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Unconventional Seating - CC

Unconventional Seating - CC
Posted on 04/19/2017
This is the image for the news article titled Unconventional Seating - CCBy Deb Hurley Brobst Staff Writer
 Unconventional seating Wilmot teacher does away with desks, tries other ways to make kids comfortable and get them to learn better

Kristin Whitney’s classroom at Wilmot Elementary doesn’t look anything like you might expect.

Gone are the rows of desks for the fourth- and fifth-graders. In their place are a couch, highbacked chair, pillows, kitchen table with chairs, a camp chair and tall desks. There are four traditional desks congregated together with balls rather than chairs.

Whitney’s desk is also gone because she said having her desk as the center of attention made it seem like it was her classroom when it should be the students’ classroom.

Textbooks and supplies normally in students’ desks now are in boxes along a wall.

Whitney says the change helps her students make decisions about where they can work best that day and helps everyone work more collaboratively. In fact, students don’t have to stay in one place; if one spot isn’t quite right, a student gets up and moves.

Whitney asks students to find a “smart seat,” a place where they won’t be distracted and can do their best work.

She is so happy with the change, which she instituted at the end of February, that she says she’ll never go back to a classroom with traditional desks.

The idea to change the classroom atmosphere came after Whitney attended a conference, where she sat in a chair for two hours. She said it was difficult to sit still, and it made her think about her students.

She researched optimal teaching methods, and created a sheet listing pros and cons. After discussing it with principal Matt Cormier, she took the plunge.

The new classroom furniture comes from donations from parents, and from the Evergreen Christian Outreach Resale Shop, Habitat for Humanity Restore and Facebook.

Whitney said parents have supported the change, and Cormier said anecdotally, it’s been positive for the kids.

“You would think there might be more discipline issues because kids would fight over where to sit,” Cormier said. “But it’s been the opposite. Since this has occurred, I don’t think I have had one referral from this classroom.”

He said it was exciting to see kids make the right choice for them on where they will do the best learning that day.

“I hope this will turn into a quiet revolution to help kids learn,” Cormier said. “Since their seats aren’t assigned, they can make different seating choices throughout the day.”

Whitney’s enthusiasm for the new classroom model has been contagious, and fourth-grade teacher Jen Goslau is following suit.

Goslau is slowly making the transition, still using some traditional desks along with beanbag chairs, tall desks and a high table and chairs that look like they came out of a 1950s drive-in.

“It’s worked out really well,” Goslau said. “I’ve had everyone try out all of the seating. Some kids don’t want to stand, while others love to be on the floor.”

Fourth-graders in Whitney’s class chimed in as well, saying the new options help them focus.

“It’s good that we get to choose where we get to sit,” student Dallas Maxey said. “It’s easier, and it helps us focus more.” Dallas prefers the couch and the high-backed chair for doing work.

Student Adam Rashleigh added: “If we don’t want to sit at a desk, we can stand.” Adam likes sitting on a ball at a traditional desk.

Student Evan Wallace likes the tall table and chairs near the windows, while student Justin Gregory likes to sit on a ball at a desk. The ball, he said, allows him to move a bit while concentrating on his work.

There are rules in the classrooms: No racing to get to a specific spot, no saving a seat for another student and using that particular workspace correctly.

And Whitney says the most important rule is that she can move a student if she feels it’s necessary.

“I love the collaborative feel of my classroom,” Whitney said. “They’re not stuck in one place any more. I’m giving them choices to pick spots that are best for them.”