Saturday, January 19, 2019

How to W.I.N. in the Classroom: Station Ideas



W.I.N. Block math station ideas for the elementary classroom from Literacy Loves Company.



My favorite part of organizing my W.I.N. rotations is figuring out what I will have students work on at each station.  When planning for station activities, I am always looking at three things:
1.  Does the activity meet students' needs in the area we are working on?
2.  Is the activity fun yet rigorous?
3.  Is the activity easy to organize, understand, and clean up so that students are able to work at it independently?  This is going to look very different depending on what grade you teach.  

In my class I run five to six math stations at a time, depending on how many student groups I have.    

Teacher Time
As mentioned in the second post in this series, I always start my planning with the Teacher Time station.  I've heard this station called many things, but it is basically the station in which you, the teacher, meet with a small group of students for direct instruction.  The focus should be whatever caused you, while looking at your data, to group these students together.  I am currently scoring a set of post assessments for my math students.  While I am looking over their papers, I am keeping a list of students who struggled in each of the areas covered on the test.  When I plan for my next round of stations, I will group my students based on the needs I noticed and focus my lesson on that skill, strategy, or concept.  

Tech Time (iReady)
During Tech Time, my students work on iReady.  This is software that provides students with individualized lessons and practice based on a beginning of the year diagnostic.  My school is lucky to have this resource, and I know that not all schools do.  There are several free online math resources that are available for students.  Some examples are MobyMax and Khan Academy  Two game based websites are Prodigy and Skoolbo.  I have used MobyMax, Khan Academy, and Prodigy in my own classroom.  My students LOVE prodigy and will even ask to stay in at recess to play it.  

Number Corner
Because my school uses the Bridges curriculum, it comes with another component called Number Corner.  It is probably similar to a calendar time you would see in a primary classroom.  I have never taught primary, so I'm hoping this is an accurate assumption.  During number corner, students are working on finding patterns on calendar markers, working with problem solving and computation, fact fluency, and measurement among other things.  

Game Time
Game time is a great opportunity to focus students on different skills and concepts.  Games can be geared toward what you are working on in class or you can easily differentiate for each group that comes to that station.  For example, my students just finished a unit on fractions.  After looking through their assessments and organizing groups, I can easily have game kits ready for groups who are working on adding fractions, another for students who need review with equivalent fractions, and still another for students who are struggled with common denominators. 
Targeted Skill Time
There is always a skill I would like my students to get more practice with.  During this station, I focus on one skill and then differentiate within that skill.  This is one of the few stations that I use worksheets in.  At the beginning of the school year I invested in a subscription to Math Worksheets 4 Kids.   I have found this website to be very helpful.  I am able to look up worksheets my concept and then find worksheets by level.  Another great website is commoncoresheets.com .  Other options for this station are task cards or task mats.  If you can find ones that are self-check, that is a bonus!
W.I.N. Block math station ideas for the elementary classroom from Literacy Loves Company.
Measurement Task Mats available @ Literacy Loves Company on TpT.  Click on pic for more information.

Geometry
Geometry seems to always be the last unit of the curriculum and the hardest to get to.  Because of this, I have a geometry station.  I use my math curriculum and the state standards to guide this station.  My goal is to give students an opportunity to work with these concepts before state testing in May.
W.I.N. Block math station ideas for the elementary classroom from Literacy Loves Company.


The above stations are the ones I currently have in my W.I.N. rotation.  Some other ideas for stations are:
Fact Fluency - Practice math facts - This station would be easy to differentiate as student work on the facts they have yet to master.  This station could be as easy as flash cards and timers as student work to be able to quickly recall their math facts.

Mathematical Picture Books - Sometimes reading a picture book based on a math concept can be a great way for students to connect.  There are a lot of wonderful picture books available depending on what you are focusing on in class.  For this station, you could have a picture book focusing on the concept you are teaching in class.  Inside the book, you could ask discussion questions on sticky-notes strategically placed throughout the book.  As students read, they stop to answer and discuss your question.  Depending on the book, you could add an extension task.

