Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Alternative Seating

We have all experienced students who seem to never sit down or have their booties in the air instead of their chairs.  I totally understand their need for movement.  I remember as a child being in church with my family.  I had 2 older sisters who were able to sit or stand like a statue throughout the whole service.  I struggled to stay still.  My mother was constantly telling me to turn around or sit down or sit still.  YUCK!

As an adult, I have attended countless meetings or presentations where I was expected to sit for an extended period of time.  I purposefully look for a seat in the back of a room because I know I am going to need to move.  I just can't sit down for that long.  My body physically hurts!

These experiences have made me empathetic to our wiggly friends in school.  I understand that everyone has different needs when it comes to physical comfort.  Some students need to stand.  Others need to sit with pretzel legs on the floor.  Some kids need to move their bum on a wiggle seat or stability ball.

Our goal is always to get the most from our students.  We don't want them wasting precious learning time.  It just makes sense that we meet their physical needs as much as possible.  This is why alternative seating has become so prevalent.  Teachers are offering a choice so that students can pick how and where they learn best.

A few of my colleagues have already taken the plunge whole heartedly.  They have converted their classrooms from the traditional "everyone sit at a desk" setting to a kid friendly "chair optional" plan.
These pictures are from my colleague Nikki's first grade classroom.  I love her classroom because it's very inviting!  I want to be a student in her room!

She has provided options for standing, sitting on the floor, sitting on a ball or wiggle seat, and even rocking.

I like the way she has used the small Ikea rugs for sitting spots at the low tables.  The ends are tucked under the table legs to keep them more secure.

 There's a table for standing.  If I were a student, this is one place I would utilize for sure.  I like standing  when I have a project spread out on a table.  I get a bird's eye view of my work.  You can see that she still has some traditional spots at tables too.  Sometimes these work best for students.

I have not made the leap as Nikki has in her classroom, but I am planning to make some different seating options this year.  I will still have mostly traditional desks, but I will provide more choice.  I plan to have at least 2 desks that are raised so that students may stand if they choose.  I also plan to have a low table with rugs much like Nikki has.

I know that I will need to establish some guidelines for use.  I can see that the novelty of choice may be a bit distracting at first.  But like all new things, the fascination wears off.

I know I have the expertise of teachers like Nikki to help me with working out the kinks.  In the end, I think it is worth it.  My goal is always for my students to be INDEPENDENT!   I think offering seating choices is a way to allow them to make choices that will ultimately enrich the learning in the classroom.  If students are physically uncomfortable the learning shuts down.  I certainly want to maximize our instructional time.

I think it would be a great research project to gather data on how many times students are out of seats, going to the bathroom, or just off task when no seating alternatives are offered.  Then take some data again when students have choice.  I don't know the correct way to conduct such a research project, but I can certainly do it informally for my own information.

Do you offer alternative seating in your classroom?  If so, how's it going?  What tips can you share for making it work?


  1. I don't use alternative seating, but I have been seeing a lot of people who do. I can't wait to see how it turns out. Be sure to share photos as you implement.

    Teaching Tidbits and More with Jamie

    1. I will certainly share how it is going. I really want to see if it has an impact on student engagement. Thanks for your comment!