At the Fredericktown Intermediate School teacher Shannon Hovis has gone the extra mile to give her fifth grade class the opportunity to experience the school day a little differently.
Hovis discovered flexible seating for the classroom when she was looking through Pinterest one evening. After some additional reading, she decided this would be a great option for her students.
When students walk into Hovis’ classroom they now see it filled with many options for them to choose from including crates, yoga balls, a booth, a sofa, stools and more.
“I thought about all the kids that have problems sitting still during class,” Hovis said. “I thought maybe this will help students be able to concentrate during class. I am always into making things better. I am not one to get in a groove of doing the same year after year.”
Hovis said it is a challenge at times and it does not make teaching easier for her.
“In a lot of the seating, kids are moving while in the seat,” Hovis said. “Some chairs swivel side to side. Some you bounce on. So you have to accept that they are going to be moving around with them.”
Hovis admits her least favorite option is the yoga balls which happen to be a favorite among the kids.
“That one (the yoga ball) the kids bounce, but I have rules about how high they can bounce,” Hovis said. “My rule for that is that I shouldn’t see any air between the ball and their butt.”
Hovis said the students still mange to bounce pretty high without any air between them, so she then has to ask them if they could read or write bouncing that high.
“One of the first weeks of using them, I wanted to say ‘sit still’ but then caught myself beforehand and thought that’s what they are supposed to be doing,” Hovis said. “They should bounce lightly, but I tell them these seats are not a toy, they are not a jungle gym. So once you can overcome all of the movement going on in class, it’s better and it does get easier.”
Hovis’ expectations for each seat are different and she says she goes over them at the beginning of the year so that each student understands what is required of them.
“They know right away my expectations and if they can’t handle it, they will have to move,” Hovis said. “Usually, they move once and won’t mess up again.”
Hovis said in most classes there are assigned seating but in her classroom she does not tell them where to sit and instead she gives them options.
“It gives them a choice,” Hovis said. “They need to not abuse that privilege. They need to pick a seat that works best for them. It allows them to be able to wiggle and move around as needed.”
Every Monday, or the first day of the week, students are allowed to pick a new seat for the whole week.
“It’s funny because students will try to be the first to class,” Hovis said. “I won’t let them run when they get in my classroom, but they hustle.”
The rule is if it is a table of four, there can only be two boys and two girls. Hovis said this is due to trial and error of what works best for the classroom. They also can not save seats for someone else. Hovis said this is because they are supposed to be in the seat that is best for them.
“Sometimes kids don’t sit in a place that is best for them, but instead they will want to sit next to their friend,” Hovis said. “If they don’t choose a smart spot, I will move them.”
Hovis said students usually do not argue over being moved and she tries to give them plenty of options.
“If they sit in one seat for one week, they need to pick another the next week,” Hovis said. ” I usually can remember where they were the week prior and tell them they need to try somewhere else. My homeroom gets pretty used to it since they are in there the longest.”
She is always coming up with new seating ideas to incorporate.
“I have used a lot of my own money to purchase these seats,” Hovis said. “I feel it is worth it though.”
Hovis said the reaction from the kids has definitely been positive.
“The majority of the students do seem to like it and they get excited to come to class,” Hovis said. “It gives them a say in the classroom. I was very impressed with the parents’ reactions as well at the open house. They seemed to like it just as much as the kids.”
Hovis said she is not the only teacher within the district to implement this with at least two more teachers in the intermediate school using the concept in their classrooms.
“The school has been awesome and very supportive of it,” Hovis said.
Fredericktown Intermediate School Principal Nickey Reutzel said she is very supportive of flexible seating.
“I like the idea of some classrooms having the option for flexible seating,” Reutzel said. “It can be a benefit for many students when used as a tool for learning. I think that it helps many students when it is presented, implemented and used as a learning tool.”
According to Hovis the top 10 benefits for students using flexible seating include choice, physical health, comfort, community, collaboration, commitment to learning, communication, sensory input and fun.
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at firstname.lastname@example.org