*While cleaning out my blog’s draft folder I found this gem from last year. Flexible seating doesn’t have to be fancy and it doesn’t have to be expensive!
Imagine that you are on your way to a professional development session. You walk in, see your teacher bestie and go to sit down. As soon as you reach her table she shakes her head and says, “we have to sit in assigned seats.” As you turn to find out where to sit you have a sinking feeling and want to be there even less than before. You find the table only to see that it has the hard metal folding chairs and not the ones with the slight cushion, forget it! The simple act of choosing where to sit and what to sit on is important to us as adults. It is also important to our students yet we rarely give them this choice.
Creating a space in which students have options in their seating can be tricky. A lot of schools don’t have extra money to buy new chairs and tables. Many teachers don’t have a lot of choices when it comes to the furniture in their classroom. Teachers also don’t want to spend even more money out of pocket on seating. Here are a few options when you don’t have any options.
Consider Your Options
1. Take the names off of the desks. You have desks (or tables) and you have chairs. One way to create flexible seating is to remove the names from desks and chairs. Find somewhere in the room for student “stuff” to go. I gave each student a drawer in the cubbies we already had. We put our math journals in one bin and our reading in another. Students were then allowed to choose the desk they sat in. It wasn’t much but it was a choice. I arranged the desks so that some were alone, some were in partners and some were in groups. Students loved being able to choose where to go.
2. Consider the furniture you do have. This year I looked around my classroom and sort of inventoried the furniture. I had my desk, two comfy chairs, four tables, 25 chairs and two carpets. I saw immediately that I could take the legs off of one of the tables, lower it to the floor and put a carpet underneath it. I could also keep one of my scooped tables and attempt to trade the others.
3. Listen in. I was in a friend’s classroom and she was getting rid of her teacher desk. I heard and asked if I could put it in my room. Listen to the teachers around you! Sometimes teachers rearrange. Sometimes they get rid of things that you have had your eyes on. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for things if you notice fellow teachers getting rid of them. Don’t be afraid to offer a swap if you see something you want. My second year teaching I swapped a round table for a rectangle table. It made a world of difference in my classroom.
4. Snoop around! I noticed that we had a ton of desks in our elementary commons area. I asked if I could swap some of my tables for some desks. My principal approved it, six desks came into my classroom and two tables went out. Desks give you many options. I decided to keep three at a normal height and raised three up to become standing desks.
Within a few weeks, I had transformed my space into something new. I didn’t spend a single penny. The best part is that my kids love the new space! Other teachers are taking notice too! You can use the things that are available to you to create flexible seating. It might not be the beautiful dream you wished up while on Pinterest late at night but it will be functional.
Donors Choose- Now that I am no longer a teacher in the US, I can’t use Donor’s Choose. If you are a teacher in the United States, Donor’s Choose is a wonderful option for you. Two years ago I wrote a Donors Choose grant for Hokki Stools. These are wonderful! My students loved those stools. When they wiggled while they worked, they worked longer and harder. I highly recommend writing a donor’s choose grant for something. Hokki Stools, or wiggle seats or exercise balls are all excellent choices.
Because I said so! -Not the best answer. Seriously. Why do we do it?
This has been the question that I always dreaded as a teacher. Why in the world were we logging our reading? How was this piece of paper helpful at all? In my classroom it wasn’t. It wasn’t helpful because I wasn’t using it for anything. Kids were writing down that they read. I was checking to make sure they read at home (even though it was the same 12 kids that always read and the same 6 that never read). We were logging our reading during school and collecting so much data but WHY? I considered telling students to just stop their logging but then I figured there had to be a reason why we have students log their reading. Why would Lucy Calkins want kids to log their reading? There had to be a reason. Now I don’t know if this is the reason Lucy Calkins would give (let’s be real she is MUCH more knowledgable then I am) but I have come up with a reason and logging has changed in my classroom for the better!
Logging our reading gives us so much insight to the work of readers. This year I set up a little inquiry project for myself to figure out why logging student reading is helpful. I began by logging my own reading. It was a journey that wasn’t always pretty but it was helpful. I noticed so much about myself as a reader. I noticed that I have a really hard time getting into books and I read slowly in small chunks of time. I noticed that I read more pages at home and less pages at school (I wonder why!). I noticed that at times I rush through parts of stories and then have to go back and reread because I wasn’t paying attention to what I was reading. I have the same problems my students have!
