Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Classroom Layout: A Sensory Approach

Just ask my husband.  He'll tell you its true.

I love to rearrange my furniture.  Maybe it's just a few pillows.  Maybe it's moving the shelf, the wall hanging, the couch, the chair, and then some. But, this habit makes my home comfortable, inviting, and a safe place for me to come home to.  It also gives me lots of options when I'm looking for a place to study, relax, read, work, etc.

After a few years of teaching, this habit began to sneak into my classroom as well.  I teach 7 and 8 year olds. Do you know how hard it is to ask a 7 year old to sit on a plastic, hard chair all day? (Answer: about as hard as it is to get an adult to sit on a plastic, hard chair all day). We were not designed to sit all day! (In fact, a recent workshop I attended actually shared that "Sitting is the new smoking.")  Sitting alllll daaaayyy loooonngg can have negative effects on us both physically, mentally, and emotionally. In my classroom, I can attest to the same.  Sitting in a chair all day affects our students physically, mentally, and emotionally.

So, I decided to change something about those hard plastic chairs.  I started researching alternate seating options and dreaming (Yep, there's a Pinterest board). I used my classroom budget that year to purchase 8 bright blue yoga balls. Talk about taking a risk! And, I happened to dream out loud to my principal as well. (Side note: if you've got a great principal like mine, dreaming out loud can have fabulous results).  One day, my fascinating phonics lesson was interrupted by a local news station presenting me with a $1000 check to use for my sensory ideas! Check it out here

With these funds, I was able to purchase and incorporate more yoga balls, and seated pedalers.  However, I've also made a lot of changes to my classroom layout for $Free.99. Who doesn't love that price! Take some legs off a table - instant game changer. Beg on Facebook or Twitter. You'll be surprised what people will be willing to trash donate. :) Hit up the band teacher for some old music stands. Ta-da: standing desks!

I've included pictures below of the sensory integration and alternate seating options.

Raised table: students have the option to stand and work

Music stands: another standing desk option

Use frisbees for a cheap solution for runaway rolling yoga balls

Crate seats double as storage. The pedals provide students with a stationary movement option.

Futons and couches are hot items!

Removing table legs changes up a regular classroom tables.

Why flexible seating options? The results speak for themselves.

  • Student buy-in, excitement and engagement
  • Increased attention
  • Built-in outlets for students with ADHD or other sensory needs
  • Increased participation
  • Social interactions
  • Overall positive attitudes!
  • A cozy, inviting place to spend our days five days a week!

Give it a try! Start small. After all, my living room usually starts with just moving a few pillows. :)

P.S. If you use "hard plastic chairs" in your classroom, I still think you're cool and want to be friends with you. After all, its important to teach our students to adapt to society and 'normal' things - like regular chairs!  Sensory integration and flexible seating is just where my passion lies, and I love to share things that work!

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