15 Awesome Ideas for your Flexible Classroom

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Flexible seating is all the rage in classrooms from elementary school to high school. If you’ve never heard of it before, flexible seating means rethinking the seating in your classroom to better meet the varied learning styles of your students. At its most extreme, it means removing some or all desks from your classroom and bringing in a wide variety of other seating options, everything from stability balls to beanbags to floor cushions. Many classrooms that utilize flexible seating end up looking and feeling more like a cozy bookstore cafe or neighborhood coffee shop.

Ready to try flexible seating yourself? These 15 tips cover everything you need to know, from the ceiling to the floor – and everything in between. 

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1. Post the rules 

Whatever your rules are, they need to be posted. Many teachers embracing flexible seating take the opportunity here to make their flexible seating rules into a well-designed poster that helps convey the overall classroom theme.

2. Flexible seating violation citation

A fun way to communicate a rules violation – and get the rule-breaker back on track – is to issue a flexible seating violation. You might issue a warning citation first, and then an actual ticket that comes with a consequence, such as not being able to choose a seat for the rest of the week. 

3. Lap desks and clipboards

Flexible seating comes with some practical challenges that a clever teacher will need to troubleshoot. One such problem is the lack of writing surfaces. If you remove desks from a classroom, suddenly the surface that students use to complete their writing on is gone, too. There are lots of ways to solve this, but one smart idea is to invest in lap desks or clipboards so that students can cozy up on a sofa and still be able to complete their work. 

4. Theme

Some teachers who utilize flexible seating turn to a theme to unify the new classroom decor. While a theme is by no means required, if you’re going for an Instagram-worthy space, consider selecting a theme to make the classroom decor and seating cohesive. This theme could be derived from a teacher’s interests or the students’ in order to personalize the space. 

Looking for theme ideas? Check out these 30 awesome classroom ideas!

5. Color scheme

Along the same lines, you may want to consider a color scheme when selecting new furniture for your flexible seating. You might find primary colors to be a great design element, especially in an elementary setting, or you might find pastel colors to be a more soothing choice. A monochrome color scheme will give your space a chic, modern feel. 

6. Floor coverings 

You’ll find that many teachers who adopt flexible seating also incorporate floor coverings along with their new furniture. More often than not, this means a few soft rugs that can cozy up the space. These rugs often have a practical purpose, too – in the spirit of the flexible seating philosophy, students may opt out of a seat entirely, preferring instead to use the floor as their workspace. Just be sure to pick something that can be easily cleaned. 

7. Use tires

Surplus tires are a new trend in flexible seating. Teachers like them because they are sturdy, easy to clean, easy to paint and often free. Tires stores have to dispose of tires properly, and if you tell them you’re a teacher and need tires for your classroom, chances are good you’ll pay only a marginal price – if, that is, they don’t let you have them for free!

8. Lighting

You covered the floors with new rugs, now it’s time to consider the ceiling – or at least the lighting in your space. Harsh fluorescent lights don’t really match the vibe that teachers are trying to achieve with flexible seating, so switching to lamps and fairy lights might feel like a natural choice. 

9. Install a variety of soft seats

Beanbags, hammocks, papasan chairs, floor cushions, and sofas all offer a soft, cozy seat that is perfect for reading, studying, writing or quiet conversations among peers. Just be sure to check with your custodial staff about fire code first, and make sure you consider how you will clean these surfaces if (when) they get dirty. Find out what the most popular flexible seating options are here.

10. Plan for storage

If elementary schools especially, moving to flexible seating means eliminating storage space, especially for students who used to stash their pencil cases and books inside their individual desks. Whereas high school students have lockers, primary school students need to store their supplies in their classroom. Some teachers solve this by using only communal supplies, while others use milk crates or storage totes so that students still have an individual space for their supplies. 

11. Learning standing up 

Flexible seating is all about students feeling comfortable in a space that honors their learning style. While some students might like to curl up in a cozy chair or stretch out on the floor, others learn best while standing up. Two options for this learning style are standing desks and balance boards

12. Floor spots

These handy dandy stickers help teachers organize where seats should go in a classroom. They can be stuck to the floor to help students see exactly where they should return seats at the end of a class session. 

13. Keep some conventional desks

Just as some students learn best standing up or laying down, some students do best using traditional classroom desks. Switching to flexible seating doesn’t have to mean getting rid of all of your desks. Instead, consider keeping a few and adding yet another seating option to your redesigned space. 

14. Cleaning supplies

Classrooms get messy, no doubt about it. New seats are new spaces that also need to be cleaned. Most seating options have a smooth surface that is easy to wipe down. Keeping some cleaning supplies handy, like wipes, cleaning spray, and rags means that giving seats a quick once-over can become an easy part of your classroom routine. 

15. Fidget seats 

Another category of seats you might want to incorporate into your classroom are seats that allow students some movement. These include rocking chairs, balance balls, and wobble seats

16. Create spaces 

Unlike conventional classroom seating arrangements, teachers who adopt flexible seating as a philosophy set up their rooms a bit differently. Seats are often clumped together into small spaces to create cozy nooks around the classroom. This serves to break up the space and easily allows for collaborative work.

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I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

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