Tips for Implementing Flexible Seating in Your Learning Space

Kids in flexible seatingLibraries are known for providing comfortable spaces conducive to group work, and classroom teachers have recently been joining the movement of offering a variety of seating choices, which allows students to choose where and how they work most productively. In fact, you may already be incorporating flexible seating in your library, learning commons, or classroom and not even know it. 

By looking carefully at our library or classroom environments, we can identify how flexible seating may already be present and how we can leverage and enhance this opportunity to improve our students’ learning experiences.

3 Things You Need to Consider

Here’s the thing about flexible seating — sometimes it looks funny and seems unconventional. But in deciding if it’s working for you and your students, you need to ask yourself what outcome you want and if that matches what is happening.

Your students might like reading in nooks and crannies or under tables. Sure, this may look a bit unusual, but if the student who is lying upside down is reading or completing work, does it really matter how it looks? Consider these three things when allowing students to sit in unconventional spots:

  • Student safety

  • Student productivity

  • Impact on others

If the student is safe, productive, and not having a negative impact on others, then the physical environment is working for him or her. And, if this is how your students prefer to work, you can motivate them by identifying additional ways you can offer reading nooks, bean bag chairs, floor cushions, floor rockers, and other options in your environment and repertoire of library or classroom furniture.

There are some students who always seem to be out of their seats. This might look like students just wanting to stand at their tables or desks to do their work, but it might also look like wandering and lack of engagement. Students have a variety of kinesthetic and sensory needs. Giving students the ability to rock, sway, or stand in a way that allows them to be productive can help you keep these students engaged and learning. You may want to incorporate wobble cushions, wobble stools, scoop rockers, or standing desks to your library space or classroom.

If you’re looking for additional evidence that flexible seating is right for your library or classroom, you may want to further explore the idea of self-regulation. Self-regulation is not about exhibiting “good behavior.” It is a student’s ability to make adjustments or choices to help them work to their optimal potential. This may be hindered by extenuating circumstances, such as conditions and relationships they experience at home, but it may also be hindered by learning space conditions. Enhancing your own knowledge of the theory behind self-regulation will naturally guide you to introducing flexible seating choices for your students.

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Tips for Implementing Flexible Seating

Flexible seating will impact your learning space management. It should increase time on task, but not before you implement expectations for the new learning environment. Consider these tips for implementing flexible seating in your space:

  • When planning, focus on the mindset before you focus on the stuff.
  • If it works for your classroom or library, gradually release seating choices or slowly implement student self-selection.
  • Model the expectations for each seating choice.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat.
  • Reserve the right to move students if they are not being productive. They may need guidance in making a seating choice that helps them do their best work or in how to work effectively in each location (without misusing and damaging the furniture).
  • Ensure your words, actions, and body language support the flexible seating mindset. It might be easy to fall into more traditional teaching methods, but remember your goal and your goals for your students.

Flexible seating goes beyond just adapting the physical furniture in your space — it’s a mindset that you commit to in order to increase your students’ engagement and learning. Your environment may look cute and worthy of a spread in a magazine, but it might not. It’s not about how pretty your space is (this is desirable, no doubt, but not the most important factor), but how functional your arrangement is. Choosing durable furniture will ensure that your investment in your space will hold up to the heavy use of a school library or classroom.

Explore Flexible Seating Options

Take a virtual tour of this classroom and get ideas for creating flexible seating spaces that support the many needs and learning styles of your students.


Lauri Taparluie

Lauri Taparluie

Teacher Librarian
Lauri is in her tenth year of teaching at the elementary level. She is in her second year as a teacher librarian in the Greater Essex County School District. In this time, she has expanded the library into a collaborative learning commons by implementing flexible seating, a makerspace, and lessons to support research and the inquiry process. Lauri leads professional development on these topics for her colleagues, and she is passionate about integrating technology into traditional lessons to engage learners and prepare them for the changing world.