There’s a trend in education right now. Flexible seating. All the cool teachers are doing it, and if you spend any time on Pinterest, you can see dozens of beautifully decorated classrooms sporting wobble stools, standing desks, plastic rocker chairs, and inflatable seat pads. These teachers swear that the kids are happier and more focused because they have more choices in their seating and because they get to move around more.
The classrooms look less like this:
and more like this:
(Okay, that last image might be a bit of an exaggeration.)
For a minute, I was sold. I started looking for grants to purchase all this nifty seating and began planning for what I would buy and how I would arrange it.
And then I thought a minute. Was I basing my idea to change my entire classroom on a bunch of snazzy photos and some blog posts? Where was the research to back this up?
To be honest, I hadn’t seen any. Even now, when I go to Google Scholar to look for research on flexible seating in education, there don’t seem to be a lot of research studies there. This isn’t to say that anecdotal evidence is no good. But when I have a classroom that functions pretty well, why do I want to mess with it just because some pretty pictures got me all twitterpated?
I needed to rethink.
Already in my middle school classroom, I do what I can to get kids up and moving. On most days, half way through the 55-minute class period, I make the kids stand up and get out their wiggles. I’ll have them stretch, march, take a lap around the room, or try some coordination activities (like rubbing your tummy while patting your head, but more advanced). When students are reading on their own or working on writing assignments, I allow them to move around the room. I have three comfy chairs they can use, and many of them like to sit on the floor.
All of this seems to work pretty well. Why am I eager to ditch my desks?
Admittedly, my kids don’t love the student seating I have in my room. The chair is attached to the desk on the right side, and left-handed kids hate it because when they write, their left arm is unsupported unless they twist themselves into a strange position in the seat. If the short kids drop a pencil or book on the right side, someone next to them has to pick it up because the bar prevents them from reaching it. The desks are small, and you can’t put them in pods because the writing surface is slanted and they aren’t flush when you push them together.
Still, is this a reason to toss them out entirely and replace them all with squashy couches and giant exercise balls?
The science classroom down the hall is getting lab tables to replace the desk and chair sets there. Then, I’ll get those sets, which are nicer than mine; the desks are bigger and they aren’t attached to the chairs. I can try pods and other groupings instead of the rows that seem to be the only workable solution in my class. And as always, I’ll keep doing “brain breaks” to get my kids up and moving.
But until I see some really strong research supporting flexible seating, I’m keeping my standard furniture.
What do you think? Am I crazy? Stuck in the dark ages?