Flexible Seating in the Secondary Classroom Post #2: Planning

Implementing Flexible Seating Social Media Graphic (1)In my previous post, the first post in my ongoing series on flexible seating, I laid out my rationale for implementing flex seating in my high school English classroom. In this post, I’ll walk you through my planning process.

The first thing to mention here is timing: I waited until summer vacation to plan out my flexible seating in earnest, and I’m glad I did. It took me about the entire month of August to go through these steps from start to finish — and honestly, I could have done even more if I had started earlier.

It’s also important to acknowledge that I wasn’t starting totally from scratch with flexible seating in my classroom; the year before, I had already brought in one armchair, a rug, & curtains (from a previous, post-college apartment), two wingback armchairs (from my in-laws), and a side table and a couple of pillows (purchased new). So my goal was to add several new types of flex seating options while incorporating these with my existing ones to create a cohesive and functional whole.

  1. Reevaluate the Floor Plan

 

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My 2018-2019 classroom floor plan — I mostly stayed faithful to this vision

I began by reevaluating my classroom floor plan. For those of you looking to redesign your classroom, Ashley Bible from Building Book Love created the Classroom Design Challenge to guide teachers through the entire process. I didn’t complete the full challenge, but I did complete Task 5: designing a new floor plan using floorplanner.com

 

 

In designing the floor plan, I tried to do a few things:

  • Incorporate the existing furniture I already had
  • Offer a mix of traditional and non-traditional seats
  • Create different “zones” of the room that could be suited to different types of activities

Making the floor plan before doing anything else was useful for two reasons. First,

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My new quiet corner — students love it for reading

it helped me to realize that I should try to work with some of the weird/unchangeable architecture of my room — for example, I decided to turn the built-in countertops into a seating area with stools and the empty corner into, as Bob Dillon calls it on Cult of Pedagogy, a “space for quiet.” And second, it allowed me to determine, in advance, what specific furniture pieces I needed to acquire to achieve my ideal floor plan rather than shopping blindly and potentially wasting money on items my students wouldn’t need or use.

 

2. Decide on “Must Haves” vs. Wish List Items

After making my floor plan, I sorted the stuff I wanted into two categories: “must haves” and “wish list items.” The must haves included large furniture pieces like a futon, 2-3 low stools, a bookcase, and a big round table. These pieces would be integral to executing the floor plan I laid out. The other pieces, like a standing floor lamp, a second side table, or a second rug, would be nice, but not necessary.

3. Find (and Fund) the “Must Haves”

I now had a much better idea of what specific pieces I needed and could be more targeted in my search. I was willing, as I think many of us are, to spend some of my own money fulfilling my vision, but I simply didn’t have enough to shop for all of it new. So here’s what I did instead:

  • I posted on social media. I let my friends and family know which “must have” items I was looking for. It worked! A former classmate of mine (now a teacher herself) hooked me up with an awesome large, round table that her school was getting rid of. The only money I spent on it was the gas it took me to get there.
  • I went thrift shopping. Over and over again. I got in the habit of checking the
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    Thrift store chair + free books for being a teacher

    local consignment store about once a week, waiting for the perfect items to appear. And eventually they did! I found two low stools for my counter area at $7 and $13, respectively, and this amazing yellow armchair for $33. (It wasn’t technically on my must-haves list, but it was too beautiful and reasonably priced to say no!)

  • I created a GoFundMe and shared it with friends and family. I didn’t aggressively fundraise, but I did create a GoFundMe and shared it around thinking that maybe a few people I knew would want to would kick in a few bucks. I was right, and I received enough to offset the cost of most of my thrift store purchases.
  • I scoured Facebook marketplace. This is eventually how I found the PERFECT lightly used teal futon for my classroom one town over from me.
  • I mentioned I was a teacher. Often, especially at the thrift store, people would be willing to give me a teacher discount for items I was purchasing for my classroom. One time the manager let me choose a few books for my classroom library for free (pictured above)!
  • A final funding resource I didn’t explore (but may in the future) is Donors Choose. Donors Choose allows teachers to create online fundraising campaigns (similar to GoFundMe or Kickstarter) specifically for classroom items. It would be an awesome way to acquire flex seating furniture, and plenty of teachers have used it for that purpose, but here’s the catch — you have to identify in advance what specific items you want for your classroom, as in order to ensure an ethical use of the funds raised, Donors Choose purchases the items directly and has them shipped to your classroom. I simply waited too long this summer — by the time I researched specific items, created a project on Donors Choose, received funding, and had the items shipped, it would have been well into my school year — so be sure to plan well ahead if electing this option!

4. Get It All to School & Set It Up

Again, this was pretty time consuming, especially given that I don’t live close to where I teach. I made multiple (5? 6?) trips back and forth over the course of about two weeks, transporting my new chair, stools, futon, big round table, side table, and other small, miscellaneous objects to my classroom. At this stage, make sure to bring or borrow:

  • A big enough vehicle
  • Cleaning supplies
  • A toolkit
  • A dolly
  • An extra set of hands!

In my next two posts, I’ll cover important lessons I’ve learned throughout this process plus I’ll highlight some responses from my students to these new seating options.

Stay flexible,

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