Room Arrangement · Uncategorized

Student Storage in a Flexible Seating Classroom

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Storage

Have you seen the movie, “ET”? I love the scene when ET hides in the closet amid all the stuffed animals, acting as one of the stuffed toys. The closet is a fun mess!!!!

I wish I had unlimited storage in my classroom, space where I could easily place everything I needed nice and neatly with no concern, everything would come tumbling out of I opened the door. My classroom closet is just like the ET closet: I am literally nervous to open it, knowing there could be any combination of posters and anchor charts, yardsticks, sweaters tumbling out. I choose to keep it closed.

Just like the closet, my students need easily accessible storage space. The kind of storage space that won’t spill open its contents when opened, the kind that can be moved around the room at any moment, the kind that looks nice and can suit multiple purposes. I don’t need another closet for supplies. I need functional, nice-looking, and easily accessible storage. Student storage. Teacher-supplies storage. Materials /projects storage.

When I transitioned to flexible seating, I paid as much attention to storage as I did the flexible seating options.

Cubbies were a must: cubbies with plenty of storage bins, multiple sizes, accessible yet easily closed off so as not to provide what I refer to as “visual pollution”.

I had the good fortune of working with a company named MeTEOR Education. If you can afford or are given funds to completely change your room, I strongly suggest MeTEOR. They are fantastic: professional, passionate, and they’ll support you every step of the way in your process!

I knew my classroom storage carts had to have all of the tasks I mentioned above. I needed extra storage space to accommodate new students’ materials and any new supplies or projects as the year went on. In the photo, you will see several movable carts. One is purple and one is blue, the other is apple green. These are on wheels with colored doors that close and lock. I have an additional two open-shelf storage carts. The closed carts hold 40 bins each. I use these for students’ personal supplies. Each bin is numbered. I house my homeroom’s bins in one cubby and the two other classes’ bins in the green and blue cart. Yes, I teach Math to three fifth-grade classes of 28-32 students in each room.

I use the carts ALL.THE.TIME.

Yes

The backs of the carts I’ll use to place posters, directional charts, student work. I’ll place carts back to back or in “L” shaped configurations for cozy corners or room separators (even in the middle of the room! Carts are terrific as physical desks to stand and work at!

Think carts when you remove desks and need storage. Think doors on the carts as they hide the “messiness” of supplies. My open carts house bins with labeled supplies. I’ll place them with the supplies facing away from the visual line-of-sight. The backs serve as bulletin boards for hanging charts and such. Many times I will leave the backs empty just to see the pretty colors! The less the visual clutter, the better!

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The shelves you see here are ones in my third classroom transformation. My principal purchased two rolling carts with cubbies from one of the major library furniture companies: I believe it was DEMCO. I looked through the thick catalogs in the front office to find the ones I wanted.  Each cubby housed 0 slots with matching bins. You can see in the photo some students didn’t use their bins. I used those for extra storage of class community supplies, placed elsewhere in the room. Students learned to SIMPLIFY their materials! We don’t need 6 spirals and folders! What you see are the Math workbooks in their slots, a spiral, and possibly 2 folders. Pencil pouches were easier to store than the plastic boxes. Many students preferred simplifying their materials! They didn’t like having so many materials to keep track of. I agree with them! SImplify the class supply list whenever possible.

These storage carts are on wheels and we moved them many many times to suit our purposes: as dividers, as wall space on the back, as writing surfaces, as science experiment surfaces. Many purposes.

So think movable carts. Think multi-uses. Think functional as space dividers.

The possibilities are limitless!

Room Arrangement

Flexible Seating, Flexible teaching: Room Arrangement

I have had multiple versions of flexible seating in my classrooms over the past 10+ years and I LOVED every one of them! I truly did! Breaking away from the old 1950s (even earlier) teaching configuration to create cozy, inviting, relaxing come-in-and sit rooms, has made a world of difference for my students.

The students and I own the room: we move furniture as we need it; science experiments, art projects, small-group problem-solving, whole group work, listening centers, hands-on crafting and ideating….the reasons to change tales, chairs, desks, couches, are endless.

