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Sardis Enrichment School uses flexible seating to engage students
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Sardis Enrichment School's Kate Rosales, 9, left, and Ellie Willis, 9, use one of the low tables in Stacy Abbott's class on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, allowing them to sit on the floor. The class uses alternative seating designs because it helps some children perform better and stay more attentive in class. - photo by Scott Rogers

It’s a problem that’s perplexed teachers for years: ants in the pants.

Active kids, what some might call fidgety, can have difficulties learning in traditional school settings.

Stacy Abbott, a fourth-grade teacher at Sardis Enrichment School, has redesigned her classroom to keep kids in their chairs and engaged in learning.

“Sometimes, they like to be in their own space,” she said.

Flexible seating allows students to choose where to sit in the classroom among an assortment of options.

In Abbott’s class, some students love sitting on cushions around a low table, while others prefer the squishy plastic seats or tailgate chairs.

“We kind of have a little variety,” Abbott said.

But the wobble chair might be the most unique option.

It is designed to allow kids to move and swivel in their chair. While squirming in a chair can be seen as behavior worthy of discipline in a typical classroom, Abbott effectively encourages it.

She hasn’t ditched the desks entirely, though. Abbott said some students like to stick with what they know.

And even having the choice to choose familiarity can be liberating and inspiring for a student.

Abbott has found that it’s also a great motivator to learn. A little enthusiasm for learning can go a long way in the classroom, and she takes full advantage.

“They enjoy coming in,” Abbott said. “They have handled it better than I could have imagined.”

With unassigned seating options that include even bouncy balls and rocking chairs, teachers across the country cite better attentiveness and improved behavior among students.

Social media groups are now available for teachers to share stories about how they have implemented flexible seating, and books are available to learn about best practices and innovative new seating options.

Abbott said it gives her students a sense of ownership and responsibility when they get to determine where they sit.

“I ask them what they want,” she added.

Abbott said it keeps her fresh, too, by shaking up the daily routine in ways large and small.

For example, group projects can be particularly influenced by seating arrangements.  

Abbott said she’s grateful for support from Principal Neil Yarrington; funds raised by friends, family and supporters to purchase the seating options; and other teachers who have joined in.

She advises teachers considering this approach to seating to gauge the makeup of each class; because, as any teacher knows, it’s not always roses.

“I thought some (students) wouldn’t last a day,” she conceded with a chuckle. “They’re sometimes a bit chatty.”

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