My Flexible Classroom Journey

About 2 years ago I moved from a traditional classroom set up to a flexible classroom. I’ve learned some things along the way and made some adjustments. I noticed that different groups access flexibility differently. I’m going to share with you my growth process for flexible seating. For reference, Year 1 and Year 2 are years that I taught kindergarten. Year 3 is the current school year and I am teaching first grade. Year 1 was the year I began BYOD as well. You can read about that here.

Year 1:

My school purchased hokki stools for each grade level. They were evenly split between the classrooms. If you’re not familiar with these, they have a rounded bottom and when you sit on them you have to use your core to balance. I got 3 hokki stools and spread them around the room for my kinders to sit in. At this point, all I had were 3 hokki stools and chairs. I made a plan for students to take turns sitting in the hokki stools. My kinders had assigned seats so I had to move the hokki stool to a different kinder’s assigned spot each day.

Once I saw the benefits of the hokki stools for some kinders, I was interested to try other things. Our school had a staff PD about flexible seating and we talked about ways we can add things to our rooms with out spending money and then we were challenged to write a grant for the PTA to fund more flexible seating options.

Free options: raise tables for students to stand at, lower tables so students have to sit on floors, old crates turned upside down are strong enough to hold littles. I had pillows and cushions in my room already so I moved them to the floor tables and put them on top of the crates so they were more comfortable. My kinders also asked if they could go under tables to work and… YES! why not?!

Things our PTA funded for us: scoop chairs, more crates, seat cushions, tall stools, and yoga balls. These were spread around the room at different tables.

I transitioned from assigned seats to home bases. My students had placemats with their name tags on them and every week, they would choose a new table spot for their home base.

I made my own basket seats with my husband with plywood, cushion, and fabric. I followed a DIY I found online. I used these instead of upside down crates with cushions. Cassidy helped! 😜

Year 2:

I had all the same furniture in my room. My big shift year 2 was to move to daily home bases. Kinders chose a new seat every day. This would be the spot they go back to for independent work time. It worked great until a kinder went home sad because he didn’t get to school early enough to have lots of choices in his seat. Mom emailed me to let me know and I developed a plan to make sure each kinder got a turn in each flexible seat type. I had a chart with each seat type across the top and all the students names listed under. Once kinders chose a spot for the day, they had to cross off their name. They couldn’t choose that seat type again until everyone had a turn. This worked fabulously!

Year 2 I also made the decision to explicitly teach each seat choice. I made an anchor chart with diagrams and labels to show how I expected my kinders to sit or stand. I also had kinders model the right way and the wrong way to use the flexible seats. This was great because the had the chance to play with the seat choices. I revisited the chart and modeling as I observed patterns of kinders using seats in unexpected ways.

Year 3:

This year I made my expectations chart with the class and had them act out the right and wrong ways to use the seat choices. I love how the anchor chart serves as a daily reminder. I no longer use name tags as home bases. I have moved to a completely flexible option. Firsties can choose a different spot each time they need to go to the tables to work. I find a lot of my firsties like to lay on a pillow with a clipboard. My centers don’t have assigned areas, firsties bring the materials they need to whichever table or seating area they want. This year I plan on using some of my morning meeting time to talk about why we have each type of seating and the type of learner it supports. “If you ___ the ___ would be a great choice for you!”

I have come to the realization that there is a difference between having flexible seating and having a flexible classroom. Flexible seating refers to the furniture in your classroom and students get to choose where they sit (daily or weekly). To me, a flexible classroom includes student choice in more than just their seat location. It includes, their choice in how to complete work (digitally or paper), what they are learning (interest driven or options), books they read (shout out to my PLN buddy Allie Bond for inspiring me to move away from leveled readers!), and more! What do you do that makes your classroom flexible ?

5 Lessons Learned from BYOD with Littles

3 years ago my principal, Dr. Sandy Chambers challenged our staff to participate in a district pilot program in which students would bring devices to school from home (Bring Your Own Device – BYOD). This included a lot of push back, a lot of challenges, and a lot of awesomeness! I’m not gonna lie – I didn’t think it would work in kindergarten! They couldn’t keep track of their jacket! How would they keep track of a device!? It took a few years but I think I have learned some lessons that might help others get going on BYOD with littles!

