Sit Where You Learn Best

By Dean Deaver, Math Teacher

Oct 12, 2018 · 5 min read

When you go to the movie theater, do you sit in the same area? When you go to your place of worship, do you sit in the same seats each week? How about staff meetings, do you have that special spot you want to sit at? All three are yes for me! Why do we do this? For whatever reason, these places make us comfortable. It is the spot where we will get the most out of that time or experience.

In education we constantly see posts on social media about flexible seating. At this point, it isn’t new to most educators even though there are still many who have not seen the benefits. The creativity and effort that has been poured into these classrooms is incredibly impressive. Is there such a thing as classroom envy? I will admit to having it! Hi, my name is Dean and I have classroom envy. (Thank you for your acceptance and support!)

However, our focus should never be about flexible seating. It is about creating an environment that is conducive to learning. We want our little (and big) scholars to not just learn the material, but also learn how to make better choices in their lives to be a lifelong learner.

Sit Where You LEARN Best! This philosophy makes most educators very uncomfortable. It goes against the very fabric of the traditional classroom set-up. However, if embraced, this will revolutionize your classroom, raise the level of student engagement, and foster ownership of their education.

Before you start making comments, I know what you are thinking. There are all those “But I have this one student..” or “But my circumstance is different because…” responses. The key to Sit Where You Learn Best is not the fun various types of cushions and tables, but finding the best place to learn. The philosophy of “Sit Where You Learn Best” is fluid, instructional, and ultimately, the educator has the final approval. The students need modeling, scaffolding, and sometimes, direct instruction on what it means to sit in a place that will encourage ownership of their learning.

There are countless ways to establish this practice with classroom designs and in daily routines. Depending on your comfort level (interpret personal control level), flexible seating can be limited to parts of the day and even areas of the classroom. In other words, it does not have to be scary, chaotic, or a free-for-all. In order for it to be successful it needs 3 components:

  1. Planned out options
  2. Student choice
  3. Evidence of learning

Planned out options is a clever way of still being in control. If you are an educator who is not comfortable with spinning chairs, then focus on areas of the classroom rather than furniture. Design your classroom with intentional areas of specific learning that the students can choose. Use furniture that is calming and not distractive. However, if you are comfortable with the wobbly chairs and other apparatus that helps those students with ADHD or just high energy levels, then the choices of furniture is limitless. Other planned options could be done during parts of the day or only for specific subjects. Consider starting with sitting where they learn best just during silent reading or even for a video. Start small and build from there.

Student choice is also a shrewd way of not just being in control, but creating a classroom environment that empowers your students. If they feel like they have more choice and voice in something as simple as where they can sit, their buy-in for the assignments and you the educator, increases. Since you have already planned out the areas, times, and types of furniture, then the student choice is really within the parameters that you established. We also want them to learn that their choices have rewards and consequences, even in where they sit. The rewards should be increased engagement, ownership, and overall learning. The consequences are not just the opposite of the rewards, but you the educator could add your own “consequence” which could be as simple as a one-on-one conference with the student about their choices.

Ultimately, it all hinges on evidence of learning. It isn’t sit where you have more fun or sit where you can hide what you are doing or not doing, but it is sitting (or standing) where the maximum level of learning can occur. We want our scholars to be engaged in the right level of rigor for as long as possible throughout the day or period. Just like adults, scholars don’t always get it right the first or second time, but once the adjustment period occurs, there has to be competency or even mastery of the material. That’s the big secret to all of this. We just want them to learn and it really shouldn’t matter where they sit or stand. The thing that matters is evidence of their learning. Show me what you learned, not where you were sitting.

Consider trying this. It really is a growth mindset concept that has short and long term value. When you do, send me a tweet or message on Instagram with the hashtag #sitwhereyoulearnbest.

And if you are trying to find me, I will be at the back of the room during every staff meeting. That’s where I learn best!

Dean Deaver is a 3rd grade teacher at Twain Elementary in Riverside, California. He is also an Instructor for Riverside County of Education. He can be followed on social media @DeaverDean on Twitter and @deaverscholars on Instagram.

Follow the conversation #WhyITeach

To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.

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