elementary school · slice of life · vision therapy

Flexible Seating Options

Last week, I spent a couple of days working with third, fourth, and fifth-grade teachers on conferring and small group work. Even though I was focused on helping teachers with those areas, I spent time noticing good minilessons, strong classroom management, and differentiated learning environments.

I walked into a remarkable third-grade classroom that seemed to scream “everyone gets what they need” from the moment I crossed the threshold. After the minilesson, the students made an oral plan with their writing partner and went off to their focus spots. I looked around the room and noticed kids working in the following places:

  • At their desks sitting in a four-legged chair.
  • At their desks sitting on exercise balls.
  • By a bookshelf while writing on top of it.
  • On the floor or carpet with their writing sprawled out alongside them.
  • On a park bench (Yes, there was an actual park bench in this classroom!) with the writing beside the child.
  • In scoop chairs with the writing on the child’s lap.

I admired the way the classroom teacher honored each student’s work style. She knows every child is able to focus when they’re working comfortably. It was clear every student’s needs were met with diverse seating options. (NOTE: The class had 21 kids and there was not a single instance that I noticed of a child taking advantage of the flexible seating options. Impressive!)

Numerical saccades practice was more tolerable while standing.

On Friday afternoon, Isabelle was more fidgety than usual when it was time to do vision therapy homework. She couldn’t keep her tush in her chair. I invited her to stand up, but she kept one leg on the chair at all times, which meant the wiggling continued. As a result, her posture was off, which meant her Harmon Distance (i.e., the distance between a person’s elbow and middle knuckle on the middle finger) was incorrect. Hence, her ability to concentrate on the vision tasks was degraded. Yesterday, I made a suggestion: either sit or stand. She opted to stand. As soon as I moved the chair away, I noticed an immediate difference. Therefore, I gave her the choice to sit or stand again today. Again, she decided to stand. Since she had some practice with standing and completing the tasks yesterday, I noticed a marked difference in her ability to focus on the vision therapy tasks at-hand today. In fact, she finished quicker today than she had all week!

There are times kids need to sit. Sitting still is a skill we need to be successful in life. However, sitting still isn’t something we have to insist upon all of the time. As a parent, I often forget my child doesn’t learn and work like I do.  I was reminded, thanks to this third-grade teacher’s classroom filled with flexible seating options, that I can meet the needs of my own child by providing her with what she needs when she needs it.


To read more about flexible seating options for students, check out “Grab a Seat, Grab a Pen, & Get Appy” by Deb Frazier over at Two Writing Teachers.

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Head over to http://twowritingteachers.org on Tuesdays for more slice of life stories.

22 thoughts on “Flexible Seating Options

  1. I have found that teaching informs my life outside of school and my life outside of school informs my teaching – your ever observant and reflective mind allowed you to use what you saw and try it out with your daughter. We teacher/moms are a lucky lot. Yay Isabelle!

  2. Your daughter is fortunate to have such an observant and thoughtful Mom. Whether “others” down the road will be as flexible toward her remains to be seen. All teachers, including myself, have encountered kids who just can’t sit still for very long. I used to consider them annoying. Thanks to your insight, I now know there were options I hadn’t even thought of, but wish I had.

      1. I’ve got a wiggler too, and am forever hopeful his teachers will be tolerant of his need to move and stand instead of sit.

  3. There’s an excellent TED.ed talk about how we sit too much. Last year I had a student who gave a speech on standing desks, and I wish I had some in my classroom as well as at home. Standing is much better for us than sitting, and I think having it as an option would be a huge boost to learning for many students.

  4. I have a kiddo who stands when he is particularly engaged in math. It’s almost like he’s attacking it. When he reads he sits. Interesting stuff. I think we have to keep our options open and notice as you did with Isabelle, what works.

  5. We’ve started adding some Standing Tables in math class, which seem to be effective.
    I often let them choose where to sit with many of our technology projects (although one of my four classes needs much more harnessing and direction than the other three, so freedom of movement choice can get curtailed at times).
    I do wish I was even more in line with the “everyone gets what they need” idea that you noticed in that wonderful classroom. I am working on it, constantly.

    1. I always flocked to the standing computers at grad school when I had less than 30 minutes of work to do. I never really gave much thought to it back then, but I guess I had spent enough time sitting in class that standing felt good.

      All of us are works in progress. Thinking about something is the first step to making a positive change.

  6. How great that the classroom you visited had that vibe that taught you something that helped your daughter. It really is all a circle, this lifelong learning. I am happy to have some variety of seating in our classroom, including two standing desks. It is great when everyone feels like they get what they need:)

  7. It is easy to forget that individual students have individual needs. I have always enjoyed observing other teachers because I always learned something new. It is usually the simplest things I have forgotten but make such an impact on learning.

  8. I love reading about classrooms. I’ve been visiting some and even though I don’t have my own these days, it’s okay. I can celebrate and share the work of others. So good that your family is blooming now Stacey 🙂

  9. I remember when a young teacher in our building offered flexible seating (hard to do in middle school when the room often needs spaces for almost 30 students). But her room had a feeling that everyone was getting what they needed and that’s what mattered. Glad this is working for Isabelle. As someone who did speech therapy for years w/ my son, I appreciate your dedication to at-home homework.

    1. We did all of the speech therapy practice on the floor, way back when. Isabelle used to slide each “Kaufman card” (Do you know what those are?) undeneath my office door after she mastered each word.

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