Math Art - Integrating art into your math stations can really motivate students to participate.  When working with area, symmetry, plane figures, angles, and more.  The activity featured below is from a blog post I wrote a few years ago.
W.I.N. Block math station ideas for the elementary classroom from Literacy Loves Company.

As you can see, there are MANY ways you can support students in stations during your W.I.N. block.  The thing to keep in mind is that whatever task you are asking your students to participate in, it is one that will move them forward and help them be successful.

Once you decide on what stations would best benefit your students, try to find a space on a classroom wall, blackboard, or whiteboard to host your W.I.N. Station rotation board.  This is the area you will post your station signs and student names.  Click below for a free download of the station headers and sign. There are two options:  Google Slideshow which is easily editable or PNGs which can be printed as is or placed in a PowerPoint slideshow and edited.



W.I.N. Block math station ideas for the elementary classroom from Literacy Loves Company.


W.I.N. Block math station ideas for the elementary classroom from Literacy Loves Company.

I have my W.I.N. board located on a blackboard.  My signs all have magnetic tape on the back which makes it easy to move.  At the end of each day, I move my station headers to the left, rather than move the student names.

As you can see, coming up with ideas for your W.I.N. stations isn't difficult!  There are a plethora of options available to you.  If you have a great idea for a math station that wasn't mentioned in this post, please share it in the comments below.

In my next post in this series, I will be sharing with you ideas for organizing and managing your teacher paperwork and your station materials.

•   What is W.I.N.?  - free download of "What is W.I.N. Time?" and "Expectations" posters.
•   Organizing Student Groups - Free download of Group Organization tool
•   Station Ideas - free download of editable station signs and group headers
•   Managing Materials - free download of binder cover and spine
•   Keeping Kids Accountable - free download of student recording sheet
•   Launching a W.I.N. Block - Mystery download!


FREEBIE

W.I.N. Block math station ideas for the elementary classroom from Literacy Loves Company.
Domino Fractions FREEBIE.  Click on image.  

  I'm always adding products, free and paid, so please follow Literacy Loves Company on TpT so that you get notification.  I price all of my newly added paid resources at 50% of for 48 hours, so it is a great way to save money. 

Thanks for visiting Literacy Loves Company!  


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Sunday, January 6, 2019

How to W.I.N. in the Classroom: Organizing Student Groups

Organizing groups for differentiation in the classroom can be daunting.  Literacy Loves Company shares how she manages W.I.N. math stations and creates small groups in her 5th grade math class.


In the first post of this series, I introduced you to the W.I.N.  block.  W.I.N. stands for "What I Need" and as the name implies, the thing that makes a W.I.N. block a different than most workshop or center time models is the focus on individual student needs.

Before we look at grouping students, let's talk about a couple of decisions that need to be made before you start organizing your groups.   

1.  When, in my schedule, can I fit a W.I.N. block?  
In my case, I have a 75 minute block for math.  I chose to use the first 30 minutes of that time.  There are some teachers in my school who hold a W.I.N. time the last 30 minutes of their math block.  

2.  How often will students participate in the W.I.N. block?
My class has W.I.N. time every day.   Students come into the classroom and go straight to their stations.    One of my teammates hold a W.I.N. block twice a week.  Really, it just depends on your schedule and what you hope to accomplish in that time.  

The first few rounds of W.I.N. in my classroom were 5 days long.  I organized my students into 5 groups based on assessments I'll discuss a little later.  I chose 5 groups because I had five stations, so each group would complete all 5 stations in five days.

After the first few full rounds, I realized that, if I am really trying to give students what they need for math, I can't always fit everyone into 5 groups.  For the last two rounds of W.I.N. my students have been in 6 different groups.  Because of this I planned 6 different stations.   

