Flexible seating: a trend favoring attention

Working while standing, reading lying on the floor, discussing on a stability ball… Here are some examples of what can be done in a “flexible” classroom!

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Working while standing, reading lying on the floor, discussing on a stability ball… Here are some examples of what can be done in a “flexible” classroom!

See our flexible planning directory to find other ideas!

Derek, student of 3e cycle, great creator of multiple universes in Minecraft and lover of video games, considers school as a necessary evil that children must endure, despite all the love he has for teachers who have crossed his path for more than five years .

When we shows pictures of classrooms arranged in flexible seating, he is impressed and strongly seduced by these environments which remind him of kindergarten, which look like " cool "And" take it easy ".

What is the flexible seating?

Open a classroom door and see these students reading while lying on a mat, or standing together working on a math problem while others bounce gently on stability balls. Welcome to a class with flexible furnishings (flexible seating).

In a flexible classroom, with or without a desk, the teacher leaves much of the control and several choices of learning activities to his students. Problem-solving, critical thinking, collaborative skills as well as productivity increase, according to those who have adopted the approach.

The world changes. "Our classrooms should not look the same as they did 50 years ago," say the promoters of the flexible seating.

What does the research say?

Already in 1912, Maria Montessori observed that children sitting at their desks for long hours became restless, unruly, lost their concentration or even became limp.

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, NY, following a study of nearly 300 students over an entire school year, found that standing at tables, moving around during class, and using a variety of particular postures would burn more calories. Standing room only in classroom of the future report this experience.

The Ranjana Mehta research, from the Texas A&M Ergonomics Center, also report that being active improves learning abilities. Students not only burn more calories, but they also pay more attention. Blake, Benden and Zhao (2015) also come to promising conclusions regarding student engagement.

Stability balls are especially great for boys, writes K. Wuatt

Studies continue and indicate that these types of classroom layouts have positive learning effects.

One can also consult this one, suggested by Mr. Samuel Puszkarek, which reports about the fact of learning standing, as it is sometimes the case with the high tables which one finds in the flexible classes, "7 to 14% improvement in cognitive performance across several executive function and working memory tasks; this improvement range was consistent with that reported in a 13-week low to vigorous exercise program ”(Standing up for learning, Mehta et al., 2015), paragraph 4. Discussion, lines 10 to 12.

A Facebook group for mutual aid between teachers

In Quebec, it is teachers who take the initiative for changes and who often pay for the new furniture they buy themselves at garage sales, in discount stores or even by building them outright. All of this shows a good dose of creativity on the part of these teachers.

Josée Portelance created on September 10, 2016 the French speaking Facebook group Flexible seating. You can also read his blog Josée's class, where she describes her classroom transformation process.

The Facebook group is very dynamic. There are not only beautiful photos, but also lots of tips and advice. For example, a teacher asks "How high are your coffee tables?" I am in 1time year ”. To which another replied: “The janitor cut the legs of the tables with a hacksaw so that they work seated on cushions or kneeling. The table is 37 cm from the ground. "

According to discussions in the Facebook group, most students like the “flexible” type of layout, but some still prefer classic desks. It is recommended to respect the preferences of the students. Some young first year students would even be disappointed not to enter “a real classroom”!

Here are some interesting quotes:

“When I started, I allowed my students to settle where they wanted. Today, they still have an assigned place. Some choose to spend the majority of the day there, while others are only there when they have to. "

"For some children, choosing a place requires too much effort, those with ADHD for example."

"Twenty five children arguing for four bean-bags, it's not flexible seating. »A teacher therefore drew up a table for the reservation of« special »places.

One of the teachers in the group explains that the flexible seating is the best way to organize your multi-level reception class (first to sixth year).

Where to start?

Erin Klein, in EdSurge News of March 2016, gives the following advice:

  • think about how to maximize the space you have;
  • conserve as much floor space as possible;
  • have a number of different seats to accommodate the tastes of the students;
  • research indicates that monochromatic layouts and less vivid colors work best;
  • the ideal is to use natural light as much as possible;
  • include green plants in your landscaping plans;
  • avoid laminated posters that reflect light;
  • hang the posters at children's eye level;
  • provide spaces to place student materials;
  • provide more seats than there are students in the class.

It is also recommended to involve the students in the process of transforming the premises. In the Facebook group mentioned above, a teacher wrote: “Thinking about the workspace with the students is also to show that we are interested in them, which is not negligible for the climate of the class and promotes learning ”.

To enrich your reflection, you can also read Jean-Paul Moiraud, The body in the training space.


Thanks to: Édith Beaupré, David Benay, Julie Berthelot, Julien Boisvert, Julie Chandonnet, Caroline Desfossés, Mélanie Demers, Marie-Ève Gagné, Lyne Dugas, Dominik Laforge-Leblanc, Marie-Josée Laprise, Amélie Larrivée, Josée Portelance, Peggy St -Laurent and Caroline Vigneault for allowing me to use their photos for the short video accompanying the article. I hope I haven't forgotten anyone!

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About the Author

Ninon Louise Lepage
Ninon Louise LePage is a pedagogue and museologist who recently came out of premature retirement to be reborn as an educational designation. She has taught at the Université du Québec à Montréal and the Université de Sherbrooke in science education, in addition to working at the Canadian Heritage Information Network as a museology consultant. She also writes for our French friends at Ludomag. She also invites all interested to contact her so that she can talk about you, your students, your school and your particular experiences in digital and computer education.

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