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September 9, 2016

The Pros and Cons of Flexible Seating in Second Grade

The Pros and Cons of Flexible Seating in Second Grade - HeidiSongsThe Pros and Cons of Flexible Seating in Second Grade - HeidiSongs

In this post, I’m going to give you an update on how I am implementing flexible seating in my current second grade classroom.  Of course, I have never done this before, so I am working my way through it and figuring things out as I go along!  Some of it has been wonderful, and to be honest, some of it has been a little difficult!  But every shadow comes with a light, and the pros and cons really do go together.  There are growing pains for both me and the students, but we are definitely learning.

The Pros and Cons of Flexible Seating in Second Grade - HeidiSongs

Curious?  Wondering if this is for you?  Read on, and I’ll tell you all about it!  And make sure to let me know if you have some solutions for problems I’ve encountered that I haven’t come up with yet!


A photo posted by Heidi Butkus (@heidisongs) on


But first… Why bother with flexible seating at all?


Flexible Seating:  Why Bother?

Flexible Seating - Pros & Cons - HeidiSongs
Just in case you are wondering, I purchased the balls at Walmart for just $2.88! They are the ones kept in a very large wire bin. The Walmart near me was sold out of the crates, which had gone on clearance for just $2. each, so I had to purchase the crates you see here for $3.79 at Target. I had to let some of the air out of the balls to make them fit.

It turns out that there is quite a lot of research that spending too much time sitting is just plain unhealthy.  Giving kids choices, such as standing, laying down, bouncing a bit while they are working, etc.- these are all healthier options for kids.  There is also a lot of research that shows that children learn better while they are moving. This article has multiple links to some great research that explains this in detail.

One thing that I have definitely noticed in my own classroom is that attentiveness in whole group lessons is increased when children are seated in their “comfy seats.”  I can teach whole group lessons for noticeably longer periods of time when the kids are comfortably seated.  I would say that a lesson can last one and a half times LONGER if they are comfortably seated than if they are not!


Pros and Cons of Going Deskless

Flexible Seating - Pros & Cons - HeidiSongs
The large tubs with the balls in them can be purchased at Party City for $9.99 or Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $7.99. I originally got the orange one at Michaels for $5.99, but they don’t stock them anymore at the store near me!

Pro:  The great thing about setting up a classroom without desks is that when you pull the desks out, it opens up TONS of space!  I loved that about my “new” room right away!  I rarely find myself tripping over chairs or desks as I try to make it to the phone, etc.

Con:  I REALLY wanted to keep enough regular tables and chairs in my room to seat everyone if needed.  After all, they are just seven years old.  I feel that there are times when I may want/need them to all be seated at the tables, just as if they were seated at desks.  Therefore, I have not yet taken the legs off of any table to make it a “floor table,” nor have I tried to put in a “standing table” either, because there simply isn’t ROOM to have those AND enough regular tables as well.  (Please don’t judge me!  I will get to that point eventually- once I figure out how to have my cake and eat it, too. Ha!)

I just need to ease myself into this slooooowly!  So for the time being, I need to figure out how to manage flexible seating with the basic types of seats that I have, and then I may decide to grow into converting two of my existing tables into a standing table and a floor table.


Pros and Cons of Giving Kids Real Choices

Flexible Seating - Pros & Cons - HeidiSongs

Pro:  Some kids really rise to the occasion and show you that they CAN choose good “working spots” when given the freedom to do so!  They make great choices and do awesome work in a nice, comfy spot of their choice!

Con:  Some kids have already shown that they consistently can NOT make good choices when choosing a “working spot.”  Unfortunately, some of my younger boys tend to make very poor choices when they are supposed to be working, and so far I haven’t seen any sign of them being able to self-regulate.  It’s almost as though the freedom confuses them!  “She let me choose where and what to sit on, so now I must be able to play.”

I believe that if I stick with it, they will eventually start to develop some self-regulation skills- and that these skills are EXTREMELY important for them to develop!  (However, for the time being, it sometimes just feels like I created an unnecessary problem for myself to solve.)  In the meantime, I decided to impose a bit more structure on the reading center, at least.  The children must be seated on one of the SitSpot Footprints (FYI, I do get commissions for the SitSpot links mentioned in this post!)), which leaves them separated. The problems still come when they are trying to choose a book, though, because they leave their footprint spot and meet in the middle for some playtime and wrestling with a book tub between them!  Ugh…

Flexible Seating - Pros & Cons - HeidiSongs


Pros and Cons of Using the Seats as Rewards or Consequences

Flexible Seating - Pros & Cons - HeidiSongs

Pro:  Special seats make AWESOME REWARDS!  My rule is that the children must use the seats correctly or they lose them.  Also, if they are not listening or following the rules in general, the first thing to go is the comfy seat!  It’s a privilege that can be taken away at any time.  This works wonderfully for me in both large and small group settings.  I have not had to use brag tags, a prize box, reward chips, or even Class Dojo!  The seats themselves are reward enough.

