ELA: Student Centered Teaching
Have you heard of flexible seating? Many teachers are transforming their classrooms in an effort to make their learning spaces more student-centered. The idea is based around creating a learning environment that is appealing to everyone. Each student has an option that fits their personality. Students are given the chance to be responsible in their choices. If they cannot learn responsibily, the teacher then assigns the seating location and type.
Gone are the days of desks and rows. In today's world, it is important to teach students how to collaborate and work through solving problems. Flexible seating allows students to use their environment to their comfort level, while taking the learning into their own responsibility. Flexible seating allows for more student buy-in, creativity, collaboration, and to prepare to enter a workforce that requires collaboration. This type of seating eliminates distractions from uncomfortable desks to allow more focus on daily class activities. If a new project dictates a change in the room design, the change must takes place.
This approach affects the teacher's workspace drastically. The room is designed wall to wall to fit the student's needs, not the teacher's. White boards are no longer used for teacher directed information; instead, students use them as a resource during their brainstorming and processing activities. Instead of the teacher's desk and shelves taking up 25% of the room space as in most classrooms, I have taken a radical shift and moved towards a standing lecturn and removed the larger teacher desk. This step eliminates the possibility that a teacher is stuck in one location as often happens. Instead, I am required to operate as a part of daily the classroom activities as a member of the new learning process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are you still updating your room?
Yes! I have not completed my overall transformation. The students and I have made progress. We have eliminated most of the desks, but we still offer tables to be used as conference areas. Desks are still available for students who prefer those. We currently offer a small couch, bean bag chairs, a bench, and rugs. Somethings I am still looking for: Large area rug, tall tables that allows students to stand, bar stools in case they don't want to stand, a tall book shelf to replace my two wide metal ones, comfortable chairs.
Do you have furniture you are looking to throw away or donate? Please contact me!
Did you have any challenges with students choosing to sit next to their friends and getting distracted?
The benefits far outweigh the challenges when it comes to students sitting next to their friends. Going back to my classroom rights, our room is based around responsibility and respect. I also reserve the right to move anyone at any time. My students enjoy having the opportunity to sit next to a friend but also realize that there are no warnings involved. If they are not working, I get to move them. It has an interesting way of being its own built-in incentive program.
Did you encourage the class to try out each seating option before setting them completely free to choose or did you just set the expectations and then you let them choose?
When introducing my students to flexible seating, I encouraged them to try out each spot within the first week. I stress the importance of self-awareness. The students are responsible for finding what feels best for them and what kind of seating will make them the best learner that they can be. One seating option may work for note taking, but may not work for group collaboration. Students are expected to move around based on the assignment and task, which helps with complacency.
Where do you put all of their stuff?
Students keep it with them. Creative arts type of stuff I typically have, but in limited quantities. Because all students have one binder with all their stuff, they take it with them. Resources such as textbooks and novels are kept in our student resource section.
Do you find that it takes time to pass out and collect assignments?
No. Students are very responsibly and helpful when materials need to be passed out. With our new workshop design, students also meet with me in smaller groups for instruction rather than the large whole class design found in most classrooms. This allows students to receive their materials much easier as well as smaller teacher to student ratio when teaching. Students are also responsible for turning in their assignments in the designated shelf.
Where did you buy everything that you use for flexible seating?
So far, I have found a few items on Amazon, Offer up, and tables around the school that have not been used. Some very gracious parents have donated several of our more sought out options like a bench, couch, lamps, and floor pillows. I am always looking for more options if you have furniture that you are looking to rehome.