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Bright, Rebecca. (n.d.). Kids who can’t sit still. National Education Association. Retrieved from

Brooks, D.C. (2012). Space and consequences: The impact of different formal learning spaces on instructor and student behavior. Journal of Learning Spaces, 1(2). Retrieved from

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Vision. Blassing. STEAM! (Feature)

Tools for Talking With Students About Disability (Feature)

Taking the Pain Out of Playing Time (AMDnet)

All Kids are Geniuses and Genius Hour Proves It! (ETnet)

Proficiency-Based Education:
A Paradigm Shift (LEADnet)

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Being Flexible About Flexible Seating

Rather than being viewed as a current trend in education, flexible seating offers significant benefits to students.At this point, most educators have heard the term alternative or flexible seating. You’ve seen Pinterest-worthy pictures of these classrooms on social media or perhaps even seen a classroom at your school incorporate this type of design. You may be intrigued by the idea or possibly you roll your eyes at the thought of redesigning your classroom. Either way, let’s explore some ideas and information about flexible seating so you can be informed about this style of classroom layout and incorporate some simple ideas into your classroom.

various chairs 1Rather than being viewed as a current trend in education, flexible seating offers significant benefits to students. First, the movement that comes through certain kinds of seating options, such as rocking, wobbling, or standing increases oxygen flow to the brain, blood flow, and core strength. Increased oxygen flow to the brain in particular is linked to higher levels of retention and focus. Additionally, having flexible, unassigned work spaces and seats helps students learn how to share materials and spaces within the classroom, since there may not be one designated spot for each student every day or class period. Students may not always get their first choice of seat, so they learn to take turns and build a sense of classroom community rather than becoming territorial about “their” space. This type of physical arrangement creates a sense of ownership that the classroom belongs to all students and is not exclusively the teacher’s space.

Flexible seating allows for easy collaboration between students and encourages the natural creation of groups for instruction. A study from the University of Minnesota showed that in classrooms with collaborative group seating, students participated in discussions almost 50 percent more than in classrooms set up with traditional rows of desks. Standardized test scores also improved in these Flexible seating allows for easy collaboration between students and encourages the natural creation of groups for settings (Brooks, 2012). A different study from 2008 found that to focus on and complete a more complicated mental task, children need to move. All children, but especially those with attention difficulties, have been found to fidget more and be more distracted when asked to sit still at traditional desks for longer periods of time (Bright, n.d.).

Even with these benefits, successfully implementing flexible seating in the classroom takes planning and classroom management skills. Do not feel the need to make large changes all at once. Take small steps throughout the year if that helps you make the mental shift to flexible seating. There is also a mental shift in releasing some control over the classroom to the students. This may be a new concept for parents to grasp, so taking the opportunity to explain how flexible seating will work in the classroom during a back-to-school night or in your newsletter will be helpful. This may include showing your guidelines or rules for flexible seating that the students will also use in the classroom.

You may choose to introduce flexible seating gradually to students or all at once, but make sure that students understand and know how to followother classroom procedures first. Next, introduce the guidelines and safety procedures to students. Most teachers who implement flexible seating find that these do not have to be extensive because the students are excited about flexible seating and do not want to experience having it taken away from them. Teachers need to decide how to implement flexible seating and convey rules regarding seating privileges to their students. This will prove most beneficial if the teacher is using both flexible and traditional seating options or if one flexible seating choice becomes very popular. Here are some resources for simple seating rules to use in your classroom:

Students are excited about flexible seating and do not want to experience having it taken away from them.

Many teachers choose to introduce only one or two seating choices at a time to ensure that all students can try each option for an extended period. Students will gradually learn which options they prefer and which options help them do their best work . These choices may also be offered during certain times of the day or during certain subjects as both students and the teacher get used to the change. Some teachers may choose to continue teaching whole group lessons at traditional desks or gathered on the carpet but then allow students to choose their seating option for the rest of the class. These are important choices for you as the teacher to determine in advance. Some students may also prefer working at a traditional desk and chair, so many teachers keep these in their classrooms as a choice.

You can choose from a wide range of seating options, and these options are increasing all the time. Some are costlier than others, but if you’re starting with a small budget or scouring garage sales this spring, here are some cheaper options to consider to start:

Other options include:

If a lack of funds prevents you from implementing flexible seating, you might consider some third-source funding options. One lesser-known crowd funding platform available to private schools and faith-based organizations is PledgeCents. (Check with your administrator about organizing this or another type of fundraiser specific to your classroom or entire school that would allow you to start purchasing some flexible seating options for your classroom.

Another grant possibility is the Community Grant Program through Walmart with grants available up to $5,000. Checking with local foundations for grant opportunities is another good approach.

Lots of information and ideas are available to help you bring flexible seating to your school. I hope this has given you some ideas to think about for your students and classroom setting. Please feel free to contact Lutheran Special Education Ministries at or 248-419-3390 with any questions or for more ideas about reaching all the different learners in your classroom and school.

Kara Bratton serves as LSEM’s resource center director. Lutheran Special Education Ministries (LSEM) is a Christ-centered resource that supports children with learning needs. If our ministry can help your school or church work with children who have identified learning needs or struggle, please contact us at or 248-419-3390. You can also learn more about LSEM at

Illustrations by Kathryn Brewer.