Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Alternative Seating ~ In Need of Your Thoughts!!

Hi Folks,
Third day of summer vacay and I'm already thinking about what I can do differently next year.  Aren't we blessed that way?  Finish up a year, feel good about it, but then start fresh next school year.  We're so lucky to be able to reinvent ourselves and our classrooms each year.

So, my current thinking is about alternative seating.  I've been tossing this idea around for a few years now and just haven't taken the leap.  I *think* I might be ready to go for it next school year...but I might need a little encouragement {or, "what the heck are you thinking"} from all of you.

Here's my thought process...

The last few years I've been concerned that my kiddos are coming to me with different needs than what they once did.  They just seem more distracted and in need of a faster pace.  I started speculating why this was and I do have my thoughts - but it did strike me the other day, that it's just as much about the kids as it is our teaching.

Classrooms have changed, expectations have grown. I'm pretty sure the difference in my classroom today versus 15 years ago is a combination of high expectations {developmentally appropriate isn't even in our vocabulary anymore} and kids coming in with different needs/ways of learning {thanks video games and overbooked/overcooked families}. What I do know is I'd like to set up the environment in a way that will help my little ones, who have only been on this earth for 6 whole years - yet are expected to infer, use their schema and perform mental math operations that I still have troubles with, succeed.  

I do want to put out there that my students have never sat at their desks 6 hours out of any day - we do move around the room during workplaces, science experiments, reader's workshop,  etc., but I'm thinking about writer's workshop, and other times during the day when they are sitting on those hard, uncomfortable chairs.

So, I'm thinking about bringing alternative seating into my classroom.  Before you give me your thoughts let me share with you how I see this looking and working in my classroom.  {I definitely have a lot of questions and wonderings too}

I'm thinking I want to purchase a couple moon chairs {something like this}...

This one is from Walmart - wonder if I can find them somewhere for even cheaper?
Butter up my awesome custodian and see if he'll lower a table or two so that I can have this...

Miss Hoffman's Class - visit her website for more cool info on alternative seating...
I already have lots of pillows, a mini couch, wiggle seats, a rocking chair and a big chair with pillows for the kids to sit on.  

And our PTA purchased 5 stability balls for me at the end of the school year.

PTA purchased ours using Campbell Soup label points

I figure I'll keep six first grade desks, and get 3 bigger kid desks and have those raised as high as they will go for my "standers"...

Think about how much space I'll have in my room with only 9 desks!

I already have a kidney bean table for guided reading - so kids could work there when I'm not.  I'm hoping that in the future I can purchase some bean bags to add to the collection.  

Oh, and I have these guys from IKEA...

Only $7.99 at IKEA - and they are strong enough to hold me!
I have cute crabby and froggy cushions to go on top.
I also have a classroom set of clipboards and might look into purchasing a few lap desks...

$15 at Walmart - wonder if I can find them cheaper somewhere?

So, here's what's holding me back...


The only investment I have to put into this {so far} are the mushroom chairs {and maybe some lap desks} - everything else I have already.  Since I won't have one set "seat" for the students I have to think of ways to store materials such as:

*Math book, handwriting book
*Pencil boxes

2. Management

*How do I manage who sits where - especially early on.  I can see once my kiddos are solid in rules and routines being able to introduce something like alternative seating, but I'm pretty concerned with how this will look at the beginning of the school year.  I think it's this piece that's REALLY holding me back, more than management of supplies.

I'm still not 100 percent sure if I'm going to take the leap and do this - but I really, really want to.  I think it's what my students need to help them stay engaged with this "rigorous curriculum".  Buuuutttt....if I don't manage it properly and have all my ducks in a row going into it, it could really go south.  {I'm sort of a control freak...sorta, but I'm calming down in the area with age...HA!}

Here are a few websites I've found on the topic to help me {and you if you're wondering about it} wrap my brain around it further...

So, I would REALLY like you to weigh in.  What do you think about desks vs. tables?  Alternative seating vs. traditional seating?  Do you have any ideas for storage if a teacher should opt out of desks?  

My mind is whirling - but I'm excited about this new venture!



  1. Storage you would figure out...I am all for the alternative seating but like you can not wrap my brain around the management. And I Al's am not sure how I would teach a few subjects like handwriting. If you try it I would love to come see it in action!

  2. I have a HUGE issue about not enough room period in my shoebox of a classroom! 22 desks, a horseshoe table, a smartboard on wheels, and teacher desk. I really want a carpet area back in my classroom i miss that so much...alternative seating to save room, great subject I'm very interested to read about options. I saw someone talk about using these small stools from school outfitters they are $8.88 each.

