Flexible classroom seating ‘helps get rid of the wiggles’

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Flexible seating offers students a choice to feel more comfortable in some classrooms at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School. In Margaret Miller’s first-grade class, students have a wide variety of seating choices, and no assigned seating. Flexible seating “helps get rid of the wiggles,” she said. “It also helps with focus.”

Anne Marie Amacher
First-graders Lucy Bush, Madden Cutler and Leo Murphy enjoy different seating options at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport.

Miller used traditional desks during the first half of the school year, with one student having the opportunity to test flexible seating. The teacher decided to offer flexible seating to the whole class after Christmas break.

One option is standing desks. Junior high desks were adapted by elevating the desk legs as high as possible. Students may stand at their desk to do their work. Another option: low tables, rising just above the floor where students sit on cushions while doing their work. Traditional desks also offer seating options: exercise ball, stool, “wobble” seat or traditional chair. Students may also sit at a table with seats made from plastic buckets with soft covers topping them. The lap desk allows students to sit on the floor and pull up a plastic lap desk. Even Miller has a flexible option. She stands at her raised desk.

Rules for each type of seating are posted on the wall. The final rule: “the teacher can move you.” Miller and Principal Julie Delaney said total flexible seating works in conjunction with the “Daily 5” structure of reading and writing strategies. Students work in groups of five and have five different stations to rotate between.

Daily 5 allows for more “brain breaks” and is more student-centered than teacher choice. “It keeps the mind active. It teaches them to read and be a learner,” Miller said. Since flexible seating started, she sees more collaboration between the students.

First-grader Roya Akers said the ball is fun to sit on. “I don’t like the buckets.” Leo Murphy’s favorite seating option is the comfy chair, in the classroom’s library section. Alison Harvey likes the comfy chairs and the traditional chair.

Since students are not assigned a desk, they use numbered cubby holes and bins throughout the room. Each student is assigned a number.
Other teachers at St. Paul’s offer some flexible seating, but not to the extent that Miller has with her entire classroom, Delaney said.

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