Speaking of organizing students into groups based on their needs, there are several different ways I gather data to inform my grouping decisions.  
  • At the beginning of the year, before you have any of your own data on a student, using the previous year's state reading and math assessments is a great place to start.  My students participate in SBAC at the end of each year, so that data is available to help me get a better understanding of where each students is academically.
  • Many teachers give beginning of the year assessments to their students.  The results of those tests can give you some information on your students' needs and help you make decisions about student groupings. 
  • One assessment tool my district recently purchased for schools is iReady from Curriculum Associates.  iReady is a comprehensive diagnostic test for both math and reading.  Students take the assessment at the beginning of the year, the middle of the year, and at the end of the year.  Based on their results, the software will group students.  The software also gives teachers access to lessons and materials to help support students.  This is the first assessment tool I use to organize my intervention and enrichment groups for the W.I.N. block.   I realize that not all school districts have the luxury of this diagnostic tool.  
  • Another assessment I use to organize my students is our math curriculum checkpoint quizzes or mid-unit quizzes.  As I am checking over student work, I keep a list of the concepts covered in the checkpoint and write down the names of students who need extra support in those areas.  I love grouping this way because it helps me support my students BEFORE the end of the chapter test. 
  • Exit tickets are another great way to quickly get a gauge for what your students need support with.  Exit tickets can be purposefully created to help inform you BEFORE your next round of W.I.N.
  • End of unit assessments are also helpful when putting together groups.  Even though the chapter is over, it doesn't mean that all students have mastered the skills and concepts presented in those lessons.  W.I.N. time is a great opportunity review concepts with small groups and give students more time and practice. 
These, of course, aren't the only tools you can use to gather data and form groups.  The important thing is to know your students and have an understanding of what they need to successfully meet their academic goals.  

Once you have your data, find students who have similar needs and put them into groups together.  I try to keep my groups to about 4 to 6 students.  I have had groups that only had two students because those two students needed something much different than other students.  
Organizing groups for differentiation in the classroom can be daunting.  Literacy Loves Company shares how she manages W.I.N. math stations and creates small groups in her 5th grade math class.

When looking at student data, I usually have two or three groups that are working on holes they have in the concepts we are working on.  I also usually have a couple groups that do not need intervention, but instead need to be challenged.  

When looking at student groups, I usually think of them based on the "Teacher Time" station.  This is the station that students work directly with the teacher.  I plan the lesson for each group based on why they were grouped together.  The last round of W.I.N. that I planned, I worked with one group of students on multiplication strategies, another on division strategies, one group on basic operations, and three groups were being challenged to learn and compare three new multiplication strategies (lattice method,  Egyptian method, and the Chinese method for multiplication)  Those three groups had already mastered multi-digit multiplication and introducing them to three new strategies was fun for them.  Also... the challenge of trying to figure out why they worked got them thinking about place value. 

Once your groups are planned and you know what the goal is for each group.  Plan your lessons.
  
Organizing groups for differentiation in the classroom can be daunting.  Literacy Loves Company shares how she manages W.I.N. math stations and creates small groups in her 5th grade math class.


I've used the planning page above for my last couple of W.I.N. rounds. I've revamped it for this blog post and to help me plan my next round.  The new planning pages give you space for your group lists, group goals, group lesson plans, and an opportunity to plan each of your other stations.
Organizing groups for differentiation in the classroom can be daunting.  Literacy Loves Company shares how she manages W.I.N. math stations and creates small groups in her 5th grade math class.


Click below for a free download of the W.I.N. planner.  There are three options:
1.  Fillable PDF
After you open in Google, make sure to "download" it.  


2. Printable PDF

3. PNG to put into a PowerPoint slide and make your own text boxes.  Use this option if you want to be able to change your font, colors, etc.


I hope that this post gives you some ideas of ways you can look at student data to plan small groups for your W.I.N. block.  Next week I will be sharing ideas for W.I.N. math station activities.  Here is a list of upcoming blog posts in this series:

•   Station Ideas - free download of editable station signs and group headers
•   Managing Materials - free download of binder cover and spine
•   Keeping Kids Accountable - free download of student recording sheet
•   Launching a W.I.N. Block - Mystery download! 

If you have any questions about how to form groups please let me know in the comments below.  Also, if you use different assessments or sources of data in your classroom, please share with others by commenting.  I look forward to hearing from you.  

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Thursday, January 3, 2019

How to W.I.N. in the Classroom: What is W.I.N.?



W.I.N. in the elementary classroom with differentiated stations.  Intervention and enrichment take on a new look with the W.I.N. block.Literacy Loves Company



Everybody likes to be a winner, right?   I've never met a person who preferred to lose.  This is especially true in the classroom.  Teachers want their students to be successful, to feel good about their progress and capabilities.  The struggle here is that no two students are alike.  Every child needs different support systems and strategies to help them along their path.

