The 10 Most Popular Seat Types For Today’s Flexible Seating Classroom

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Flexible seating is a trend that is sweeping through the teaching world like wildfire. At its simplest, flexible seating is a classroom seating arrangement that allows students to select a seat that is most conducive to their learning style (of course, the teacher can still assign seats, too!). In the flexible seating model, teachers replace their traditional desks with alternative seating types, allowing students flexibility in where they place themselves throughout the classroom on a given day.

If you are just beginning to walk down the flexible seating path, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices available. Any Pinterest or Google Image search will yield drool-worthy flexible seating classrooms, but where to begin? The good news is that putting together a classroom filled with flexible seating options isn’t hard at all – it’s a bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. The types of seats you will use are your pieces, and how you arrange them is up to you.

Here are 10 seating options you’ll want to consider incorporating as you plan out your flexible seating classroom.

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1. Couch

The couch is the cornerstone of a classroom employing flexible seating. It’s the most sought-after seat in the room, which gives you, the teacher, leverage to use the couch as a reward for students who have earned it. Couches come in many forms: sectionals, loveseats, sofas, chaise lounges. Whatever you select should be big and comfy.

2. Adirondack chair

Adirondack chairs, invented in 1903 by Thomas Lee while vacationing in the Adirondack Mountains with his family, feature a sloped seat, a tall back, and wide armrests running parallel to the ground. Traditional Adirondack chairs are made from wood and run easily over $100 online, which is a bit steep for a teacher’s budget. Luckily, big box retailers like Lowes and Target, and many local hardware stores, are now selling plastic Adirondack chairs that cost about $20 and come in a wide variety of colors from pastel blue to bright red. As a bonus, these plastic chairs are lightweight and easy to wipe down.

3. Barstool

A nice consideration for a flexible seating classroom is to offer seats at a variety of heights. Bar stools around a bar counter or bar table offer a tall seating option for students inclined to sit toward the back or sides of a classroom. Bar stools come in a wide variety of options, allowing you to select the style and color that best matches your aesthetic.

4. Papasan chair

A papasan chair is basically a big bowl-shaped chair that rests on a stand, allowing the chair’s angle to be adjusted. A comfortable cushion rests in the bowl, enveloping the seated person in a big chair hug. You can find papasan chairs that cost in the neighborhood of $65 made from a wicker or rattan frame with a big fabric cushion. New chairs, styled after the papasan, have recently hit the market, including the bungee chair, which would be a great option for any classroom. The bungee chair is shaped like a bowl but the frame is made from durable bungee cords strung between a steel frame, creating another lightweight option.

5. Beanbag chair

The beanbag chair is a perfect classroom lounge space. They are inexpensive and come in a wide variety of colors, fabric options, and sizes. Choosing a vinyl fabric or other wipe-able fabric is a good choice because these chairs will be among the most popular in a classroom with flexible seating.

6. Exercise ball

An exercise ball, sometimes called a yoga ball or stability ball, costs about $20 and is a fun choice for any classroom. Students love bouncing on them, and they can help develop good posture, too. Because exercise balls are, well, balls as opposed to chairs with legs, they do pose a logistical problem in that they like to roll around the classroom unless you devise a parking station that keeps them in place after use.

7. Scoop seat

Much more appropriate for an elementary classroom rather than a secondary room, scoop seats are nonetheless great choices for primary-aged children. These seats are, as the name suggests, scoop-shaped. They sit at the floor level and have a slight rocking function to them. Made from plastic, they are small and lightweight enough for students to pull them around the classroom as you or they desire.

8. Yoga mat

Whereas bar stools allow students to sit up high, yoga mats accommodate the students who wish to sit on the floor at a low-lying table. They are inexpensive and come in an endless array of colors/patterns. A bonus is they offer easy storage because they roll right up.

9. Director’s chair

Director’s chairs come in a variety of heights and they can be easily scattered around the room in pairs. These chairs have a wooden frame with a fabric seat and back. They are surprisingly durable and they fold up, so storage and moving them is easy.

10. Traditional desk

No matter what flexible seating choices you offer, some students will always prefer the traditional desk or table and chair option. Flexible seating doesn’t mean doing away with student desks entirely, it just means offering other options, too. Some students feel safe and secure in the traditional seating environment, so keep a few of those traditional desks around, too.


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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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