With so many changes possible at any given time, I learned to go with the flow of creativity and student-driven learning and excitement, to accept a fluid room. This wasn’t always the case…

I used to ask students to place the furniture “back where it belongs”, in other words, to a Homebase configuration the end of each day. I needed the grounding feeling at the conclusion of the day. I needed the reliability of predictability each morning when I walked into the room before the start of the school day. I wanted my students to see the “normalness” in their room each day. We gather for morning meetings, looking at the day’s schedule with expectations and announcements so no one was thrown off.

Looking at my need to move everything back into place has me thinking and pondering. Is this necessary? Does it matter more to me or to the students? There was only one way to find out: ask the change agents! The class!

Since I am a firm believer in students owning their learning, I believe they should help decide how the furniture should be arranged the end of/start of each day (unless I had a specific need that overrode their thoughts). If they wanted the sameness each morning upon first glance at the start of the day then we would make sure this was so. If they didn’t care, we wouldn’t waste our time rearranging the furniture, rather leave it as we last used it the day prior.

So ask yourself and your students, their thoughts on room arrangement the end of and start of the next morning. You might be surprised and learn something new from them as learners and persons.

When I did, this took my own pressure off of me and gave them another opportunity to express their student voices and student choices. Will you be “Open” to their choices and desires? It is well worth the discussion.

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Room Arrangement

2018 Classroom Update

Happy 2018!

This is year 2 with flexible seating. I am now into 5 successful months and still stand behind this concept completely.  Here are some of the basic reasons why:

-Students love it! Yes, they do. They race to come into my room to find their favorite places to learn for the 90 minutes I have them. They know they are not allowed to “save spots”. The last ones to come in aren’t as happy yet they can still be comfortable. I have more than enough spots for students to choose from.

-I love it! Yes, I do. Even on stressful days (we all have those!), I can sit in a comfy chair or couch or stool and work with students.

-It works! Students know they will be moved by me if I deem them not on task. This is a given. Flexible seating is a wonderful opportunity to prove one can sit where one wants and with who one wants. Even the most rowdiest students will try to stay on task OR will ask to sit with their friends again (maybe the next day, I tell them). This is better than offering an extra free recess. Sitting where one wants to is a HUGE incentive to behave and work.

 

Yes, I do have students who can’t manage working by their best friends. I let these students know they can still pick where (the type of seating) they want to be in for the day. I let this happen, only NOT by or near their friend(s). Students can’t complain when I let them be comfortable. The goal is learning, not socializing.

What are your big goals for flexible seating in your room this year?

Classroom Management · Room Arrangement

Welcome to Coffeeshop Classroom!

I don’t know if you are like me, but there is nothing as comforting as walking into a coffeeshop, ordering my favorite tea drink, and finding a spot to relax and unwind or wait for a friend to join me.

Seating is utmost in my mind, once I have my drink. I want to be comfortable, focused. Some days that means a straight back chair at a table if I need to stay focused and work, spreading out my things. Sometimes I need a soft and cushy chair to be by myself and my own thoughts. Sometimes, it must be the couch in the far corner of the place where my friend and I can visit, holding onto our beverages or setting them on the coffee table in front of us.

I believe classrooms should be this way too: inviting, relaxing, providing opportunities and unique venues or areas to sit in and work.  Places for students to be themselves , in pairs, triads, or small group, solving complex math problems, completing  science experiment, or writing an essay. Being comfortable allows us as creatures of habit, to function at our best.

Thus I began my journey last year (2016-2017) into what is known as flexible seating. It was an interesting process. I learned so much and discovered along the way it is a way of thinking and teaching, not just learning. It doesn’t work for everyone yet is what probably most of us believe would be best for kids. When I consider how I feel, when I walk into a coffee shop, I know my students feel the same way when they walk into our classroom.

SO I begin YEAR 2 of flexible seating.

Come along and join me for the journey.  Share with me your process and transformation.

-Kelly

 

 

 

 

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