Differentiation can be complicated and as good teachers, we are always searching for ways to reach students where they are and help them progress to where they need to be.  This is where the idea of the W.I.N. block comes in.

I first heard of W.I.N. when one of my teammates came back from a professional development workshop shared the basic idea behind W.I.N.  W.I.N. stands for What I Need and is a set block of intervention and enrichment time that students are in stations or activities geared toward their needs.  I know this is nothing new.  I've used the workshop model in my math class and literacy stations in my language arts, so I am familiar with the model. I think the thing that intrigued me about this version of an old idea was the emphasis on really understanding my students' needs and the challenge of finding ideas, activities, and materials to support them.
 W.I.N. in the elementary classroom with differentiated stations.  Intervention and enrichment take on a new look with the W.I.N. block.
Click to download a copy of this poster.

You can incorporate a W.I.N. block for any subject.  Right now I have a 30 minute W.I.N. block placed at the beginning of my math period.  As we move into the new year, I am working on organizing a W.I.N. block for my fifth and sixth grade readers.
W.I.N. in the elementary classroom with differentiated stations.  Intervention and enrichment take on a new look with the W.I.N. block. Literacy Loves Company

W.I.N. block can look different for different teachers.  It really just depends on your students, your time constraints, your teaching style, and the expectations of your administration.  Several teachers in my building are incorporating some version of a W.I.N. block.  None of them look the same and all are helping to give students what they need to be successful.
W.I.N. in the elementary classroom with differentiated stations.  Intervention and enrichment take on a new look with the W.I.N. block.Literacy Loves Company

So, are you interested in W.I.N.ning in your classroom?

The key to a successful W.I.N. block is organization.  Organization of your student groups, organization of your stations, organization of your materials.  If this seems like too much organization for you...  I totally understand.  You are a busy teacher.  There is NEVER enough prep time!  Maybe organization isn't your strong suit.  Whatever the roadblock, I'm here to help!

Over the next few weeks, I'll be continuing this topic in a series of blog posts.  These blog posts will include downloads of free materials to support you on your W.I.N.ing journey!


•   Organizing Student Groups - free download of a group organizational tool
•   Station Ideas - free download of editable station signs and group headers
•   Managing Materials - free download of binder cover and spine
•   Keeping Kids Accountable - free download of student recording sheet
•   Launching a W.I.N. Block - Mystery download! 

Next week I'll share with you what to consider as you are planning your student groups and what opportunities for assessment I use.  I will also have available an organizational tool that helps me keep my groups and ideas organized.

Until then, be thinking of a time in your schedule you might be able to fit in 20 -30 minutes of individualized time for your students.  Also, If you have any questions about the W.I.N. block, please comment below.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you'll come back again next week!
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Thursday, July 20, 2017

5 Sanity Savers for Back to School



Feeling a bit overwhelmed as you get ready for Back to School?  These 5 sanity saving ideas will help you with classroom organization, classroom management, and more the first day of school and all school year long!  �



As you know, back to school season can be crazy!  There is so much to do and very little time to do it.  In my school district, we report back to our schools a week before the students show up.  That week is filled with district meetings, school meetings, team meetings, and even some parent meetings.  AND don't forget the year long curriculum map, weekly lesson plans, Meet the Teacher night, and a host of other things a teacher has to get ready for the new school year.

Did you notice that I didn't mention getting your classroom in order?  Where I work, we have to pack up all of our classroom materials for the summer.  This includes taking down bulletin boards and emptying bookshelves.  When I show up back to school in August it is like a fresh start, a blank slate.  Because there is so much to do, I love knowing that I have a few things that I don't have to worry about as I plan for that BIG first day of school.   I'd like to share them with you.

I have used my first day packet for a few years now.  There is so much that I love about it!  I love that it is a first day packet, but it lasts the whole first week!  My students keep it in their cubbies and when there is some free time, they beg to work on parts of it.  The packet includes an FAQ section which covers questions students might have about me, our routines, and expectations.  There are also sections to help them get to know me and some fun pages for writing about themselves, drawing, and a classmate name word search.  On the first day of school the packets are on student tables so the kids have something to work on while I am greeting parents and other students, helping put materials away, taking attendance, and all those other million things we do on in the first hour on the first day!

