My first year of flexible seating

Sunday, June 25, 2017
I wrote about my flexible seating transition ( here ) and it was very early on in the beginning stages.  I promised you that I would give you an update and now that I have a year under my belt I wanted to share my thoughts.  

A Year of Flexible Seating: everything I learned (the good and the bad) from my first year with flexible seating!

I'll be honest it wasn't the easiest transition for me......for them, not a problem but for me - it took some time.  As I mentioned in my previous post on flexible seating - teachers tend to be a teeny weeny bit controlling so that was an adjustment on my part.  I had to adjust and adjust and adjust but.... I finally found my happy place a few months in...yes a few months in.  For me it took that long to get use to it and all the changes it brought.  I certainly don't think I'm stuck in my ways - I've been teaching 23 years but am always looking for the newest, more dynamic way to teach a lesson.  But I will tell you that I'm very use to the 'flow' I have in my classroom and that 'flow' was disrupted by bringing in flexible seating this year.
One of the heavy hitters of change was: not having table points anymore. I love table points and have used them for years.  

Another big one for me was all the movement.  It's very hard to not have the extra movement no matter how organized you are or how many stations you have.  I use cubbies since there aren't really desks for every child.  When we change subjects etc. students are getting up to get what they need from their cubbies etc.  That has taken some getting use to as well.  

When I started in August I had the kids change seats once a day - y'all.  That was too much for me!  I felt like I was missing valuable teaching time just by the seat changes so that HAD.TO.STOP.  #stopthecraziness
That was the first change I made...I played around with different seating arrangements and started to get semi use to it but I was still terribly missing my behavior management tool of table points.  A few months in I had a thought.  What if the students chose their spot for the week instead of just a day?  Would I be missing the whole point of the flexible seating philosophy?  I stewed on that for a while ~ but gave it a try.  Guess what?!!?  It worked!!!  It worked like a charm in fact!  
My students picked their spots via: a Lucky Duck system I use on Monday mornings.  Some students are drawn to the same spot anyway.  For instance I have 7 traditional desks with a mix of hooki stools and traditional chairs and I always have a few kids that always picked that.  I have another grouping of desks that have traditional desks with ball chairs ( with backs ).  Then I have a standing table with stools and balls.  Next I have a cushion table         ( long lowered table ), a round ( lowered ) table with cushions and awesome backpatter seats (pictured above), some IKEA desks with crate seats and some gamer chairs.  So I do have quite a lot of choices thanks to Donor's Choose and donations. ( I will talk about how I funded my classroom in another post ).  **I have more detailed pictures of my classroom on my previous post I mentioned with a link at the top.**
But having them choose for the week has worked for me and that particular class.  Every year is different and the students bring different personalities and needs to the classroom so I will have to revisit this next year.
Since they choose for the entire week - guess what?!!?  I was able to bring table points back.  It was wonderful and I felt at home once again.  If a student decided that the spot they chose wasn't for them - that was okay.  They could still find a new spot ( as I have a few extras ) or change with a friend.  I worked out a system where if it was the middle of the week or later they could bring their table points with them to the new spot - so in essence when picking for Fun Friday if the table they sat at for most of the week had more points then they would pick their activity with that table even if they moved if that makes sense.
I will tell you - I haven't had more than 25 kids in over 20 years.  I was lucky enough to teach for almost 12 years with class size reduction of 20 or less.  As we lost that funding my classes have been around 23 or 24 students.  This past year I had  one of the biggest classes I've ever had....28 third graders.  I will tell you it was one of the best teaching years I've had in a while.  I had little to no behavior problems and call me crazy but I think some of it had to do with flexible seating.  There's something about giving (some) control over to a child that makes them not seek it in other ways. I don't know what all the research says or even if there has been enough research but if I taught a class of 28 and it felt like I had a class of 20 that's a win -win people.  Not to mention 28 full blown desks in there would have made it difficult to walk around , etc and I felt like I had a lot of open space.  Visitors that came to my room always told me my class looked so clean and uncluttered. But the transformation I saw in my students was what it's all about.  I saw students go from from picking a 'spot' by their friend the first week of school to picking a 'spot' that they learned best in every single time. 
I saw my students truly engaging on topic with their peers and making wise choices for themselves and their learning.  They learned more about themselves and how they best learn as well.
So how did it go you ask???  I'd say it's a winner, I'm sold!  And yes, every year I will monitor my class and make sure I'm meeting their needs how I need to be but this teacher (and more importantly her students ) right here ended up LOVING flexible seating!


Incorporating STEM

Monday, June 12, 2017

STEM ~ it can seem overwhelming if you are not familiar with it....what is it?  How can I use it in my classroom?  Where can I learn more?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  This blog post is all about using STEM in the elementary classroom.  STEM activities will get your students engaged and learning and they will be rigorous and challenging for them.

STEM is definitely part of the 21st Century learning movement that let's face it, is happening and needs to happen.
If you google STEM you can find all kinds of information all over the internet on it.  Another great resource for STEM is Brooke Brown from Teach Outside the Box.

My challenge to you is to not be afraid of STEM and find ways to incorporate it more in you classroom.  Almost anything can be used as a springboard for STEM.  You just have to be creative and think how it can be used/applied.

For instance, if you teach TK, or kindergarten and you are having a Bear week with a Teddy Bear Picnic to culminate your week.  You can include a STEM activity during that week that your little learners would LOVE!  I  just added a yummy gummy bear STEM project in my Teddy Bear Pack - which you can find here:

Almost any unit that you teach in social studies or science with some thought, collaboration and planning can be turned into a STEM activity.  You can take a unit on plants and create a greenhouse.... any habitat unit can easily be used with a STEM project.  Just remember that a STEM project is NOT a glorified science experiment.  If you are giving your students step by step instructions than it is not considered a STEM project.  A STEM project requires deep thinking, problem solving, collaboration and so much more.  A step by step science experiment is just that - an experiment.  Please don't confuse the two!
So as you venture into releasing more control and allowing your students to investigate, collaborate and be true thinkers...enjoy the moment.  Watch your students grow, and learn.  Watch them take on challenges and maybe even struggle a bit.  #thestrugglebusneverhurtanyone ~ ~ It's part of learning, growing and developing as a thinker. 
I even struggled when I recently did a STEM project at the Happy Go Teach conference last week...but look how happy I was when we overcame.

 It's exciting and I hope you give STEM a try as you are planning your new school year.  Let me know if you did try it here in the comments or you can visit my

Also be sure to visit my store:  One of my projects this summer is to add STEM projects to several of my products, I've already started and it's been fun.  If you have already purchased these be sure to re download them for the extra goodie.  When you visit my store any products that I've added STEM to will look like this:

Happy 'STEMMING' my friends!