  3. I tried the stability balls in my classroom and the constant bouncing drove me absolutely bonkers and I didn't notice that my kids were focusing more. They were worried about bouncing on their ball and causing more trouble. That was in kindergarten though. Miss Hoffman teaches in my school, she is AMAZING! It totally works for her. A couple other teachers in my school use it also and it works for them, just not me. I am too particular. Most people let the kids choose where to sit in the morning and then it stays that way the whole day unless the lose the priviledge. I have tables for my students but I let them get clipboards and work around the room where they want. I felt like I had to have the tables for when they need the structure of tables. I am starting whole brain teaching next year and I hope that it helps with the focusing issue that I have. I also do quite a few brain breaks throughout the day to give them the outlet they need for movement.
    Mrs. Laue's Littles

    1. Ive seen a few video on youtube about the WHOLE BRAIN TEACHING...interested to know you know where I can get some more info?

    2. It's wonderful! I've used it for many years now.

    3. Marcia Tate is a great speaker on whole brain teaching

  4. I love the idea. I have used some alternative seating in my room for several years but have always had regular chairs also. I have a class set of clipboard and a lap desk. I am looking for a few more lap desks. I had already asked my principal about lowering my tables (no desks). You just confirmed my decision! My first graders adapted very well. They loved finding a place of their own. There were no arguments. Good luck!

  5. I love the idea of alternative seating for everyone all day, but I don't know how my principal would feel about it and there could be some arguments over who gets what. But I hear about the kids being different and needing different things now. We certainly do expect a lot of these little ones. I'm trying to provide as much alternate seating as I can during Daily 5 (some little camping chairs and bean bags), I just know that I don't have space to do it all day for everyone. Good luck though! I look forward to hearing about what you end up doing.
    First Grade Found Me

  6. @ Sara Montalvo...will they let you mount that Smartbosrd on the wall? It isn't difficult.

    1. Been asking for 2 years...saying MAJOR prayers this SUMMER that I get it mounted this coming school year!

  7. I used to have really cool chairs in my classroom until our district said NO MORE FABRIC chairs! Lice and allergies were taking over. We can't have bean bags or anything fun. I sprayed down my cool retro chair and stored it at home for my little girl's room when she is old enough for it. Just a thought with really fun seating. If lice or allergies are an issue in your school, it may not be the best.

    I love the idea of them though! So much more fun for the kids, and it does look better!

    Reading Toward the Stars

  8. I may teach a different level than you (5th), but I use alternative seating. I got rid of desks in favor of tables. I have benches, stability balls, a rocker, and other types of seating. My rule is before a lesson begins, choose your seat, stay in one place. Some may choose to read and write in one place, but move to a table for math. I have cubbies for kids to store things. There are bins they can also use on the tables. Most choose a "home" area at a table, but move for work. Many lie on tummy on the carpet. A set of clipboards is available. I also am looking at lap desks. I want to add options for my standers. I like that students have choices that match learning needs. Vinyl cushions keep pests minimized.

  9. I love the idea of alternative seating but going 100% would have its challenges. I currently have the IKEA stools, 2 moon chairs, 6 crate chairs and 2 stability balls. I also use a class set of clipboards for many written activities. I allow students to pick where they sit for lessons. Here are some of my thoughts...
    1) It REALLY depends on the class. I had a class that rocked the balls and crates and then I had a class the absolutely could not handle the balls. I had to deflate them and put them away.

    2) Even with all the comfortable alternative seating, I had 3 boys this year who ALWAYS chose to sit at their table.

    3) Be prepared for the reactions from others. Not that this should really even drive your decision, but it seems to really throw other educators off when they walk in and kids are everywhere with a clipboard etc. I KNOW they are engaged and working but they don't. It seems to open up others to feel they can comment on this. I was shocked about 3 years ago when introducing the stability balls.

    My advice, is if your room can handle it do both using a mix of tables not desks. If that's not an option, I would have a traditional set up for 4-6 kids.

    These are my thoughts, but every classroom is different. Go with your gut!
    Randi @
    Teach It With Class

  10. This is a really interesting idea. At launch time since you're still getting to know your kids and you're not sure who really needs what type of seating you could do something like pull Popsicle sticks with their names on them and have kids sit in that type of seating for a few days at a time so they have an understanding of that type of seating and then you could rotate them over the first several weeks of school to give them all the experience of each type. Then after that you could move into more individual choice.

    1. Rachel, that's exactly how I do "book nooks" for Daily 5. Why it never crossed my mind to handle this new seating the same way is beyond me. I just know how tiring those first weeks are, and how kids need SUCH clear/defined expectations...I need to work all this out before I institute it in my classroom; because they'll smell my fear...HA!

      Thanks a bunch!!

    2. I was just wondering about doing my classroom this way and you've voiced many of my same concerns. As soon as I heard Rachel's idea on launching it immediately reminded me of Daily 5.

  11. I love where your brain is at Holly!! I'm almost sure I'll be switching to tables this year from desks, so for storage I'm thinking table caddies, chair pockets, and I also want to get some of those colorful plastic crates to store each tables notebooks, folders, etc. It's a mental work in progress for me too because I'm used to them always having everything in their desk. As for the alternative seating, what about a slow gradual release? I agree, the first month of school I want everyone to have a seat with a flat top workspace while we're learning routines and I'm getting to know them. But maybe after a month of so you start introducing a few of the balls and giving every kid a chance to try them for a day, then the low table, etc. And then eventually give them choice. I know as an adult I can't sit working in one way for too long. I go from laying on the bed, to the couch, to a desk - I gotta keep switching things up to stay focused. So it only makes sense that kids would thrive from having some of the same choices!!