Feeling a bit overwhelmed as you get ready for Back to School?  These 5 sanity saving ideas will help you with classroom organization, classroom management, and more the first day of school and all school year long!  �

A first day packet isn't hard to put together, but if you want to save yourself a bit more time, I have mine in an editable version available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Click the product cover below to open the product description.




One of the most important classroom management tools a teacher can have is his/her signal that attention is needed.  I have a bunch of attention getters in my class.  I have a chime that I love to use.  It sits on the corner of my desk.  I have a cow bell that we use to signal students to get their mail out of their mailboxes.  One of the things I don't like about these two signals is that I have to move toward them to ring them.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed as you get ready for Back to School?  These 5 sanity saving ideas will help you with classroom organization, classroom management, and more the first day of school and all school year long!  �

Last summer, while reading blogs, Instagram, and Facebook, I came across a post about using doorbells in the classroom.  WHAT?  GENIUS?  I wish I knew who to thank for that piece of miraculous advice, but I don't.  What is so clever about using a doorbell in the classroom is that they come in two parts.  One is the actual doorbell button that you push and the other is the chime which you can place on a bookshelf or cabinet.  The button is small enough to fit in your pocket so that you can ring it wherever you are in the classroom.  The one I got had several possible chime settings.  I chose one that sounded like a coo-coo click.  I taught the students that whenever they heard that sound, they were to stop talking and raise their hands.  Not everyone would hear the sound, buy they would notice the room quieting and the hands raised and would follow suit.  Genius, I tell you!  Pure genius!!!!

Feeling a bit overwhelmed as you get ready for Back to School?  These 5 sanity saving ideas will help you with classroom organization, classroom management, and more the first day of school and all school year long!  �



There are many positive behavior reinforcers out there.  For the first week or two of school, I just use marbles and a jar...  AKA...  The Marble Jar!  Very low prep!  The class as a whole can earn marbles for good transitions, working quietly, etc.  Individuals can earn marbles for following directions, getting out materials, walking quietly in the hall...  you get the point!  The key here is that it is easy for me to implement.  It is visual and tangible for the students.  And most of all, the students are working together toward a common goal from day ONE.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed as you get ready for Back to School?  These 5 sanity saving ideas will help you with classroom organization, classroom management, and more the first day of school and all school year long!  �


I don't use the marble jar all year long.  The past 5 or so years, the class would fill up the marble jar so that they could start earning Danley Dollars which was our class monetary system.  I'm moving to a new grade level, a 5/6 split, and am working on a new positive behavior system that I am very excited about!  I'll make sure to share it here on the blog when I have it presentable.


Classrooms are digital these days.  Whether you are a one device classroom or you are a one-to-one classroom, you have to deal with students' logins and passwords.  Last year, I put together password rings for my students.  Believe it or not, ALL 32 of my students still have their rings by the end of the year.  THIS definitely saved my sanity! We kept the rings in a basket and students got them out when they needed them or we took the whole basket with us to the computer lab.  They were brightly colored and have student names on them, so if they did get misplaced, it was easy enough to find them or get them returned to us.  I've included a link to my FREE editable template for the password cards on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Just click on the product image at the bottom of the post to open it up in a new window.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed as you get ready for Back to School?  These 5 sanity saving ideas will help you with classroom organization, classroom management, and more the first day of school and all school year long!  �



The last sanity saver I'd like to share is how I manage classroom jobs in my class.  All of my students have a small job that they are responsible for each day.  I have a Teacher's Assistant, Light Manager, Chair Stackers, Librarians, Board Cleaners, and the list goes on...  32 students = 32 jobs.  Because it could be overwhelming to make sure everyone is doing their jobs, I also have two job managers.  It is their responsibility to check off which students do their job each day.  I tie this into our classroom economy and students get "paid" each month for doing their classroom jobs.  This might sound like a headache to organized, but it really isn't. You can read about it more fully in the blog post "Your Hired:  Building Community with Classroom Jobs"

