Creating a Flexible Seating Classroom on a Budget

Two years ago I changed my whole approach to my classroom setup. After attending a workshop on 21st Century Learning I was shown a new way of thinking about classroom setup. Flexible seating. There was 2 days left before school started so I rushed by to my room and took apart all that I had set up. Instead of having desks in rows and my teacher desk covered in impressive looking textbooks that I never use, I got rid of everything. I placed all the desks in the corner and started to sweat. What was I doing? How can I live without a teacher desk? What will the kids think when they come in and see nothing setup? What will the parents think? What will the other teachers think? Am I crazy starting my year like this?? Luckily my principal fully supported me and the panic settled.

Well, the kids loved it and so did the parents when they saw how it worked first hand and understood the idea behind it. Every single parent (eventually) agreed that they hated sitting in straight lines at desks when they were at school and wished their room had been like this.

As I am at small rural low socio-economic school I don’t have a budget to buy furniture for my classroom so I had to get creative. I started small and used the desks I already had. The students and I changed the heights of the desks so some were normal heights for sitting at on a chair and some were low enough that you could sit on the floor and work at it.

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I  started scrounging around the school and I found an old couch and some other interesting desks. As I was talking to my principal about the research behind standup tables in the staff room we both looked at a table in the corner of the room that was always covered in the things no one wants and realised that it actually had adjustable legs to make it a standup table. Found an old whiteboard and wooden desks so decided to screw them to the top and make myself a whiteboard table that the students could sit at and write all over. Then adjusted an old projector bracket in my roof to face down on the table to make it into a projector table. Not quite the hologram table from Star Wars that I dream about but still very cool and cost me nothing.

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I had a couple of bean bags and cushions already but when I asked the kids and parents if anyone had any other furniture or bean bags they didn’t need anymore I was inundated. I now have 2 couches and 3 armchairs and lots of bean bags and cushions. I bought a few cheap fit balls from a discount store. Even now I still get parents coming in and offering me furniture they no longer need.

Instead of having desk draws I lashed out and bought small plastic tubs for a few dollars each where students can store and transport all their books and materials in and also fit a whiteboard on the lid to use as a mobile desk.

For under $100 spent over 2 years, I now have a wide variety of seating and desk options for the students to choose where they learn and collaborate best from as well as a very efficient storage method for the books and pencils. Was it scary giving up control of seating and looking completely disorganised? Absolutely! Would I ever go back to my old classroom? Not in a million years!

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