, we discuss how long the eggs take to hatch, and what is happening that we can't see inside the egg.  We read, discuss, and color this little reader:  

We also discuss the need for the incubator and how to care for them since we will be the 'mother hen'.  The students take this job VERY seriously!

We then learn about the life cycle and sequence the development of a chick.

After this, we care for and monitor our eggs!  We keep track of how many days until they hatch and keep a daily Chick Journal to record our learning and observations.

This is one of my favorite entries from this year:

Solid advice! ;)

Unfortunately, this happy spring post has a sad ending....our chicks did not hatch :(

So if you are in the market for an incubator and see this one on Amazon, DO NOT get it!

It stopped working the last few days before the chicks were to hatch--only the most critical days!  The screen on the front said it was on and set to the right temperature, however when I lifted the lid there was no heat--just room temperature.  My teammate used the same one and her eggs did not hatch either.

We had a class talk and while the kids were super bummed, we still had a good learning experience.  We have a very brave, science-loving 3rd grade teacher in our building and she wanted to do a lesson with her class using our eggs.  She put them in baggies and cracked them open to see what was inside.  There were different stages of development they put in order and they invited us to their classroom to see.

While this was not nearly as exciting to the kiddos as actually having the chicks hatch, it did take the idea of what was happening inside the eggs from abstract to reality.  Here they are observing them:

The kids loved to see this--it was not nearly as depressing as it looks in this pic!!  Lol after I posted this pic to my Instagram, I realized this looks like we are mourning our loss at a Chick Funeral!  :)

Our incubators may not have worked but some authentic learning still happened!  All of the activities we used came from my Chicks! Unit.  Click on the picture below to check it out!

As always, thanks for stopping by and taking a little peak into our kindergarten world!  :)

Up next:  Plants!


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