Having all students help out in the classroom is a big sanity saver!  At the end of the day, if everyone is doing their job,  I don't have to worry about cleaning up after my students.  This saves time for me to grade papers, plan lessons, and clean up my own corner of the room.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed as you get ready for Back to School?  These 5 sanity saving ideas will help you with classroom organization, classroom management, and more the first day of school and all school year long!  �

If you are interested in starting classroom jobs with your own students, I've created a resource that includes the editable classified ads, job application, job board, check-off sheets and much more.  You can take a look at it by clicking on the product image below.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed as you get ready for Back to School?  These 5 sanity saving ideas will help you with classroom organization, classroom management, and more the first day of school and all school year long!  �

There you go.  My five Sanity Savers for back to school.  I hope that you leave with at least a couple of ideas to help your preparations for the new school year go a little bit smoother.  Don't forget to grab the Password Ring FREEBIE by clicking the link below.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed as you get ready for Back to School?  These 5 sanity saving ideas will help you with classroom organization, classroom management, and more the first day of school and all school year long!  �

Thank you in advance for sharing this blog post with others by pinning the image below!  
Feeling a bit overwhelmed as you get ready for Back to School?  These 5 sanity saving ideas will help you with classroom organization, classroom management, and more the first day of school and all school year long!  �
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Thanks for visiting!


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Flexible Seating: The Pros and Cons


Are you heading back to school and considering flexible seating for your classroom?  Before you jump in, check out some of the pros and cons from an elementary classroom experience.

I have a love/hate relationship with flexible seating.   I love the idea of it.  I love the way it looks in my classroom.  I love the "flexibility" it gives my teaching and my students.  I love all the wonderful things about it when it is working well.  But over the last year and a half that I have been doing flexible seating in the classroom, I've also found some things I don't love about it and it doesn't always meet the expectations I have for how it should work.  This summer I find myself doing a lot of thinking about the pros and cons of flexible seating.   I'm moving into a new classroom and grade level this upcoming school year and I'm trying to decide my future with flexible seating.  Do we stick together or do we break up?

The Back Story
When I started flexible seating in my classroom, it was March.  My students were about to head off for spring break in a week and I asked them if they wanted to do an experiment.  Of course, they were gung-ho:  How exciting!  We get to choose our own seats?  We can sit on the floor?  I can stand up if I want?  I can switch seats every day if I?  We can sit next to our friends?  Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!  So we went to work, moving tables, taking off legs, raising tables, and stacking chairs in the corner.  Each day, students picked their seats for the next day and it worked like a dream.  The students took it seriously.  We talked about how it was going each week during our morning meeting.  After spring break, my principal gave me funds to buy some stools, yoga balls, and pillows.  Other teachers in my school noticed and were curious.  Some took the leap in their own classrooms.

Click to read about how I set up my room for flexible seating.  

This last school year, I started out the year with flexible seating already in place.  A new group of students, the same routines and expectations...  with a different result.  I'm not sure why it didn't go as well as the first year.  It could have been the fact that the first group of students had a part in the transition.  They were part of the plan, the implementation, and the ongoing monitoring.  For the second group of students, it was handed to them.  There was no investment in it.  I'm not sure.  What I do know is that with both class, there were pros and cons.
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The Pros
Even though it didn't really work out the way I had hoped this second year, I still believe that there are many wonderful things about flexible seating.  Here are just a few:

  • Students love choice!  How often do students get to have a choice in where they sit in the classroom?  Not often.  Giving students that freedom, with guidelines, is powerful.  Many students really get to know what seating choices help them be more focused and productive.  
  • Everyone's idea of comfort is different.  I am a floor-sitter.  I prefer to sit on the floor or on a short stool.  I'm short.  This may have something to do with it.  Some students aren't comfortable on the floor, or in a traditional chair.  
  • The seating options can help students who struggle to sit still.  I have a lot of "verbs" in my class.  Kids who can't sit still.  Kids who jiggle their feet, wiggle their hips, or tap their fingers.  They're constantly moving.  Some flexible seating options can really benefit these students.

