The “traditional” classroom consists of hard desks with rigid chairs and not a lot of color. Some teachers are throwing out the “traditional” classroom look for alternative classroom seating. What does that mean? Let’s explore!
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What is alternative classroom seating?
Alternative classroom seating is the use of different types of seating equipment in the classroom; for example, a teacher may switch out his/her desks for cushions, yoga balls, bean bag chairs, couches, etc.
By switching out the traditional seating pieces for more vibrant, and let’s be honest, more comfortable seating options, there is so much that you can gain!
Benefits of alternative seating
There are so many benefits that come along with alternative seating and they aren’t all academic. When alternative seating is introduced to the classroom, you may see the following benefits:
- Improved Participation: When students are comfortable physically, they become more willing to open up emotionally as well. They feel more vulnerable and safe in the classroom making it easier for them to participate without the fear of feeling “dumb.”
- Improved Behavior: Students will start to focus more and be a little less restless because they are using some of their energy on balancing (especially if you use a yoga ball) or lightly bouncing on the ball. These little actions keep kids focused on the important things rather than causing a disruption.
- Higher Academic Performance: Because you are improving your participation, which includes listening and talking, and you are improving behavior, you are naturally going to see higher academic success because students are actually learning more. Whenever you have to battle behavior, learning is lost not only for the student being disciplined but the other students as well.
So you know the benefits of alternative classroom seating and maybe you’re a little bit more intrigued about it. How do you get started?
Whenever you are introducing something new in your classroom it can cause anxiety for you and for some of your students as well. If you decide to implement alternative seating in your classroom, here are a few things you should to help make the transition smooth.
Step 1: Set Boundaries
You need to make sure that you set some boundaries or rules for the alternative seating options. Not only will you want to inform students about these boundaries, you will want to talk to parents as well.
There are several ways you can do this. A contract that you, the student, and the parents have to sign is a good way to go. Another option would be a simple letter home. To decide which is best, assess your students and parents. Then, determine whether a contract is necessary or a letter home will suffice.
Step 2: Model the Behavior
Alternative classroom seating isn’t only good for students’ focus it is good for your focus as well. When you sit down, use some of the alternative seating options and model what good behavior is.
This becomes especially important when you are using several different types of seating. When introducing each flexible seating option, it is a good idea to practice the wrong way and the right way to use the seating.
Step 3: Mix It Up
You should have multiple different options (which will be discussed in this blog). You need to allow students to explore all of them! This is new to your students and you so you can’t do a “one and done” type of seating arrangement.
Allow students to test out each type of seat and decide which one is best for them. Students may sit on the yoga ball and decide that maybe it’s a little distracting. Perhaps it makes them ache and therefore unable to focus.
Step 4: Utilize Parents
Parents can be your best friend in and outside of the classroom. Help parents get into this alternative seating in your classroom by talking to them about the benefits and asking them to sponsor some of the equipment you might need.
Your district might not be on board with alternative seating right away so you will probably have to provide many of the seating arrangements. If you get parents to “sponsor” one piece of furniture, it saves you a couple of bucks and gets them involved.
Keep in mind not all items need to be bought. If parents have “old” but still usable chairs or beanbags, use them!
Once you get your students ready and the time to throw out the desks and bring in the new is here, you’ll need to find some seating options. There are so many that you can choose from. Below is a list of a few to get you started.
Alternative Seating Equipment Options
There are so many different options you can choose from and they each have their pros and their cons.
Rolling in the New Equipment
A balance ball is a great choice for students because it helps them burn energy while learning coordination skills. It can help students focus by letting them bounce lightly or rock back and forth. If your class isn’t good at boundaries, it might not be the best piece to start with. Nonetheless, you can get this great seating option for under 20 dollars on Amazon.
Other “ball” options include the peanut balls for around 35 dollars each. The shape of the peanut balls is a little more stable so students can rock back and forth but not get too crazy. The Mo-Ball Stability Ball Chair is a bit more expensive at 70 dollars but it offers more stability while being on wheels.
If a ball isn’t quite your style, you don’t think your students can handle it, or you want to have diverse options, you can add in a stool. Amazon has a great stool set that is very colorful. You can get five stools for right around 60 dollars which is very reasonable and can really liven up your classroom.
The good thing about stools is they add diversity to your classroom but they are still somewhat rigid. Again, you can (and really should) use a variety of options.
There are many other stools you can choose from such as the Kore Wobble Stool that sways from side to side for 50 dollars or more. The ergoErgo Seat is an “accordion-style base” that pushes down when you sit down on it but it lets you move from side-to-side. It has three sizes and a variety of colors but is costly at 75 dollars.
Back to Basics
When we think about seating, sometimes we forget the old reliable spot: the floor. While furniture is great, there is always room on the floor and some people really enjoy sitting on the floor. If you are going to give students this option, there are some products you can purchase to make the floor more comfortable.
For example, Amazon sells a “SoftZone Floor Cushion” that has a handle so students can hold on to them and move around. This cushion comes in a variety of colors and is sold for 70 dollars for a pack of six, really reasonable!
The floor can get crowded or may not be a popular spot but making it an option will make at least one student’s day.
Other floor products you can purchase to make the floor more appealing include the “Lakeshore Comfy Floor Seat” that looks like a chair you’d sit on in the boat. This seat will take you to a relaxing lake for the low price of 50 dollars. There are also scoop rockers for less than 55 dollars.
One thing to think about if you are going to have students sit on the floor is a lap desk tray. This will help students stay organized and give them a place to get their work done.
There are so many ways you can use alternative classroom seating in your classroom and the benefits are enormous. So, instead of keeping up with the same-old-same-old, spice up your classroom with a new plan! You are sure to see better focus, an easy to manage energy level, and overall more engagement. Isn’t that the dream?
To help in your planning, I have created this guide for you to download and help with shopping or setting up Donor’s Choose projects for your alternative classroom seating.