Flexible Seating Tips for the High School Classroom

Updated: Oct 28, 2018

My current classroom setup is unconventional for most high school classrooms - there are three square tables across the back of the room, long tables against each side wall, a couch with three armchairs up front, and more long tables behind the couch. (Click HERE to see my classroom setup taking shape…)

Flexible seating is all the rage in elementary schools lately, and is sloooooowly trickling up to the middle and high school levels. I have done extensive research as to the benefits of flexible seating options in a classroom for both students and teachers.

[In fact, I even made a handy dandy Flexible Seating Infographic that hangs in my classroom and that I hand out to parents on Back To School Night… Woohoo research nerd!]

One thing I know about teenagers is that if you give them an inch, they’ll take your car for a joyride all over town. Let’s chalk it all up to hormones and learning how to be in their own skin, shall we?

I had my concerns over how this flexible seating arrangement would work out in regards to classroom management, productivity, and general classroom cleanliness. After a great deal of research and some good ol’ teacher’s intuition, here are my 4 tips for successful flexible seating in a high school classroom…

1. Spend the first few days of class observing your new students.

During the first 4 days of class I allowed students to choose their own seats, and I blatantly told them that I was watching them to see who they could and couldn’t handle sitting near. And then I watched… Sure, I had to move a couple of kids who couldn’t keep it together, but their choices and behaviors were very telling and by the end of day 4 I had a very clear idea of how students needed to be placed.

2. Group students according to your observations, as well as seating areas in your room, and make your “seating chart.”

The way the numbers worked out with my classes, I ended up with 6 groups of 5-7 students. Since each of the seating areas in my classroom has a name (of course they do…) I posted the names on the board, then put a small card with the names in each student group next to its respective seating area.

3. Rotate groups around seating areas on a regular basis.

My biggest rationale behind flexible seating in my classroom is that students will have the opportunity to discover where and how they learn and work best, so seating groups will be rotating around seating areas weekly.

4. Designate time at the end of EACH CLASS to clean up.

At first, it was the last 5 minutes of class, and I had to circulate around the room and prompt students to put chairs and stools back where they found them, to pick up their trash, and to make sure they had gathered all of their belongings (so many water bottles left behind!). Now, I stop us about 2 minutes before class gets out and simply ask them to “reset the room.” With a few exceptions here and there, my students are pretty well trained and take pride in leaving our room better than they found it.

I am POSITIVE that as this year goes on I will discover more and more things that work (and things that don’t).

PLEASE comment below with tips and tricks that work for you in your classroom! Share the wealth of experience!

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