How I Implemented Flexible Seating for Under $100
A couple of years ago, I decided I needed a classroom that was going to reflect and compliment my teaching style. My colleagues tell me I am “organic” and “flexible” with my teaching style, so after some researching, I decided that a room with flexible seating options would accommodate my style and work best for my class.
If you aren’t familiar with flexible seating, it’s a way of organizing your classroom so that there different areas with various seating options around the classroom. Students choose what desks to work at based on how they wish to sit. In my class, students have an option to sit on stools, cushions, buckets, or lounge chairs, bounce on yoga balls, lay on the floor with a yoga mat or cushion, or stand at a raised desk. They can sit in a communal area or isolate themselves. Most of all, they have the freedom to choose their seats. They can find a spot that is comfortable and allows them to focus. They can get up and move away from anyone or anything distracting them.
But first… how could you afford this?
The most common question I get is, “Wasn’t all that stuff really expensive?” There are two answers to this – if you are browsing Pinterest and want your room to look like a Pinterest classroom, then yes, implementing flexible seating is very expensive. Um hello, we’re teachers. For me, that wasn’t possible. However, I knew that it wasn’t about the stuff, but rather, the overall goal of flex seating. If you keep your goal in mind – to provide choice and flexibility – then no, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s how I implemented flex seating for under $100.
Pro tip: DON’T be afraid to ask for donations from people. Join all your neighborhood’s Facebook swap/sell groups. Join the mom FB groups. Search the marketplace. I found the majority of my stuff by posting, “I’m a teacher and this is what I want blah blah blah” and people wanted to help. Well, not those exact words, but you get it. 😉 I got adjustable height desks, a couch, a bean bag, a lounge chair, a Pack n’ Play, and an ottoman given to me FOR FREE, people. Used, but free.
A Tour of My Classroom
On one side of the room, I have the various seating options for when the kids are working on their classwork. On the other side of the room, I have the carpet in front of my whiteboard and projector screen for when I am teaching lessons. When the kids are on the carpet following along, they use a clipboard to hold their materials.
Introducing Flexible Seating to Students
I first introduced my students to flexible seating by having them travel around the room, trying different spots while reading a book. Their task was to try and read their book at each of the spots for two minutes. After the two minutes were up, they reflected on how their minds and bodies felt, and whether or not they were able to focus on their reading. If they were comfortable and able to get into their book, then it was a smart spot for them!
My students use this booklet as their “passport” as they travel the room to help them reflect on each spot and find their smart seat choices.
Seating Options – Price Breakdown
When I purchased these items, it was Spring of 2017. Some of the items have gone up in price since then.
I have 50+ seat options in my room. Below are links to where I purchased items.
1. Floor Seating: $12 total
The couch cushions were from an old couch I had. The bench was donated. The cushions on the bench are from IKEA. They cost me $2 each in store. I bought 6.
2. Bucket Stools: $22 total
My four buckets are $3 Homer Buckets from Home Depot. The lids are by Bucket Lidz, purchased on Amazon. I’m pretty sure I got them on sale because all four cost $10. (They are about $10 each as of the time I’m typing this).
3. Purple Wobble Stool: FREE from Scholastic (using redeemed points).
4. Yoga/Stability Balls $20 total
The yoga balls were from Walmart and they are sitting on duct taped pool noodles from the 99 Cent Store.
5. Pack n’ Play Nook: FREE (all items donated)
I found this on a mom’s group on Facebook. Her baby outgrew it. I cut the netting off one side. For the top, I draped a crib sheet over a baby gym’s foam arches. (This is what I’m referring to). I just took the arches off and stuck them in the Pack N’ Play. I had the baby gym lying around from when my daughter used it as a baby. I also see these for free on mom groups all the time.
6. Couch: FREE (curb alert!)
I steamed cleaned it! Well, actually our amazing custodian did.
7. Tall Stools Desk: $10 total
The adjustable height desk was donated and the bar stools were $5 each from a garage sale.
8. Lap Desks: $18 total
Our lap desks cost $7 each at Michael’s, but I used a 50% off coupon. Search the Michael’s website for coupons before you get to the register. You can always find one. One of the lap desks I found on Facebook for free.
9. Standing desk: FREE
Part of the donated set of adjustable height desks.
10. Comfy lounge chair: FREE
Another teacher was tossing it!
11. The Living Room: $5 total
The chairs were $5 at a garage sale. The coffee table was a curb alert find on my block! Also not pictured is an ottoman that was donated.
12. Yoga Mats: $10 total
Each mat was around $5 each at Walmart. I’ve also seen them for cheap at Hobby Lobby. I threw in two of my own personal mats, too.
So there you have it. $97 total!
This took me six months. It was not a transition that happened overnight. Be patient. Join the Facebook groups. Post about what you need and why you think it will help your students. Explain this at garage sales, too. People want to help! Also, watch the curbs like a hawk while you’re out and about driving. Thank your friends and significant others constantly for helping you lug curb alert finds into your classrooms!
At this point you may be wondering where the kids store their materials since they don’t have individual desks. To address this need, I went to Home Depot one Saturday and bought the materials for my husband to build a cubbies (see picture below). You can buy cubbies from teacher supply stores, but building it at home was much cheaper, and cost me about $170.
This solution was a splurge for me. You could definitely find cheaper storage solutions. For example, I’ve seen magazine holders from IKEA for each student, and even the plastic magazine holders from the Target Dollar Spot or Michael’s.
Another option is to try to get your flexible seating funded through a Donor’s Choose project. Click here to read step-by-step instructions for how to create a Donor’s Choose project.