At the start of the school year I started logging the books we read for read aloud. Read aloud is a time to model skills for students that you want them to do on their own. Check out my post about Read Aloud Essentials to learn more about read aloud. If I wanted students to log their reading shouldn’t I be logging the books we read during that time? The answer is yes! I was almost embarrassed when I realized how obvious this was. If you aren’t modeling it- you aren’t teaching it!
So we started to log our reading as a class. On Thursdays (because we had more time for read aloud that day) we started to look at our read aloud log. I would stick it under the document camera and ask, “What do you notice?” Then I would wait. I would stare at the screen and nod saying “Oh interesting!” Students would look closer. I would say, “Wow if you haven’t looked yet, look at the minutes” or “Oh my, look at the number of pages” directing student attention to areas I wanted to talk about. Then I would have them turn and talk with their reading partner. What do you notice?
After observations we started to have conversations where students could share what they noticed and things we could work on. These were a wide range of things. Please note at the start of our school year I had a high behavior class and fights would break out every few hours (literally) so our class time was really chopped up. Read aloud was also right after recess so there was a lot of drama but these were their real observations…
- Some days we only read for 5 minutes when we have 20 minutes of reading time (due to behaviors)
- Some days we read really fast and we read more than a page a minute.
- Some days we read really slow and read way less than a page per minute.
- One day we didn’t get to have read aloud. (This was due to student behavior. Our class had to evacuate and I was suddenly holding read aloud in a conference room and I had ran out of the room without the book! So I just decided we would sit in a circle and tell stories) Why did this happen? Could it have been prevented? Kids who were involved in the problems noticed. One of them apologized to the class for starting the fight and started to realize his behavior was hurting our class!
Slowly behavior during read aloud started to change. We were able to read without interruptions and read aloud became the saving grace of my classroom! A few months later when we analyzed our reading log we noticed some different things. This time I decided to jot down our noticing on a T-chart. Trying out a little tool for looking critically at ourselves as readers.
Our goal was to stop and jot as we read. During my read aloud time I started modeling stop and jots. Guess what skill my students weren’t doing as they read- stop and jots! We learned so much from analyzing our reading log. After this I didn’t push students to analyze their own reading log- the kids wanted to. Could we do this with our reading partners? Yes! We absolutely could. Making a T-chart is so easy for students that some of them had a conference with their reading partner during reading that day to determine what they could work on based on our own analysis.
What are some things you could notice in a student reading log? Once we notice we come up with a possible reason this is happening. Maybe…
- Student are starting a million books and they aren’t finishing anything. (We highlight books on our reading log when we finish and put a red dot by books we are abandoning.) Maybe they are choosing books that are too hard. Maybe they are choosing books they aren’t interested in. Maybe they don’t understand how to sit down with a book and truly engage.
- Students are not reading at home. Research shows that reading 20 minutes at home each night helps students become better readers. Reading at home is the only homework I assign because I believe it is that important. Maybe they aren’t reading at home because they aren’t bringing books home. Maybe they aren’t reading at home because they have to babysit their siblings. Maybe they aren’t reading at home because they are playing video games.
- Students are flying through books. Maybe they are way too easy. Maybe they aren’t doing any thinking work as they read. There might not be any post-its or reading notebook entries. Maybe students don’t understand how to do the thinking work of a reader.
- Students are taking forever to finish a book. Maybe this text is too difficult. Maybe they are spending too much time writing down jots and not enough time reading. Maybe decoding is difficult and it is holding them up. Maybe they are talking to their friends during reading time.
- Students don’t even have a reading log. This happens quite frequently in my classroom. If students don’t have a reading log maybe they don’t see the point of logging their reading. Maybe they are at a level where it doesn’t make sense to log their reading. Maybe they need a different kind of log that works for their level. Maybe they just need to be told again that they need to log their reading.
- Students are starting and finishing each book they read. Hooray! They are doing what we want to see them doing.
- Students are reading faster than a page per minute but have stop and jots. Maybe this student is ready to switch levels because this level is getting too easy. Maybe all of their jots are surface level and their thinking needs to go deeper.
- Students are reading at home and at school. Yippee! Let’s celebrate this. Maybe this student has parents that make sure they do their homework each night. Maybe this student was really engaged in the book they were reading and they didn’t want to put it down.
After analyzing reading logs students want to log their reading even more. Now they see the value in logging their reading. Every once in a while we will hit a slump where kids aren’t logging their reading and that is the point to show them the value once again.
Why is it so important for students to log their reading? It gives us valuable data about who students are as readers. It helps us see strengths and it helps us see weaknesses. We can see things to praise readers for on their logs. We can see what we need to teach readers based on their logs. Logging reading helps students self-reflect on their reading habits and set goals to improve as readers.