For years, students have sat in the standard uncomfortable seats at their individual desk, lined up in rows, in the classroom. If you peak into your child’s classroom today, you will probably be surprised to see a modern-day seating plan. Students may be positioned behind a stand-up desk, sitting on a crate with wheels or atop an exercise ball. Other students may enjoy sitting on comfy beanbag chairs or wobble seats. This seating is called “flexible seating,” a system designed to encourage collaboration and allow children to release any excess energy that normally prevents them from focusing.

Does Flexible Seating Work?
Flexible seating in classrooms allows students to choose the type of learning space that works best for them. It allows them to work collaboratively, to communicate more easily with one another, and to engage in creative thinking. Since the implementation of flexible classrooms, many teachers in Quebec have noticed students’ grades have improved, they are happier, more engaged and participate in conversations more often.

How to Give Flexible Seating a Try in Your Classroom
Start by encouraging your students to choose a seat they feel most comfortable and safest in. This may translate into students lying on the floor, sitting at low tables, or sitting on a beanbag chair. Teachers can ask a student why they chose their particular seating. Reasons will vary but will help give you some insight into how a child thinks or what his or her weaknesses may be. Some students will still choose a table and chair instead of a beanbag because too much comfort is distracting to them. There is no right or wrong answer.

A teacher must envision how the classroom will look and be willing to set aside some traditional school equipment. It’s best to have at least three different types of seating. Desks can be round or square. You can also try grouping three or four desks together to form a collaborative space. Flexible bookshelves can be moved so the room can be opened up in the centre.

Seating and Table Options
Some students prefer to be under things or behind things, while others like to be seated on top of something. The idea behind creative seating is to think outside the box. The seat can be a wooden crate or a high plastic bucket, or a cushion on the floor. Have fun with creative seating.

Flexible seating can be realized even with a limited budget. Teachers can send a note home with students to ask if parents have any furniture they no longer use and would like to donate. Perhaps a student has a favourite chair at home that could be integrated into the classroom. Teachers can also take advantage of the arrangement and set up a workstation to suit their needs, as well.

You should also consider tables that easy to work with. Flexible tables with wheels can facilitate the reconfiguration of a room. Large round or rectangular tables are best for collaborative work.

The new evolution in classrooms promises to better meet students’ individual needs, impacts how they learn, encourages them to collaborate with others and improves the overall classroom experience. Research has proven that when learning space evolves, students' work and grades improve, as well.