Students, teachers say it improves focus, academic performance
GALION — Studies have shown that students learn in many ways, in many different environments.
Several Galion City Schools classrooms have undergone a transformation to be more accommodating to students by providing flexible seating in the classroom.
Eighth-grade reading/language arts teacher Gina Redman was one of the first teachers to implement flexible seating in her classroom. Redman’s co-teacher presented her with the idea the night before the Middle School’s Open House, and she immediately started implementing a more “comfortable” classroom.
“I went ‘thrift shopping’ and purchased two chairs and four exercise balls to use as seats for my students,” Redman said. “I had two cushioned chairs at home that I painted — one orange and one blue — and I was able to start the year with an assortment of comfortable and colorful chairs!”
High School Spanish teacher Molly Fairchild had also heard about flexible seating, and after doing research decided she would try it, since no other classroom in the High School had converted to flexible seating.
“I went to see Gina’s classroom and absolutely loved it,” Fairchild said. “That visit sold me on the idea, and I implemented flexible seating at the start of the second semester of this school year.”
The fifth-grade team of Sue Stark, Jenny Reagan and Christine Smith started the 2016-2017 school year offering flexible seating to their students. The trio first started reading about the idea on Pinterest, a popular website on social media.
“After reading the research on student improvements in the flexible seating classroom, we began to formulate a plan that would best suit our students for the upcoming school year,” Stark said. “Our flexible seating plan allows for a flow of movement, as well as a choice about seating.”
Galion High School French teacher Violeta Chinni heard about the idea from Fairchild. After a two-week research period, Chinni put together a plan for fundraising, acquisition of furniture through donations and crowd-sourcing, an implementation schedule and her own official flexible seating rollout.
“I officially rolled out flexible seating in my French classes February 13,” said Chinni. “My main goalwas to provide students alternative seating options to help them relax, focus, engage and achieve their academic goals.”
Whether implementation of the flexible seating in the classroom took place at the beginning or middle of the school year, the educators have witnessed a positive impact on student achievement.
“I have very few tardies to my class, and I do not use a seating chart. It’s a first-come-, first-serve seating arrangement and my students are lined up ready to enter the classroom and learn,” Redman said. “I’ve had numerous students tell me that the love my classroom and wish others would convert to a flexible seating arrangement.”
The fifth-grade team at the Intermediate School learned that students are better able to pay attention to what they need to do if they are comfortable.
“All students, just like all adults, are not going to be comfortable in classroom chairs,” said Reagan. “Our classroom is more pleasant and informal, which leads to increased student productivity.”
The theme of increased student productivity has carried through to the classrooms at Galion High School.
“My students seem more comfortable and more focused,” Fairchild said. “I think it’s also nice that it gives them choice and they aren’t limited to a seating chart.”
“Since implementing the flexible seating arrangement, my students have shown improvement in many areas,” Chinni said. “Their behavior and attitudes have improved, as well as their ability to follow directions and stay on task. Finally, I’ve witnessed the improvement in their academic performance and their collaborative efforts.”
What about the students?
While teachers have enjoyed improvements to overall student productivity, behavior, attitudes and performance, students have happily embraced the changes to their classroom.
“The most appealing part about flexible seating is how it creates an inviting environment for students,” said French 3 student Jared Dixon. “It promotes relaxation and learning, and it helps academically by providing a calm environment that promotes student participation.”
“I find flexible seating appealing because it allows me to be comfortable in class every day,” said French 3 student Keaton Durbin. “Unlike a traditional classroom, I can sit in a different spot everyday based on what we are doing, and I feel like it helps me academically because it allows me to focus.”
This is just a small step toward achieving a larger goal of improving student outcomes by providing varying environments for students to learn.
“I am incredibly proud of the teachers who have independently embraced flexible seating and implemented it in their classrooms,” said Superintendent Jim Grubbs. “Hearing the students talk about the positive impact the new learning environments have on their academic performance is proof that alternative classrooms are going to be required to help our students achieve their maximum potential, and I’m fully committed to helping make that happen in the Galion City School District.”