How Flexible Seating Helped My Class Focus

Ever wondered if flexible seating can change up your classroom? Here's my experience about what happened when I introduced flexible seating in my class and how the class reacted.

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As a new or seasoned teacher, we have all had that anxious feeling at the beginning of the year of what our new class will be like. 

Thoughts like:  

  • What are their reading levels? 
  • How many IEPs will there be?
  • Which behavioral plans will work best?

Let me start by saying a few years ago..

I had that class. 🙄

You know the one I’m talking about- 

The one where all the other teachers look at your rambunctious  jumble of children poking each other at lunch, pushing each other in line or fighting over basically everything. 


This class can be completely exhausting. 💤 


But in this field- we all get at least one class like this,  


I can honestly say that when I had this specific group of children, I didn’t teach anything until December- my whole day was spent putting out one fire after another.    


It was only half way through the year and I was completely spent and burned out. 


Then one day, a much more seasoned teacher came into my room to just “observe”. 


The scene was horrific:

I was upfront “teaching” and there was 

  • one kid screaming
  • two kids arguing
  • one crying
  • & about 5 completely zoned out. 


This was my day… everyday.

And I didn’t get it- I had never struggled with classroom management before but for some reason I just couldn’t get this class together.

She told me I needed to give them more choices.

I Needed A Mindset Shift

“Take their desks away, put their stuff in little crates and let them choose where they sit everyday.” 

I was completely horrified at her advice. 


But like any grunt willing to do anything to make my classroom more successful, I tried it. 


Before I tell you more, let me start with the fact that used to be really traditional- students should sit in chairs at their desks and listen and do their best.


It took me some time to come around to this new idea & to be honest, I kinda thought this advice was nutty


But I am a firm believer, if you’re going to do and try something, try it all the way- so I did.

Creating a comfortable space

That night, I went online and bought 15 bins for my students to use as “their desks”.


Side note- I only had 13 students but decided that having a few extras might be a good idea. 


I took some old name tag strips that I had laying around my classroom and wrote their names on the bins. (Much like what you would do for their desk)

That night, I went online and bought 15 bins for my students to use as “their desks”.

I also pillaged through my old blankets, pillows, towels and asked friends & family for donations of anything they wouldn’t want back. ( months on a classroom floor- I throw everything away at the end of the year)

Next, when I got to school, I started “the real work”.

I decided that I would have sitting, kneeling & standing desks. So I either raised the height of the desk all the way up so students could comfortably stand, or lowered them all the way down to the ground and they could kneel on a pillow or blanket. The rest I left at regular height and they could sit in chairs. 

I organized all the pillows and blankets nicely in a corner and placed all of their bins on their desks and waited for the kids to come and we could start this “experiment”. 

So How Did The Kids Take It? 💭

When the kids walked in, I was excited at the thought of getting my classroom under control but nervous that this could go horribly awry. 


With the sort of class that I had, I knew that I had to be very clear and direct about my expectations for this new “freedom”. 


Once the kids moved into their bins, tore up their old name tags and we discussed expectations and practiced coming in the room in the morning and cleaning up in the afternoon- slowly but surely learning finally began to happen in my room- & it felt magical! 

The rule was that as long as I was not teaching, they could move if the desk was free.

For example: They are at a standing desk all morning and want to move to a kneeling desk. If I am not teaching, they are allowed to take their bin to the new desk. 

So you may be thinking- Why would you do this if you thought it wouldn’t work?

That’s a great question- let me tell you why. 

It comes down to one word: choice. 

The way my mentoring teacher explained it to me, the children have no chance to make any of their own choices. 

There is a sense of pride one can feel when they are given the chance to make their own decisions. 

Let me tell you, she was right.


And I knew she was right and I trusted her judgement. 

An added perk to this arrangement-  we now can get rid of the age old conundrum of having to sit next to the person you really don’t like.

In the end, I didn’t know it at the time but this “experiment” was about to change my entire outlook on teaching. 

I use flexible seating in my classroom every year now- and let me tell you, my kids LOVE it! 

Now It's Your Turn...


What do you think?

Have you tried flexible seating? Or something similar? 

I’d love to hear what you have found helpful in the comments below?

About The Author

Katie O'Brien

Katie O'Brien

Katie is a second grade teacher at a private school in Virginia. She focuses on teacher organization and strives to help other teaches become more organized.

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