Lesson #1

Set Expectations 

My school has a contract for each family participating in BYOD. If students don’t follow the guidelines they can lose the privilege of BYOD.  You will need to teach, model, and repeat these expectations with both parents and students frequently. Expectations include:

  • Use the device for learning.
  • Carry it with 2 hands.
  • Only the owner can use it.
  • Devices come to school charged.
  • How often the kid should bring their device.
  • Apps or settings kids need.
  • Digital Citizenship

Lesson #2

Procedures, Procedures, Procedures!

Procedures are what keeps your classroom running smoothly. Teachers have procedures for everything from going to the bathroom to solving student disagreements. BYOD needs its own set of specific procedures. You will need to teach, model, and repeat these procedures frequently. My procedures include:

  • Sign in devices daily so you know what is in your classroom. The sign in let’s me know what I have available each day.
  • Our devices are to stay in student bookbags until we need them.
  • I have a call out to check what students are doing. When I say, “device check!” Students immediately hold their device above their head facing in my direction. If they take a long time or you can see them tapping their devices they are most likely off task.
  • When instructing or giving directions I ask kids to put their devices in “listening mode.” This means they are upside down on their lap.
  • Kindness matters! When responding to other’s work digitally, be kind.

Lesson #3

Allow for students to become experts!

Pick a few apps you want students to have on their BYOD and use them frequently! Let the kids become experts. These apps should become second nature and a “go to” for responses and reflection. Try to pick open ended apps that can be used for creation. Here’s a list of my favorites:

  • Seesaw
  • Chatterpix,
  • Do ink green screen,
  • Felt board

I use and teach other apps too but these are the ones we use the most. I also use raz-kids/kids a-z daily, but it isn’t a creation app.

I also like to keep a running list of things I want to try. Here is my list of creative apps I want to try:

  • aurasma
  • book creator
  • sock puppet
  • coma coma

Lesson #4

Create!

Devices can add to your lessons in meaningful ways. A true blended classroom integrates technology seamlessly. Think creation and not just playing on apps. Use apps that are open ended and allow students to create: draw, photo, video, and write. Playing games and doing rote practice is not a sustainable way to integrate technology. Creation can be used for students to share their learning, respond to questions, or reflect on their learning. Allow students choice in how they share, respond, and reflect. Remember those favorite apps… They are all choices! Students choose them for different reasons depending on what they are trying to communicate.

Lesson #5

Try!

You will find things that work and things that don’t. Be flexible and take a chance. You’ll be surprised what littles can do with devices, they are digital natives after all! Modeling and involving them in the problem solving process is key to success in BYOD for littles.

Please reach out to me if you have any questions about BYOD and littles!

First blog post… Eek!

Hi! I’m a kindergarten teacher always looking for something new to jump into. I’m starting this blog to share with the world my journey  as an educator. I’m passionate about play based learning. I also love technology. It’s a challenging balancing act in my classroom but I love it!

I was inspired by the wonderful folks at #wonderwake Fall Convergence at NC state, a Wake County technology conference. George Couros presented 3 amazing sessions and a life changing keynote. I’m convinced that I need to have a positive digital footprint and what better way than through a blog? I’ve been meaning to start this for a week now and never got around to it. I try to keep myself as busy as possible! Today, checking out at the grocery store, the young man told me he wants to be a writer but he hasn’t started yet. My advice- just try. Don’t expect perfection. Just write and put it out there. So here I am. Taking my advice. Just writing and putting it out there.

I also keep hearing this amazing song in my head as I type – “Failure is an option. Failure to deliver is not.” – Kevin Brookhouser. Wish I could find it on YouTube!

Full disclosure – this is way outside of my comfort zone and is absolutely nerve wracking to put myself out there. But as George Couros said, “it’s not about you. It’s about the kids. Go backward from there.” So here I am starting today. Some of my blog posts will be about my background and others about the present or my hopes and dreams. All of them are for the kids. My purpose is to become a better educator than I was yesterday always for my students.

I welcome any and all feedback – it’s the best way to grow!