    ❤ -Stephanie
    Falling Into First

  12. I was reading a post from Jeannie at Kindergarten Lifestyle ( )about her book review of The Next Step in Guided Reading. One of the things she talked about was how to start out. I was thinking along the lines of Rachel, but with a slight twist. Jeannie talked about her literacy groups and how she doesn't start them right away. She starts with Table Groups (things like playdough, etc...) After the first week she adds one literacy center. My thought was to not start with all of the alternative seats at the same time. Add them in as students understand the expectations for using them. Sorry this is so long, for lapboards, I use dry erase boards. One year our school bought tons of them and they are the perfect size, they just don't have any sort of cushion. Thanks for the post, it was very thought provoking.
    I'm Not Your Grandpa, I'm Your Teacher

    1. The only thing is I'm wanting a small number of desks right out of the gate {to add space - I teach in a postage stamp}....if I introduce the alternative seating slowly, I'll need a desk/table for everybody. Hmmm...I like introducing them slowly though. I don't see my custodian being very happy with me if I keep asking him to remove a much to work out...thanks so much for helping me do that!

  13. I love the idea but I can't stop thinking about all the parents wobbling around on stability balls at Back to School night :P
    ❤ Karen
    Flamingo Fabulous in Second Grade

    1. I think it would be a hoot seeing them sit in stability balls...if I end up going this route, I'll take a picture of a parent in a moon chair and I'll post it to my blog! {With permission, of course} HA!!!

  14. I have thought about alternative seating too for my first graders, but management has prevented me from taking the lunge. I do literacy stations and math stations so thought about putting different seating in these areas as a try out. I love those little stools but will they sit on them and not fall? I have pillows and bean bags in my library and that has never been a problem.. hmmm more to think about over summer

    1. Hi Kim,
      I've never had a problem with the stools...but I've always introduced my book nooks slowly and really set the expectations beforehand. That's what's holding me back too...if that's all you have available to them, you can't really introduce it slowly. Hmmm....

  15. You are a brave girl...let me know how it goes if you take the leap! I have always used tables and allow students to work about the room with clipboards. The love working on the floor best of all. Sometimes I think I could get by without any chairs or tables...just some nice rugs and some clipboards....maybe a table or two for my traditionalists:) The thought of using stability balls, I must admit, gives me the willies!!

    1. Oh Sweet Kathy,
      I'm not 100 percent sure I'm going this seems like a big plunge to me. I'm like you, I have the desks {tables in your case, which I'm jealous of} but allow them to pretty much work wherever they would like...but it's nice to have desks as a standby. We shall see...

      Still thinkin'...

  16. Hey there!
    I love my seating :) I have a full class set of yoga balls, 6 stools (the milk crate ones all over Pinterest), and the green stools from IKEA that you mentioned. I blogged about it last year, if you want more info:

    New Adventures in First Grade

  17. I like your idea of alternative seating!! If your school allows it, why not? :) I think the exercise balls look like a great idea!
    Your newest "blogger" follower-Lovely Nina

    Lovely Little Learners

  18. I did lots of alternative seating this year at my gathering area......large totes, benches, gardening knee mats.....we have a moon chair.....we call it the scoop chair...I did introduce them slowly. I teach k. They all start out on mats on the floor.

  19. I am taking the alternative seating plunge this year. I am nervous about it, but I honestly don't have room in my new room for 20 desks. I put up three little tables, two and standard height, and one at a lowered height (with no legs)... I have some exercise balls, regular chairs, bucket chairs, and I am even letting them sit on body pillows for the really short table. As for the management of it... I am apprehensive, but I am trying Daily 5 this year, which means focusing a lot on expectations and independence. I have a rug for everyone to sit on when I am actually teaching, and I went to home depot and had them cut up shower board to make little lap boards (12 by 18 inches) so they could be doing work at the carpet whole group. Anyway, I am blogging about my experiences too, so come check it out!

  20. I am also introducing alternative seating in my first grade classroom this year. I have decided to jump in with both feet and have set up my classroom with a reading loft, 2 camp chairs, 2 balance balls, 2 stools, 2 swivel chairs, and several pillows and cushions. My circle area has cube chairs and crate seats - enough for everyone. I also have a large table with traditional chairs that can seat 12 students for art projects and snack time. Other tables include 2 round tables (one regular height the other raised), a raised rectangle table, and a very low rectangle table, and a half circle table at regular height.
    This is a big change for me and I am having some anxiety about how to introduce our new space. I have control issues as well and like structure. The roll out of alternative seating will potentially influence the future outcome and effectiveness. This process is part of my action research for my master's program so I am highly motivated to make it successful.
    Reading everyone's input was great insight and verified my fears. Thanks for sharing!


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