Flexible Seating in the Classroom Part 2






WELCOME BACK FOR FLEXIBLE SEATING - PART 2!


How to manage students in flexible seating


I originally started flexible seating on the first day of school and that was  BIG MISTAKE. It is really important to set up classroom rules, routines and norms before you introduce something so 'fun'. With flexible seating there are so many different things that you will want your students to know that it is important to have your regular classroom stuff all worked out before you let them try out the seating. They need to know that you are in charge and that the seating isn't a toy.

In my class, I have a big toys vs tools conversation (click here to read about it). I talk to my students about how to use our classroom supplies (such as dice, counters, books etc.) as a tool. If we are using it in the wrong way, it becomes a toy and that is not how we use our things unless it is free time or you are given specific permission.

Once we have this conversation and our routines are set then I bring in my seating choices. I tell my students that they are learning how to be responsible. I teach grade 3, but you can do that in any grade. I tell them that as a grown up, I need to monitor myself and how I feel. I tell them that there are times that I really don't feel much like doing work, but there are people who count on me to get it done (like the principal and them). We talk about how they also need to learn to be responsible because people are counting on them too (like me and their parents). I tell them that sometimes, I can't concentrate as well when I am stuck in one spot. We talk about how moving from one spot might be a good choice if we aren't getting our work finished.

It is really important to model the behaviour that you wish to see. Don't be afraid to act it out for them. Show them what good work looks like and what visiting and fooling around looks like. Show them how to tell if it is time to move to a new spot -- like chatting with friends.

Another thing that I tell my students is that if they are not being productive, I can move them. One warning, then switch spots. If your second choice isn't any better, you may be moved to somewhere that you don't like.

When students are given the opportunity to sit with their friends, they are less likely to talk because they know they may be moved and really, it is way more fun to be quiet and sit with your friends than it is to not sit with your friends and be quiet.





One of the trickiest parts of flexible seating -- especially for type A teachers -- is the need to control the seating and tame the chaos. Having students up and moving around is one of the things that happens a lot when you run a flexible seating classroom, especially in the beginning.

Here is one of the problems with flexible seating:

Problem:

Students WILL steal the seat of their classmate if their classmate happens to be out of the seat or out of the room. 

Solution:

Find a way for students to 'sign up' or to show that a seat is occupied. I use a Flexible Seating Choice Board. It is a super simple way for your students to claim their spot so that others do not swipe it when they happen to be off doing their business in the bathroom. 

How to manage students during flexible seating


How this works:

I wanted this board to be as simple to use as possible. I printed off these pages, laminated them and attached them to my whiteboard. You can create a grid or stack them like the pictures above show. 

Find some inexpensive magnets from dollar tree (or wherever you can find them in your area) and write student numbers on them. Each student places their magnet on the choice board in the spot that they choose to sit at. This way your students will know which seats are taken and which are available during the day and you won't have students fighting over 'who got there first'. 

I have my students switch seats at morning recess, after lunch and after afternoon recess, but you could decide when to switch based on what works for your classroom.


Student storage. This was another area that I really needed to consider. If you are eliminating desks from your room or don't have enough for everyone to use, you will really need to consider what you are going to do with all the work books, duo-tangs, pencil cases and everything else that students need to use at school. There are a few options that will work depending on your own personal preference.

Cubbies

If you are fortunate enough to have cubbies in your classroom, it is a wonderful option for student work storage. I used large binder clips with student names and numbers on it in order to make it easy to change from year to year.  

** Pro Tip - Write on these with a silver sharpie. When it is time to change your student names, take a black expo dry erase marker and color the silver until it all can be wiped away!**

Don't mind the flexible seating that was stored in the bottom of the cubbies... Ha! That's where we kept the extra mats that were not being used on the floor! 

Book Bins

Book bins are another option for your students to store their work in. The ones pictured here are from www.reallygoodstuff.com. This is nice because your students can take their bin right to their table or floor spot and get started right away.

book bins for student work when using flexible seating

Drawer Storage

There are so many different kinds of drawer storage and really no wrong way that you can do this. The picture below is what came in my classroom. I use each one for a different subject. I had out the duo-tang or interactive notebook to the students before they go and get started on their work. 


