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Flexible Seating 5 Secrets for Success

I remember the first time I ever saw a photo of a classroom with flexible seating. I just knew I had to teach in a space like that! I spent the entire summer getting ready to transform my classroom!

After lots of planning and shopping, it was finally time to set up my classroom! My WOBBLE chairs and Scoop Rockers were all unpacked. My Ball Chairs and Wobble Cushions were inflated and ready to go. I had a low table and a high table and small tables. My room was set up beautifully and then I panicked...


The night before my kiddos came, I was so nervous. I debated hiding all of my flexible seating options and just using traditional chairs to start the year. I haven't been that nervous since my first year teaching! It took all of my teacher courage to stick with it, but I am so glad I made the decision to be brave and launch flexible seating!

Here are 5 secrets to success that made it work!

#1 Smart Spots
If you've been a teacher for more than 5 minutes, you know the importance of teaching and modeling everything...and repeating the process...and repeating it again! The same is absolutely true for flexible seating! Without modeling and practice, it could be chaotic.

After hours of searching on Pinterest, I found lots of cute anchor charts and seating signs, but I could not find what I needed to introduce flexible seating. What I wanted was a big book that would really help me TEACH my kiddos what to do....so I created one.

My kiddos fell in love with the idea of Smart Spots. Smart Spots are places they can choose to go to do their best work. The book included expectations for all the different kinds of seats in our classroom. We meet on the rug for whole group lessons, and then kiddos can choose their own Smart Spots for independent or partner practice.

For the first couple weeks of school, we read our Smart Spots book EVERY day. It stayed at our literacy center for months, and the kids loved rereading it with pointers! If I ever notice a few kids are not choosing Smart Spots, I get out the book and we read it again.

#2 Simple Seating
While on Pinterest, I found lots of ideas for scheduling or rotating seating options. I am impressed by teachers who can remember who sat in a ball chair last Thursday and who had the pink rocker yesterday, but I simply can't do it. For that reason, we don't have any rotation board or schedule.

Our seating really is flexible. My first graders pick Smart Spots all day. They sit in several different spots throughout the day, and that's okay with me. I was initially worried that they may race for certain seats, but that hasn't really happened. It's been interesting to see their individual preferences switch from ball chairs, to low tables, to rockers, to baskets and back again. Everyone gets to try everything, and I don't have to organize it! These are some of out favorite spots.

#3 Boxes, Bins, and Baskets
You've got kids working all over the room, but you don't want supplies scattered across the floor all day! We have some community supplies and some individual supplies. Each kiddo has their own pencil box and their own bin. Their pencil boxes are filled with pencils, crayons, markers, glue sticks, etc. The outside of their pencil boxes have nametags on them. I always liked having nameplates on desks to reference things, and I didn't want to lose that tool. Now they just carry it with them!

Everyone also has a bin. These storage drawers from Ikea were an investment, but I LOVE them! They are extremely durable and easy to use! The kids each have a sliding bin to store their journals, pencil boxes, notebooks, folders, etc. At the beginning of the year, I had towers of drawers side by side, but I realized that it gets crowded quickly. I spread the towers out around the room so it's easier to get out supplies or clean up.

If your kids have bags of independent reading books, they could keep them in the sliding bin as well. We have extra bins for our independent reading books. These clear bins are from Oriental Trading. We keep them spread out on shelves all around the room too!

All of our bins have simple number labels so they can be used year after year. I love personalized things, but I just don't have time to recreate oodles of labels each year! At the beginning of the year, I put a piece of painters tape on each drawer and wrote the name of kiddo who was assigned that number. When everyone knows their numbers, just peel off the tape!

There's also a spot for community supplies with clear labels.  The kids can get out these supplies and clean them up without help from me.

#4 Repair and Reuse
I have some good news and some bad news. The bads news is that if you poke a ball chair with a pointy pencil it really will pop. It doesn't pop like a balloon, but it quickly deflates so whoever is sitting there will slowly start sinking to the floor.

The good news is that you can repair it using a Tear-Aid Vinyl Repair Kit. These heavy duty patches are made to be waterproof and they work well for patching ball chairs. And just a little more bad news, if you pick or peel the patch, the chair will deflate again. We have learned all of these lessons this year. I also learned you can order Ball Chair Replacement Balls so there's always that option too!

#5 Flexibilty First
Flexible seating does require....ready for it....flexibilty. Don't run away Type A friends- you can do this! I have rearranged tables and moved rugs throughout the year to fit what we need. I am already planning a new reading nook to try before the end of the year (more on that later). I have gotten some new seating options for next year too!

Even if we are always moving, I know one thing that won't change- we are sticking with flexible seating!

Who Will Get the Last Word? Classroom Game

When I am planning new classroom games, I am always looking to get the most bang for my buck! I try to create activities that I can use for lots of different skills. This way I only have to teach the game once, but we can play it again and again!

Who Will Get the Last Word? is one of my favorite games! You can use it for spelling, vocabulary, sight words, or even math. It is an easy game to prep, and it really keeps your kiddos engaged!
Before playing the game, you will need some teacher cards. I use a Sharpie Fine Point marker and index cards to make my teacher cards. On each card, write down one word. For example, if you are learning a new spelling pattern, you will need one card for each one of your new spelling words.

