Flexible seating options help third graders sit, stand, or lie down in order to learn more effectively

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Third graders at Woodland Intermediate School are taking a stand – or lying on the carpet, wobbling on wobble stools, or bouncing on yoga balls – all in an effort to help them learn more effectively.

Third graders in Jennifer Crosby and Megan Lascik's third grade classes can sit, kneel, wobble, or wiggle their way to effective learning.
Third graders in Jennifer Crosby and Megan Lascik's third grade classes can sit, kneel, wobble, or wiggle their way to effective learning. 

Jennifer Crosby and Megan Lascik, third grade teachers, started to offer flexible seating options at the beginning of the current school year. "Over the past two years, I have done a lot of research into helping students become more active participants by guiding their own learning," said Crosby. "I read countless articles and blog posts from teachers throughout the United States who sing the praises of flexible seating and how it empowers student learning."

The third graders' classrooms offer students a variety of different seating options to fit their energy levels. For students who have excess energy and like to wiggle or bounce, students can choose wobble stools or yoga balls which allow for movement. Students can also sit or lie down on colorful carpets in the center of both classrooms. Throughout the day, some students still elect to sit at desks with traditional chairs.

Both classrooms offer yoga balls (like those pictured) or wobble stools for students who want to move while they learn.
Both classrooms offer yoga balls (like those pictured) or wobble stools for students who want to move while they learn.

Recent studies show that every student holds different sensory needs. Some students need to bounce, wiggle, or rock in order to pay attention. "These sensory needs need to be met before more effective learning can take place," explained Lascik. "Once the sensory need is met, students will be comfortable in their learning environment, and can pay more attention to the lessons being presented."

The two teachers introduced the concept to their students at the beginning of the year by talking about needs and energy levels. Felicity Ottis, an occupational therapist for Woodland Public Schools, presented a special lesson to the students about how to listen to their needs by describing energy levels as engines where some engines run fast and others run slow. "The real power of the flexible seating model comes from the ownership students develop in selecting the type of seating style that best suits them," said Crosby. "This empowerment helps students develop the internal motivation to take charge of their own learning and become leaders in the classroom."

Students took to the concept of flexible seating preferred pretty quickly. "At first, there was some novelty as students wanted to do what their classmates were doing," said Lascik. "Students started realizing fairly fast that they should sit however fit their needs, not whatever their friends were doing." Crosby saw similar reactions in her classroom. "We created norms as a class so students could feel responsible for following the rules each day," said Crosby. "My students' initial reactions were very positive and they continue to enjoy the flexible seating model."

Daniela Lara (right) prefers the wobble stools because she enjoys being active throughout the day.
Daniela Lara (right) prefers the wobble stools because she enjoys being active throughout the day.

Students rave about flexible seating. "It's nice to be able to choose because you can move or sit still," said Shaylee Thayer, a third grader. "I usually like to move and be active, even in school." Harley Gatica, a classmate, agreed with Shaylee, "I really like being able to bounce and I feel like I can pay attention more because I can move around." Students enjoy having a wide variety of chairs. "I like the wobble stools because when I'm feeling hyper, I can sit on something that calms me down," said Daniela Lara, a third grader. "I think having everyone sit how they want to can be a little distracting at first, but it helps us all concentrate better."

Megan Lascik (left) finds that although flexible seating options add more movement to a classroom, the students are also more attentive to the lessons.
Megan Lascik (left) finds that although flexible seating options add more movement to a classroom, the students are also more attentive to the lessons. 

Although the different kinds of chairs introduce additional movement to their classrooms, both teachers find the bouncing and wobbling doesn't distract their classes. "My students feel that they have some power in the classroom because they make important decisions each day regarding their learning," said Crosby. "I have noticed positive impacts on their behavior where they are often calmer and seem less restless." Lascik sees similar results in her classroom, "Kids are sitting on the floor, bouncing on their yoga balls, and wobbling on their stools, but they're attentive to the lessons."

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