I read this book to my class every year. 
  • It builds independence.  Students start learning how to make decisions about their own learning.  They have to determine which space works best for them, which space is distracting or uncomfortable, which space helps them focus and be the most productive.  This self-awareness will be important throughout their academic lives.  
  • Where's the teacher?  One of the things I love about flexible seating is that it gets me away from the front of the room.  The students are never sure where I may present a lesson from.  
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The Cons
  • It costs money.  The tables and chairs that came with my classroom were free...  flexible seating is an investment.  I was lucky enough to have a principal and PTA that helped me that first year.  The second year, I had more students which means more seating which leads me to the next con... 
  • Space.  When you have a large class size (think 32 or more students), flexible seating can be a challenge.  You really want to have enough seating options and spaces that students can really make a good choice of where to sit.  When you have 32 students and only 32 seats, some students are going to get whatever is left, which isn't always the best choice for them.  
  • Less broad friendships.  One of the things I noticed about this year's class is that the same students would sit at the same tables every time.  It wasn't about the seating choices, it was about their friends.  Because they had the free choice, they chose to sit together each day, everyday and other students were left out.  My first year of flexible seating this wasn't a problem because the first part of the year, we had traditional assigned seats and students were grouped a lot of different ways.  They got to know each other and appreciate each other for their uniqueness.   With this new group, it didn't matter how many times we talked about the reason for flexible seating, the importance of choosing a spot that helped you be a productive learner, the need for being inclusive and open to new friendships.  It. Didn't. Matter.  They still always chose to sit with their friends. 
  • Backpacks, backpacks everywhere.  Because my class does not have lockers or backpack hooks, my students have no place to put their backpacks.  I provided large rubbermaid tubs to house them throughout the day, but inevitably they, along with jackets, would end up on the floor getting trampled on by dozens of feet.  
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About halfway way through the school year, we partially stopped flexible seating.  The different types of seats were still in the classroom, but I assigned table groups.  The floor table and standing table were taken out, the kids didn't like them, and more traditional chairs were brought back into the classroom. 

I was frustrated and sad.  I felt like I had failed at flexible seating!   How could it go so great one year and bomb the next?  

I'm trying to be reflective now and decide how I am going to handle seating as I start setting up my new classroom in August.  I don't want to give up on flexible seating.  It fits with who I am and my way of teaching... plus, I have a bunch of yoga balls and crate stools that I don't want to get rid of.  
Are you heading back to school and considering flexible seating for your classroom?  Before you jump in, check out some of the pros and cons from an elementary classroom experience.
Want to make your own crate seats?  Click on the photo to go to my Classroom DIY - Crate Seat post!  

So, as I end this blog post, I am trying to come up with ways to save this relationship.  My plan is to go back to what worked and go from there.  You have to be flexible when implementing flexible seating.  You have to adjust your expectations and focus on the basics of what works well.  Here is some advice for myself and for those of you who are starting your own relationship with flexible seating:  
  1. Don't start the year off with flexible seating.  Let students earn it.  Let students be a part of the process.  Let students share their ideas for flexible seating.  Involve them in the transformation. 
  2. Clearly articulate the reasons for and benefits of flexible seating with your students.  
  3. Set clear guidelines and expectations.
  4. Regularly monitor how flexible seating is going in the classroom.  Encourage discourse on the pros and cons students are seeing and be honest about what I am noticing as the teacher.  
  5. Have a clear plan for organization.  Where will supplies go?  Where will jackets go in the winter?  Where will backpacks be stored?  
  6. Don't be afraid to adjust your plan.  If it isn't working change it. 
 That's it.  That's all I have.  I'm not throwing in the towel.  I'm tenacious if nothing else, and I feel like this relationship is worth fighting for.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Are you heading back to school and considering flexible seating for your classroom?  Before you jump in, check out some of the pros and cons from an elementary classroom experience.
Thanks for pinning me!  

I know my experience with flexible seating is not the same as everyone else's.  I'm sure there are some people who start it and it is works out perfectly for them.  I also know that there are some people who give it a try and regret it.  If you are in either of those two camps or somewhere in between, I'd love to know what worked for you and what didn't.  Please share your thoughts, ideas, and advice in the comments!

Until next time,