When it’s time to start playing, each kiddo will need a dry erase board and a EXPO 2-in-1 Double Sided Dry Erase Marker. You will show them all the words on your teacher cards, and they will write them on their dry erase boards.  They will use one color to write all the words except for ONE! They will choose which word they think will be the “Last Word” and write that word using the opposite side of their markers.

Make sure they only pick one word to write with a different color! It should be easy to see which word they picked as the “Last Word.” Remind your kids that they may not change the color of their words once you start the game.

Once the kiddos have their boards ready, collect all the cards and put them in a cup or basket. Pull out the cards one at a time and give them a clue. If you are practicing a spelling pattern, you might say, cross off “s-t-a-r.” Keep giving clues until you just have one card left.

The children who wrote the “Last Word” with the different color are the winners! You can give them a little treat or reward like stickers or mini-erasers. Once you know how to play, it’s fun to play during lots of different subjects!

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Thank you Go Teach! for sponsoring my post! All opinions are my own!

Bright & Clean Classroom Design

If you are a teacher, you understand why a classroom should feel like a home. You spend countless hours there, and you share that sacred space with some of the sweetest kiddos. You understand why a classroom should be a place that fits the needs of teachers and children. I have always. ALWAYS. always. loved the design of my classroom, but this year I decided to change almost everything.

I decided that I wanted a classroom that was clean, bright, and kid-friendly. I wanted a space that felt less cluttered and more open. I wanted our supplies to be organized and accessible. This transformation was not possible overnight. I spent months researching flexible seating and classroom designs. I had trouble finding other classrooms that fit my design, so I started pinning pictures of bright, clean playrooms instead.

I found lots of classroom materials on clearance and saved them for the upcoming year. I also met with our school PTO over the summer and told them about flexible seating. They generously purchased ball chairs and wobble stools for our new flexible seating options.

A week before school started, I was allowed back into my classroom to start my design overhaul. I am thrilled to show you around our classroom!

To make my classroom feel more open, I asked our custodians to remove some of the student desks. I got rid of my teacher desk a few years ago, and I honestly have never missed it. When I was setting up my classroom, I had 27 kiddos on my roster. It was important that all of my kiddos have a solid work surface for when the art teacher comes to the classroom. I was required to keep some desks in my classroom so I turned them around to make small tables (all of the openings are turned inward so they are hidden).

I took the legs off of a standard table to make it low and raised another table as high as possible. This gives my kiddos lots of choices for working if they need a solid surface. They absolutely love working at the low table!

These little tables from Ikea are perfect for partners and centers. Kiddos can sit there throughout the day. During centers, we use one for STEM and one for Draw and Write.  I covered the top of one table with some chevron contact paper to give it a little extra style and protect the surface during art.

My kiddos can also choose to work while lying on the floor with clipboards, sitting in scoop rockers, or relaxing inside laundry baskets with pillows. My pillows are indoor/outdoor pillows from Walmart and the baskets are from Target. I have four little armchairs in our library areas that kiddos can also use for working and reading. I got one set at Target a few years ago and another set was donated by my mom!

Once I had all of our seating options set, I needed to figure out how to organize everything. I keep my teacher supplies on the counter in our classroom. I use Sterilite drawers and a teacher tool box to organize all of the things that used to be in my desk. I got them both from Amazon. I store my copies, books, and materials for upcoming lessons in these drawers too. You can download the teacher tool box labels  and the FREE storage drawer labels too!

Our shared classroom supplies are kept in baskets on the front table. I had to have these colorful baskets from Big Lots so I bought them and then spray painted one of them pink. The bright labels with photographs have been a huge success! We keep our morning tub materials in clear Sterilite containers on a cart from Michaels. The kids can quickly see where everything is organized, and you know they love to help clean up!

My kiddos keep their personal supplies in storage drawers from Ikea. They are really durable and perfect for holding everything we need during the day. I spread them out around the room to avoid a pile up in one area of the classroom. I attached a number to each drawer. If you're anything like me, it takes you a while to memorize everyone's number so I also wrote their names on strips of painter's tape. I stuck the tape to the front of the drawers before school started so we could all remember which drawer belonged to which kiddo. When everyone knows their number (including you) just peel off the tape!

Each kiddo also has a book bin to keep their independent reading materials and library books. These are also spread out around the room with our book baskets. Shelves from Target fit my baskets from Big Lots and book bins from Oriental Trading perfectly. You can download the colorful number and library labels.

Our classroom library also got fresh labels with photographs. All of the categories have matching stickers that print on mailing labels so it's easy for kiddos to return their favorite books. Just attach the stickers to the front or back of your books. 

Our school has a School Wide Positive Behavior System so I needed a place for my kiddos to keep their "Rocket Fuel." Everyone gets a cup that is stored inside a clear shoe organizer. The numbers are from my Colorful Calendar set. It's easy to drop in more "Rocket Fuel" into a cup during the day, but we can also take out the whole cup when it's time to count and cash in!

I wanted everything to look fresh and bright, but I still believe in the importance of environmental print in the classroom. I only hung things that I knew my kiddos would use as they grow as readers and writers. We use our word wall and word helper posters ALL. THE. TIME! You can download all of the Word Helper Posters for FREE.

After a few months of learning in our bright and clean classroom, we are still loving this space! I have lots of tips and tricks to help organize and introduce flexible seating so check back soon for those upcoming posts!

You can follow me on Pinterest to see discover more ideas for bright and clean classroom design!

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