Other options for drawer storage include colorful carts that many teachers have in their classroom. Simply add labels with your student names to it and have your students put their paperwork inside. 
flexible seating in student work drawers

These are some of the ideas that have helped me to get started with flexible seating. I hope that you are able to take something away from this post. Let me know if you have any questions. You can send me an e-mail at holly@appleyeverafter.com OR comment on this post!

Good luck!


If you are interested in checking out this option for your classroom, click on the image below. :)




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Flexible Seating - Assisting Student Success Part 1




Flexible seating was something that I kept going back and forth on. Did I want to get rid of the safety net of my simple chairs and tables that my students knew how to use? Should I replace that with a whole new idea that, lets face it, could end up with my students running around not knowing what to do as if they were chickens with their heads cut off?

Well, I bit the bullet. I decided to start flexible seating.

Is flexible seating an easy thing to start? Nope. It wasn't. But it totally could have been if I knew what to expect and set it up properly to begin with.  Just like with everything else, my students really needed a lot of modelling and needed to start very slow.

description of what flexible seating is

Flexible seating is a classroom seating arrangement that allows students or the teacher to choose a place in your classroom that will help them be successful in competing their classroom work or given tasks and activities.

Here is a picture of my classroom very early on in my flexible seating adventure...

flexible seating in my classroom

As you can see, I had hokki stools, yoga balls and rocking chairs. I had a standing table (way at the back though you can't really tell how tall it is in this picture. I had chairs and floor space for mats. I took the legs off of one of my tables and added tennis balls which created a floor table for my students. I bought rugs from ikea that my students could sit on at the floor table. I bought a clipboard rack from reallygoodstuff.com {which I LOVE} to keep me and my students organized and neat!


Flexible seating options

Oh, the choices. There are so many choices in flexible seating that I certainly won't be able to cover them all, but I hope that I can at least give you a good jumping off point.

When it comes to choosing your flexible seating options, the first thing that you need to consider is the space in your classroom. You could purchase the best of the best flexible seating that all the other teachers have, but realistically you may not have the space for all of those choices.

Here are some of the things that you can purchase to use as flexible seating options and accessories in your classroom:

Seating Options

-Yoga Ball Chairs
- Yoga Mats
- Placemats
- Hokki Stools
- Rocking Chairs
- Stools
- Small Carpets
- Scoop Seats
- Crate Seats
- Pillows
- Bean Bags
- Laundry Baskets
- Exercise Disks

Here is a list of accessories that may be helpful in your flexible seating

- Lap Tables to use on the floor
- Clipboards for floor use
- Community supplies or pencil cases
- Work bins (since you may not have desk space to store your student work)
- Work cubby - Instead of individual work bins.




These are just some of the choices that you can use for flexible seating in your classroom!  Stay tuned for Flexible seating along with some cautionary tales for you to keep in mind. We will talk about how to keep track of student work when you don't have desks, how to keep control in a flexible environment as well as tips for teachers toying with the idea of flexible seating!

See you soon! 



flexible seating pin image keep track of student work





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Breakout Games and Inquiry in the Classroom - Part 2



Aaah, breakout games. The love of my teaching life. Breakout games really are all that, AND a bag of chips! If you have not heard of breakout games, you really are missing out on some great fun and inquiry based learning in your classroom. 

I have sort of been obsessing over escape rooms lately. I have done 4 different ones around North America. British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nashville, TN. They are so much fun and really make you think! 

I have been loving the idea of bringing these games to my classroom but I really needed to know where to start. After a bit of research I came across a website called Breakout EDU who sells breakout boxes for the classroom! They come with a set of locks, a box and you get a membership to their premade games. I thought this looked fantastic but it was out of my price range. I decided to come up with my own using some handy dandy hardware store finds and amazon purchases. I was able to create 2 boxes fairly inexpensively! 

