Third-graders in Jennifer Osberg’s Spanish Immersion classroom choose their own seating as they read and work on assignments.
Spanish Immersion School third-grader Amelia Raphael was deep into her classroom reading but she wasn’t at her desk. She was nestled into a soft, comfortable chair.
For part of the day teacher Jennifer Osberg allows flexible, or alternative, seating. When they aren’t required to be at their desks for testing or other structured group activities, Osberg’s 15 students are permitted to find a favorite spot on a small sofa, pillows, soft chairs or padded milk crates to do their independent work.
Amelia thinks it’s a great idea.
“I do like it. It helps us relax and study better,” she said. “We can sit at our desks if we want to, or find another place we like.”
Osberg said she saw flexible seating being used in another school.
“I thought it was an interesting approach,” said Osberg, who implemented the concept last year but expanded it when school opened in August. “It gives the kids a chance to move around. They aren’t fidgeting at a desk or have their elbows on the table. It’s more of a student-centered classroom design.
“I see them doing good work. They are comfortable and motivated.”
Principal Gabe Costa, who supports the concept, said Osberg provided the furnishings for about 95 percent of the comfortable study areas.
“Research supports the idea that alternative or flexible seating options can be used to improve attention in students,” Costa said. “Just as we adults need to get up and take a walk or pace the room while we think and brainstorm, kids also need outlets for moving and fidgeting during the school day.”
Flexible seating requires students to be responsible, Osberg said, as they choose a location to read or complete written assignments.
“We still have desks for tests and other tasks, but the kids are allowed to choose where they sit for their independent work,” she said. “As I said, they are doing good work.”
While others are absorbed in quiet study, Osberg has the opportunity at her desk to work one-on-one with students who need extra instruction.
Like Amelia, classmate Riley Jones endorses flexible seating. He was at work on a laptop computer, answering questions about a book he had just read.
“We can sit on that couch, or that chair or on the carpet on the floor,” said Riley, gesturing around the room. “It’s fine with everybody. It helps us relax.”