Second Grade Classroom: Jennifer Short
Meet my internet friend, Jennifer! This is her 10th year teaching Elementary. She is currently in second grade in Montgomery ISD, Texas. She taught kinder for 5 years, 1st grade for 4 years, and this is her first year in 2nd grade. She earned her Masters degree in School Counseling and is currently working on my Principal certification.
Here's how to connect with her: Twitter: @MrsShorts_Class, FB: https://www.facebook.com/shortsclassroom/ Instagram: @shortsclass
Tell us about your journey with flexible seating? What inspired you?
To be perfectly honest my own inability to sit still in my night class while working on my masters degree was my inspiration. The kind of day I had at work directly effected my attention span and energy level in my 5:30-8:00 evening classes. I would be restless/full of energy, tired/slouching/dozing off or bored/irritable. I noticed that without being told I was mindlessly choosing to sit in the same seat night after night. Occasionally someone would come in and sit in “my seat”. These nights I was forced to change my point of view and put forth more effort in order to focus on the presenter. Also, the presenter was making more of an effort to include me in the discussions. The best way to explain this would be that my professor was no longer immobile “wall paper” hung before me and I ceased to be a "piece of furniture" in front of the presenter. The combined effort between my professor and I lead to both of us investing in that nights study and actively/equally contributing to the presentation.
Progression to a full #desklesstribe:
Year 1: BOY-not assigning seats and allowing students to move around the room as they work (to empty seats or on the floor) MOY: Removed all desks and replaced them with large tables EOY: lowered tables removed chairs and replaced them with crate seats.
Year 2: BOY- all crate seats, lowered large group tables and freedom to move around to the “extra” seats I had brought in i.e. large pillows, child size recliners, carpet squares EOY: all crates replaced by stability balls purchased by a parent of one of our students.
Year 3: Entire year I slowly removed and replaced most seats and tables, gradually introducing each new piece throughout the year
Year 4: (This year) Started day one will all pieces available to students. 22 students, 35+ seating choices
Any roadblocks or things you had to overcome?
I thought gradually introducing each new seating choice would be a good Idea but ultimately I lost a great deal of instructional time having to stop periodically to give a “lesson” on proper usage. Introducing all pieces at the beginning of the year during the regularly planned procedures “training” days has proven to be beneficial. I have only needed to quickly and quietly remind the "typical suspects" of proper usage.
What are your students' favorite spots?
Each year seems to be different so I would never completely get rid of a piece, nor remove it. Each year my tree house and our huggle pod are always number one choices. This year my students favor the beanbags and stability balls. But over the years I have noticed that what are the favorite spots at the BOY differs from the MOY and then again the EOY.
What are the benefits to flexible seating that you have seen so far?
My original plan was to increase focus and attention. As this increased, I also saw a much more rapid rise in the students ability to become more responsible for their emotions, classwork and practicing problem solving skills. Guiding them, teaching them and allowing them to make a seating choice that helped them to be more productive, paved the way for a more collaborative and cohesive community of little adults.
Where do your students keep their "stuff?"
We do a lot of journaling, journals/notebooks/portfolios are stored in some of the crates from the early years around the room. Students have supply boxes that travel with them around the room and are placed in large assigned “mailboxes.” I had my father make for me that are large enough to hold classwork, boxes and their clipboards/whiteboards when not in use.
Help us troubleshoot. Any helpful tips or things you do to get your students used to flexible seating?
Be sure to have the “care” talk. Explain to students that for some students, certain seats prove to help them be more productive than others. Challenge each student to find ways to help someone succeed each day even if that means giving up a seat to help their fellow classmate succeed that day. At the same time model the proper discussion to have in such a situation. How do you ask for a seat? Not just, "Please can I have this seat?” Students must communicate how it works for them. Also model how to say “No, this seat works for me because…”You’ll see a lot of negative talk at first but eventually after teacher intervention and other student examples the students start to become more supportive of helping their classmate succeed.
Tip: be sure to keep a few “regular desks” some students like the small defined place the desks provide.
One fun idea I tried this year was allowing the students to “design” their classroom on the first day of school. It worked out fabulously! The kids take complete ownership of their classroom and take pride in taking care of it each day.
Thanks, Jennifer for your awesome tips! I love how you are teaching your students to have dialogue about what seat works for them and how they support each other in his/her success. I also appreciate your insight in your gradual transition to flexible seating. It can be success on a small or large scale. What matters is that students are benefitting!