A Breakout box game is a challenge for students to solve an assortment of clues using math, language skills, spelling (or anything that the teacher wants covered) in order to unlock several locks and break into a box. The box usually has a prize or a poster saying "We solved the mystery!" or something along those lines. You can also include a treat inside for your students as a reward, but that is totally up to you. My breakout box included chocolate coins, but you could put pencils or some other type of goody in there too. 

Here is what my breakout box looked like:


Now, I know what you're thinking... "Why on earth would she have the F word on her lock?" 😂 Well, to be honest I didn't! It is a P and this was the only picture I had of my breakout box before it got broken into by my kiddos! Oh boy... 

For my class, I wanted each student to have a larger role in breaking into this box so I created 2 identical boxes. I did make some codes different just to discourage students from listening to the other team, but that is up to you when you set up your game. 

Here is a list of materials that I used in creating these boxes. There are affiliate links included that will take you to each product on amazon. 


Materials:

USB
- Hint Cards

When deciding to do a breakout game in my classroom, I knew there would need to be some setup involved. The way that my classroom worked out this year, I was only able to do it at 9:30 - 10:30 due to scheduling issues, but how could I do it at 9:30 if my students were our classroom at 8:45? Well, I had to be flexible. I set up all the clues on the walls in my classroom the night before. I had pictures that related to clues and keys hidden etc. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of that because it somehow slipped my mind in the middle of all the fun. 

I decided that rather than having my students go right into my classroom at 8:45, we would start off our day in another classroom. 

The story was "I don't know how, but I lost my keys! We can't go into the classroom without keys!"

Well, of course it was impossible to get in. There was no possible way that I could go to the office to get the master key, the substitute set of keys or anything like that. By starting off our day in a different room we had no access to our pencils, our markers or regular bell work that would normally take place. This offered another learning opportunity for my students. We used the bell work skills that we had been working on throughout the whole year to come up with questions and answers for each other. My students absolutely loved it! 


Since I had arranged a "secret key delivery" from my vice principal, we were "lucky enough to get back into the classroom," according to my students. We were also lucky enough to get into the classroom at the right time so that we had enough time to complete our escapes! Ha ha... 
My Vice Principal came into the classroom that we were finishing up our made up bell work and said,

VP: Miss Pich, did you lose something?
Me: Oh, I lost my keys. Why?
VP: Well, a mysterious man in a trench coat came and dropped these off at the office.
Me: Oh, thank goodness! I was worried that they were gone!
VP: Well, I'm glad someone found them or you would have to replace all the locks in the school. We both knew she was kidding around (sort of), but the added 'Miss Pich got in trouble' really added some interest to the story.

- I added an extra mystery key to the key ring before giving it to my principal-

Me: This pink key is mine, but what is this other key for?
VP: Don't ask me, I'm just delivering them.
Class: Yay! We can go back to the classroom!

Once we were in the classroom, the kiddos started to notice some things that were out of place. We began to question the new mystery key that was on my key ring. This was the longest part of the whole experience. I had locked up my breakout boxes (I used 2 different boxes) in my cabinet in my classroom. My cabinet has a lock pad on it, so it was easy to do. My students took a long time to make the connection that this key could have been for that. Finally, FINALLY, when then realized that the key would open the NEW lock on the cabinet, everyone flew at it in hopes to help unlock it! 


When my students opened the cabinet, there was a letter from Mr. Westlock. The man who had sent us our spy training video. Mr. Westlock sorted my students into 2 groups where they were given a mystery envelope with their first set of clues. Students had to use those clues to find other clues and codes that would eventually help them to unlock the box. 

We used multiplication, subtraction, addition and division. We translated hieroglyphics into the english language and context clues to help unlock mystery word locks. We used area and perimeter to solve other number codes. We used books to look up clues that were hidden on secret pages. You really can do many different variations of these clues. You can use clues from anything that you are teaching in your classroom at that given time. 

Even though my students had spy training and all of the skills that we were practicing were things that were already learned during class time, sometimes the hype makes their brains jumble into a knot. Be prepared with a 'hint card' for your students to use to help them solve the problems if they just can't jump past the hurdle of the clue. I have hint cards that can be used with any breakout game. They are useful in case you quickly need to jot something down for your students so that they don't stay 'stuck' for too long on a certain clue. 