Con:  The kids like them SO MUCH that they can get VERY UPSET if they lose them!  One child threw a fit this week when he lost his ball chair, and when he had to move to a regular plastic chair he threw it ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE ROOM!  Luckily, there was enough open space that he didn’t hit anyone else.  Another time, I told a child to get up, and he balked.  Thinking he was getting up, I pulled the ball chair out from under him, and he fell down onto the ground!  Um… oops.  (It turns out he thought he would be given another chance after I already said “no” three or four times.)


Pros and Cons of the EXPENSE!  (Yes, there are pros to the expense!)

Flexible Seating - Pros & Cons - HeidiSongs
I didn’t HAVE to purchase the “knobby” balls; I just chose them because they seemed to be a little sturdier than the smooth ones. I would be WAY off on that, though!

Con:  Buying these supplies can be expensive, and we STILL don’t seem to have enough for everyone!  The children do argue over them sometimes, and that is something I have had to deal with.

Pro:  I believe that they have started to realize that if you are ON TIME to school, you’ll get first choice of the comfy seats.  LOL!  Also, they have started to learn to share some of the seats using a timer!


Pros and Cons of Transition Times

Flexible Seating - Pros & Cons - HeidiSongs
These backrest pillows were purchased at Walmart for $12.89.

Con:  Transitioning into and out of using the comfy seats has been really the biggest irritant for me more than anything else.  I don’t mind that they are seated on the pillows or ball chairs, etc.  None of that really bothers me much.  But waiting for them to choose their seat and/or put it away is a problem for me that I still need to solve, because it is taking up too much instructional time.  Also, some of the children get a little bit greedy and try to take two, three, or four pillows, etc., while their classmates may have none!  So we will have to work on that.

I guess I will have to figure out a better way to teach them to transition.  The biggest issue is that some of the BOYS don’t just put their stuff away… they throw it somewhere nearby and then stop to play.  (Go figure!)

Pro:  Frankly, I can’t think of any pros to this situation right now, other than the fact that I WILL figure out how to make it better- and when I do, I’ll share it with you!  I’m determined, LOL!  I started today trying to release them just a few at a time to put their supplies away, demonstrating HOW and WHERE to put them, and watching as each group comes back.  It was MUCH calmer, so we are on our way!  I am also going to try a musical cue- see if they can get it all put away before a song ends, etc.


Pros and Cons of Cheap Seating Supplies that BREAK

Flexible Seating - Pros & Cons - HeidiSongs

Con:  Some of these cheap supplies are just not durable enough to be sat in!  I purchased 6 Sterilite laundry baskets at Walmart when school started, and two weeks into the school year, two of them were already totally broken!  Do don’t buy Sterilite laundry baskets for seating purposes!  They were obviously not designed for that purpose.  I do have a lot of great Sterilite storage products that I use all the time, but this particular one didn’t work out.

Also, two of the crates that the balls are in broke already.  But I realized that the reason why the crates broke was because the balls were not deflated enough to rest all the way down on the BOTTOM of the crate.  If the child’s weight is supported by the ball on the bottom of the crate rather than the sides, the crate doesn’t crack.  Once I got the balls pushed all the way down to the bottom of the crates, I haven’t had any problems with the crates breaking.

Pro:  The things that are too fragile will probably break right away, and you will likely be able to return or exchange them, so save those receipts!  Places like Walmart and Target usually have very flexible return policies, which is nice.  I exchanged all of my laundry baskets for the crates and balls that I got at Walmart.  I suggest that you start off with just a couple of things and see if they will last, and then purchase more.


Notes- horizontal line 2

So?  What do you think?  Do you have any ideas or solutions that are working great in your room?  Do you think flexible seating is worth the expense and bother, or is it just another passing educational fad?  I would love to hear from you!

– Heidi

P.S. For a free download of this Flexible Seating rules chart, click here!


A photo posted by Heidi Butkus (@heidisongs) on



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