Yield Your Classroom Design to Your Students

Flexible seating, alternative seating, classroom design
What if students decided where the furniture should go in your room?  Could you give up control and let them decide?  Come along for a ride and see what happened in my room, which could just as easily happen in yours!

One day over the summer, I ran into my classroom and saw my desks had been put back into groups of fours.  Nothing wrong with that.  Looking around, it occurred to me that maybe I should ask my students what they'd like, instead of me deciding for them.

After all, I'm a whole lot older than they are, and my body's in a whole different place than their young ones!  They work on the floor a lot in my room.

I hardly do that.

And so, on the first day of school, I asked them to design the room.  While that can be a scary release of control (What will they come up with?  Will I like it?  How do I handle it if I don't?)  It turned out to be a wonderful exploration and truly collaborative effort.

Here's what I did, and what you can do, too!

alternative seating, classroom design, flexible seating

Here's the before picture, taken this summer:



1.  Divide Students Up Randomly

Think about the first day of school.  Students are just getting to know each other.  What better way than to have them work together?  We played one game, Back to School Would You Rather, just to break the ice, and then I divided students up into randomly assigned groups, using paint chips.

2.  Tell Students What the Endgame is

After explaining why I thought I shouldn't decide for them (I got lots of buy-in when I told them), students were told: create an environment where everyone could learn, and include not just themselves, but 26 other students in our room, and another 53 on our team.  We talked for a few minutes about where they do their homework, where they go when they're using technology, where they go to write or draw.  

3.  Let them Get to Work

And then, in their groups, they began to discuss.  I intentionally hadn't given them any directions for working together.  I wanted to see if they were necessary.  I walked around and looked and listened.  I was blown away!  Great topics, thoughtful discussion, some negotiating, some acquiescing.  I should have taken a video and sent it to Congress!

4.  Share Ideas with the Whole Group

flexible seating, alternative seating, classroom design
After an outdoor break, students began to present their ideas, using the Activboard to show what they'd come up with.  Six different plans were presented.  Discussion ensued.  And questions.  Could they combine aspects of plans?  Absolutely.  Could they vote on the one they liked the best.  Of course.

With eyes closed, they voted.  This was one of the finalists, and with just a little discussion, the plan they chose.

5.  Let Them Take Ownership and Move the Furniture


flexible seating, alternative seating, classroom design

flexible seating, alternative seating, classroom design


flexible seating, alternative seating, classroom design

flexible seating, alternative seating, classroom design
Low tables in the front and one in the middle.  An L shape around the room.  Comfy chairs ("Soccer" and Bungee) in the back of the room.

At the end of the first week, I asked them how they felt.  Everyone still loved it.  And so did the other classes.

The other desks have been moved out of the room.  For now, everyone's happy.  More than that, though, their ownership in the design has taught them they have a say in some of the decisions in this room.



3 comments

  1. Wow...I love this idea! What a great way to build classroom community and problem solve. I'll have to give up the "control" and try this some time. Thanks for the idea!

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  2. So impressed that you could give up that control!

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    Replies
    1. I can honestly say that while I wouldn't have made some of those choices, the kids continue to love it. It feels like a small price to pay to have their buy-in for the things we do together.

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