You can find these EDITABLE hint cards HERE!

Sometimes as teachers, one of the hardest things for us is giving up the control of the classroom and actually letting our students figure things out on their own. When you are offering a Breakout game in your classroom however, it is important for your students to try to solve these problems on their own. Students will work together, come up with ideas and will find solutions to them solving the breakout clues. Don't get me wrong, there will be times when you will want to give out hint cards like the ones above, but don't just give them unlimited clues. You really want your students to work to figure these out.

Notice how they are referring back to their notes from our Spy Training? Amazing!





If you are interested in learning more, stay tuned! I plan to post a few products in the next while for students and teachers to enjoy the wonders of Breakout Games! 

Pin this image if you would like to come back later! 



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Breakout Games and Inquiry in the Classroom -- Part 1


As many of you know, there is a great desire for teachers to implement inquiry based learning in their  classrooms. Watching your students come up with questions, find solutions and solve problems is what inquiry is all about. Having a fun hands on approach to inquiry based learning is both fun for teachers to watch and valuable in student learning. 

This past school year my students participated in a breakout box game. This game was filled with mathematical thinking, logic questions, and coming up with answers to questions that may not have been taught in our classroom before. That was the tricky part, but with a little assistance, my kids were successful and engaged for longer than they had been before. 




How do I begin?

The beginning part was actually easier than I thought it would be. I have a classroom full of grade 3 students. Most had never even used a lock before, not to mention the many, many different locks that I had purchased to make the breakout box possible. 

In order to set up my students for success, I had set up the classroom mystery from the beginning. I sent an envelope to my office before school started and gave them specific instructions to deliver it (or call into my room asking for a student to come pick it up from the office) at a certain time. 


When one of my kiddos went to the office to pick it up, I had to play it up a little bit. The dialogue went something like this...

*Student walks into the classroom SO excited about what he has*

Me: What did the office have?
Student: A TOP SECRET ENVELOPE!
ME: Oh, that's really strange. Oh well. We can just open it up later.
Whole Class: NOOOO! We need to open it now! I want to know what is inside! 
Me: But we have so much work to do?
Class: (Insert several argumentative comments)
Me: Okay, but then we will have to work on this later.. 
Class: Okay! YAAAYYYY!


Haha, it really does pump them up when they think that there is a chance you won't let them find out what is in the mystery envelope. 

What is Inside the Envelope?

Inside the mystery envelope I had 2 different things. 
  1. Spy Note Books
  2. USB with Spy Training

The spy note books were handed out to each student. 



The spy notebooks were super easy to assemble. They come with boy and girl spy characters. All you have to do is print the covers, print the inside note pages and staple them together. One click slice and you have 2 spy training note books!



I saved the presentation onto my USB as - "for spy eyes only!" and of course the kids were going nuts! They wanted to open it asap, which of course we did!


Spy Training:

Spy training was amazing. My class was engaged to a level that I almost never see. It wasn't just a majority of the class, it was every single student. The students that have a hard time writing were writing so much, and quickly so that they didn't miss anything. 




Spy training is an {editable} powerpoint presentation that explains to students how to use the many different locks that you will be using in your breakout games.  Spy training gives students hints about how to use the locks and things to look for when they are solving the clues. This is great, especially for first time breakout box users. This will help your students to understand more of what to look for and find when solving their mysteries. 

When you open up the spy training powerpoint, you will be greeted by a mysterious character. Mr. Westlock guides you through the training and offers helpful tips and advice as you advance through the training slides. 



These are the locks that are included in the training presentation.



Once students have completed their spy training, they are awarded with a certificate of completion. 


(The certificate is editable so you can type in your student names or add your name instead of 
Mr. Westlock's name). 


Spy training was a huge success in my classroom. If you have any questions, you can send me an email at holly@appleyeverafter.com. 


Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Breakout Game Blog Series! 

Feel free to pin this image if you want to return later! 


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