Flexible seating is definitely a hot topic in classrooms. Teachers are noticing the traditional desk and chair is not always the best options for kids, and I am ALL FOR IT! There are so many flexible seating benefits, and I thought I would dive into the topic and discuss what flexible seating is and flexible seating benefits in terms of OT.
Don’t forget I have a ton of great PD sessions for teachers like you available!
What is Flexible Seating?
Flexible seating is pretty easy to understand and can be incorporated into a general education classroom setting very easily. Flexible seating is where the teacher gives students different options of seating besides traditional seating like a desk and chair. The flexible seating benefits range from better focus, to less distracting behaviors. A flexible seating classroom helps students learn in the best possible position.
Some flexible seating ideas are:
I always recommend teachers who are thinking of turning their traditional classrooms into flexible classrooms follow these three guidelines:
Keep It Flexible
The classroom should allow flexibility for all students. Some students learn best at a desk and chair, and these options should still be available to students and should not be taken away completely. Having alternative seating in the classroom is excellent, but you do not want it to become too overwhelming for students looking to learn from a standard desk and chair.
When bringing alternative seating to classrooms, teachers often want to get all the options they see on Amazon. Although they are fantastic, having too many choices can create a big mess (especially in the primary grades).
Choose 2-3 different flexible seating options for your students, and ensure you get a couple of each option. You also want to try and buy all the same color options when purchasing flex seating. If you see flexible chairs in orange you really like, buy them all in orange.
Have Rules With No Judgement
Do not use flexible seating as an award or a punishment. Yes, you should always have some rules regarding classroom flexible seating. You may say things like, “we do not throw the wiggle cushion, or we do not put scissors near the yoga ball.” Never use the seating option with judgment “ if you’re good, you can sit on a wobble stool, or if you are bad, I am going to take the bungee cords away.”
It’s essential to have rules to ensure the furniture lasts and is appropriately used, but we do not want kids to think they will only get to use it if they are good or won’t get to use it if they are bad. It is there for the child’s benefit, and they should use it when needed.
A Flexible seating classroom does not just form overnight. As a teacher, you should look at your students’ needs and the classroom flexible seating options available to you and try to create the best classroom environment. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your school’s OT, PT, or any other professional you think will have some good ideas! Many of the flexible seating benefits only come when all of the members of a team are on board and understand the process!
Want to share some flexible seating knowledge with your coworkers, family, and friends. Click the button above for a free Flexible Seating Cheat Sheet!
Successfully Establishing Flexible Seating In The Classroom
As an occupational therapist, I use task analysis to look at most things, and I am trained to break things down step by step. And I guess we are trained to see where the mistakes will be made. So I thought we’d apply some task analysis to flexible seating this way, you can be successful when you introduce the seating options the first time. Here are some ways to make sure your classroom gets it experience the flexible seating benefits.
Talk About Safety
First, talk about safety with your students. It’s important to discuss the correct way to use the furniture and the incorrect way. Yes, there are specific ways you want your students to use the furniture. You do not want them to fling bungee cords across the room or wobble so hard they fall off! Make sure to give examples of the correct ways to use it and the incorrect ways.
Move the Furniture Around
The first thing you want to do is move the furniture around the room. Moving the furniture means you allow all students to try the furniture, and you let Sally, Jim, and Lily try the equipment first and move it towards the student you think will benefit from it.
You may be surprised by which students benefit from the equipment. We do not want to use judgment. No judgment means you do not take a piece of equipment away from someone for being “bad,” and you do not want to give it to someone because they are “good.”
Discuss with the class why the furniture is coming into the classroom. Talk about how it can be challenging for our bodies to be quiet, and we may be looking out the window and not paying attention to the lesson. This furniture will help our brain work and focus while learning. We are taking what we know about the sensory system and applying it.
Sensory System And Flexible Seating Options
Finally, let’s talk about the different parts of our sensory system and how flexible seating options can benefit each one! It is incredible how our sensory system is one of the driving forces when it comes to being able to learn in the classroom. Here are some flexible seating benefits the sensory systems.
So how do you change visuals with flexible seating? You can use different lightbulbs (pink, blue). Different lighting can help us learn and see things better or worse. We have all been in a restaurant where we cannot read the menu because of the lighting. Different lighting will affect how our eyes see information and how we learn. Just dimming the lights often helps students. Choosing the correct lighting will benefit your students greatly!
You may want to include white noise, rain, and classical music; much research shows how classical music can help you learn. Some teachers use headsets to allow students to listen to a certain kind of music to help them. Using headsets helps if you have students who respond and work well with certain music because having multiple types of music playing aloud can become very crazy and distracting.
Just always remember sound can help organize and disorganize a classroom. Try out different types of music and see if you see a change in your students’ behaviors. Flexible seating benefits do not only come from a chair.
Chemosensory System (smell)
Although this is not as common in the classroom, it is becoming more popular. Oil diffusers are great ways to bring in different scents to the classroom. So many different blends are meant to be calming, stimulating, etc.
This is the big one, a huge sensory system we all have. One way you can bring in flexible seating and the tactile system is by introducing different clothing the children can wear. A soft fuzzy blanket in the reading corner or a weighted pad a student can put on their lap while working and sitting.
This is where you would introduce movement into the classroom. You may use wobble stools, rocker chairs, bungee cords, etc. These are the type of changes teachers may think of when they hear about flexible seating. The benefits of flexible seating and the vestibular system are allowing students movement, getting out extra energy when needed, and other movement-related ideas.
The proprioceptive system is another massive system that impacts the kids and their ability to be alert in the classroom. Flexible seating, such as yoga balls or bungee cords, which allow for movement in our muscles and joints, is a huge benefit with flexible seating!
Quick Overview Of Flexible Seating Benefits
Here is a quick breakdown of some flexible seating benefits.
- Allows students to engage more in learning due to being able to get what their body needs to learn.
- Allows the teacher to teach more without distractions/interruptions because all students have the proper equipment they need to learn.
- Teaches responsibility because students need to take care of the furniture and equipment so it does not break and can stay in the classroom.
- Shows students that the classroom is a judgment-free zone.
- Flexible seating helps the student’s sensory systems.
Being flexible and allowing your students the opportunities, furniture, and environment they need to learn is one of the most important things you can do as a teacher. The flexible seating benefits are endless, and there are so many ways to incorporate it into your classroom.
🎙 Listen to my Podcast Episode on the Life Skills 4 Kids Podcast! We discuss all things flexible seating!