#MURSDInspries Nov. 4
Flexible learning places and offering students flexible seating is something that elementary teachers have been accustomed to doing for a long time. I remember back to my own Kindergarten classroom where we had a treehouse! My third grade teacher, Jane Jackson, was even more innovative. She had designed a "bubble' out of a thicker plastic material. It was weighted at the bottom and was hooked up to a fan. When the fan was running, the bubble would inflate and students could climb into the bubble and read or do other school work. I remember having to close that door flap fairly quick or the bubble would start to deflate. It was large and could hold approximately half a dozen third-graders. Thinking back, it was probably a huge suffocation risk but I do remember loving it and being very motivated to read inside that bubble.
My beautiful classroom is well equipped with a desk for each child, a handicapped desk, a table and a bookcase. There is also a HUGE desk for me. This summer, I spent a ton of $$$ refreshing the flexible seating in my classroom (don't tell my husband!). It was time. Some of the cozy bucket seats I had previously had in the room were getting old and tired. I replaced them with 4 Big Joe bean bag chairs, 2 inflatable chairs that look like bean bag chairs and one circular bucket seat. We also have a number of stools and a couple of director's chairs in the classroom. Most students gravitate to the the alternative seating. When they're not camped out in one of these seats, they seek out a little nook. Kids seem to love to crawl into small spaces. They enjoy sitting under tables and against bookcases. Still, some will still choose to sit at traditional desks. I love the new additions to my classroom but when I look at pictures of our space, it doesn't look Pinterest worthy as some of the classrooms I've seen online.
I think I know why. I still have a ton of traditional furniture in my classroom. I don't want to part with all of it. I wouldn't mind parting with some of it though. For example, I'd love to get rid of about 8 student desks in favor of a couple of tables. I'd also love to get rid of my desk. It is massive and I NEVER sit at it. More than anything, I would miss the storage. I'm fairly certain that I could find a work-around for that problem though. The problem I can't seem to work around is student storage. Where does all their STUFF go when the desks are removed? I had a classroom eons ago with only tables. The district bought me milk crates to store student belongings. It was a nightmare. Their stuff seemed to be everywhere in plain sight. I hated it.
So, I guess I'm feeling a little stuck in the middle. I definitely offer kids a variety of seating choices. They seldom have to work at desks. However, my room does not bubble over with warmth. It doesn't say, "enter, and curl up with a book, you can't help but be happy here." That is my goal. I'm part way there. I'm hesitant to commit 100% because I have a few unanswered questions about storage but also because I'm not ready to permanently commit to parting with my furniture. Our building has NO storage. So, if I was to part with it, there is zero guarantee I'd get it back should I change my mind down the road.
I did find the above video inspiring. I love how at home the children seem. The space belongs to them. It is easy to tell that from the video. While I'm sure that the flexible learning spaces do foster greater engagement, and engagement certainly lends itself to achievement, I'm sure there is lots of eye-rolling when teachers from neighboring communities watch the video and see so much of their success (drop out rate, etc.) attributed to flexible seating. Don't get me wrong, because I really do love the idea. I'm willing to say that I'm sure flexible learning spaces are great for student learning. I just think that maybe we shouldn't go quite so overboard with our claims concerning achievement and its direct relationship to flexible learning spaces. It just seems like a big leap.
Here is what the flexible learning spaces look like in my room currently.
Here's what I want to add. I have a couple of friends who think they won't be a good fit for our fourth-grade classroom. Anyone use these? I can see adding three or four to my classroom. They're on sale for 10 @ $189. Anyone think they might be worth it.
I know that the learning spaces in my classroom have become a lot more inviting but I also know that there are still small things that I can do to meet the needs of all kids. I'm definitely open to trying new options.