Protols for Learning with Littles

A big part of teaching littles is having clear and consistent routines. A big part of teaching in the 21st century is deep thinking. Combining these 2 can be tricky for an early childhood educator. Littles need direct instruction and modeling in clarity to be successful in deep thinking. Setting clear and consistent thinking routines have gotten my students to think more deeply across the curriculum. And be able to share those thoughts with one another.

Thinking routines and protocols ensure equity in your classroom by structuring they way students respond to prompts. Protocols and routines allow for every child to think and respond. Not just those who raise their hands. It’s also provides access to deeper thinking through clear steps and predictable routines.

Turn and talks are great and all but sometimes littles need more to get going. After reading the book Making Thinking Visible, I added some new routines to my classroom. Then I was inspired to seek more protocols to add to our tool belt of routines.

I see, I think, I wonder

In this protocol, students look at an image or the cover of a book and complete each of the statements. Students can respond to the sentence stems orally or through writing (teacher’s choice). I like this protocol because it is predictable and focuses littles on what we want them to notice through observations. It also allows them an outlet for their natural curiosity. I have used this protocol to introduce a new book, launch a science unit, and as a close reading activity. I have also extended this protocol with a digital image displayed on my smart board. I began with the image zoomed way in and asked students to complete the statements with a partner. Then, I zoomed out a little and asked them to make their statements again. We repeated this a few times until the image was whole. This protocol has become so routine in our classroom that I hear students using it during partner reading!

What makes you say that?

This one has become second nature to me. I respond to my students frequently with this little line. I like it because it is a subtle shift from asking, “why?” and doesn’t sound accusatory. When I responded with,”why?” students automatically thought they were wrong and changed their answer. When I respond with this question, they explain their thinking and reasoning that led them to their conclusion. It even pushes them toward finding and sharing the evidence they used to answer the question. Add this one to your back pocket now!

I used to think… Now I think…

This one is so easy to add to any nonfiction read aloud or unit!  Students start by activating their prior knowledge (I used to think…) and then focusing on finding something new in a text or video (But, now I think…). I have used this as a conversation starter, turn and talk, and response in a notebook. I have included this protocol in reading nonfiction, a math video on a new strategy, and split up as part of a launch to a science or social studies unit. I like this protocol because it sets a purpose for reading or viewing. Even for students who may be dinosaur experts, they are focused on finding that one new bit of information they didn’t already know while you read that nonfiction book.

I’ve also added some routines from other sources.

Chalk Talk (not sure where this one came from)

This is a fabulous and tricky protocol for littles! During Chalk Talk, students write their thoughts, ideas, or what they know about a topic on a large chart paper. When I do this, I give every student a different color marker so I can tell who’s is who’s. After completing their response on the chart paper, students then read what their classmates wrote and respond to others. During a Chalk Talk, students are not supposed to talk to each other, their marker is supposed to do the talking for them. This is where it gets tricky for littles. Littles need to stretch their words out loud so they can hear the sounds. Littles need to orally rehearse their writing prior to recording it. Littles struggle to write words and sentences others can read. I love this protocol because it challenges littles to focus on the reader when they write. I find my students are more concerned about recording exact sounds and writing neatly when we do a Chalk Talk than when they write a during writer’s workshop. I provide access to this protocol for my littles by allowing them to use their voices to help them write but encourage them not to talk to their friend and by allowing them to choose between sketching or writing. And they CAN do it, with practice and gentle reminders. I have used this protocol with students as a number splash (where they have to show a number in multiple ways – a math routine in my district), classroom rules, problems and solutions that might occur at school, relationship building activity for morning meeting, recording ideas for personal narratives, and responding to a read aloud. Sometimes I do 1 chalk talk and focus on responding to others, sometimes I have multiple chalk talk charts at once and focus on sharing ideas and debrief later.

Snowball Toss (SOS from Discover Education)

This protocol is “snow” much fun! It’s also a great way to use some of that scrap paper that builds up in your room! In this protocol, students respond to a prompt on a piece of scrap paper, then you gather in a circle, ball up the paper and toss it in the middle like a snowball. Students then grab a paper snowball open it up and read then respond to what their classmate wrote or respond to a new prompt and repeat as many times as you want! This one has some of the same challenges as Chalk Talk when it comes to students writing and being able to read each other’s writing. I provide the same choice (sketch or write). I have added my own spin to this protocol by having students respond with “I agree” or “I disagree” statements or if the snowball they picked has a sketch then they have to respond with a sketch. This is a newer protocol for me, but the kids are loving it! We used it to discuss the Eclipse of 2017 and as a response to a character strength we were discussing as part of Positivity Project. I’ll be using it again this week with a lesson on time! Watch for me to tweet it out @AubreyDiOrio.

Back to back/Front to front

I picked this one up from a tweet by my friend Nathalie Ludwig.

We use this one ALL. THE. TIME. In this protocol, students get up, find a partner, and stand back to back. The teacher asks a question and provides think time. Students cannot respond to the question until the teacher says, “Front to front.” Then each time you have a question, say, “back to back” and students find a new partner. This is a great way to change up your turn and talk with some movement and different partners. This protocol adds equity for your students with differences through built-in think time. I have not had an issue this year with students always picking the same few friends or talking at the same time, but you can add some control by assigning kids as either ketchup or mustard. Then littles have to find someone to complete the pair and you can have ketchups talk first, mustards talk second. I use this protocol to respond to a read aloud, as a morning meeting activity to discuss a character strength, to share a math strategy, to compare judy clocks, share a hypothesis, and SO MUCH MORE!

Glows and Grows

Glows and Grows is a protocol for collecting feedback. Glows are something great and Grows are areas for improvement. This one is accessible to students because they grasp on to the word Glow as a positive and Grow as something to get better. It encourages them to take a growth mindset and look for something that could be better. Through this protocol, I’ve noticed students focusing on kindness and helpfulness rather than looking for the work that is the best. I have used this protocol to collect feedback from experts during a PBL, with writing or reading partners, and student-led conferences.

My favorite part of having thinking and learning protocols is that they can be applied to any subject area and once my students get used to them, I don’t have to give a ton of directions. I just say, “we are going to do a Chalk Talk. Please write about ____.”

Have you tried any of these protocols with your littles? Have you used other ones? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below!

Seesaw! My go to for student choice

What is Seesaw

Seesaw is a digital portfolio platform that can be scaled for students pre-k-12. It is simple and intuitive for littles but also provides opportunities for critical thinking, communication, and feedback that can reach students through 12th grade. Seesaw allows students to post to their journal and a class feed with photo, video, text, drawing, or google doc integration responses. Students can scroll through the class feed and like or comment on their peer’s responses. Student responses can be organized in folders for easy searchability. Parents can connect to their child’s Seesaw journal and like and comment their work as well as see progress over time.

Why I Seesaw

I seesaw because it provides students with opportunities to express themselves through multiple methods. I love the choices it provides students as they share their learning and reflections. I love that kids can practice citizenship by commenting on each other’s posts. Seesaw is like social media for kids. It is a great way to model appropriate digital behavior and moderate as they practice.

How I Seesaw

For the last 3 years that I have used Seesaw, my students have quickly become Seesaw experts. They are able to post to their journal quickly and independently. I use Seesaw for a variety of things. The list below includes things my students have posted (both kindergarten and first grade):

  • Math Story Problems
      • Students need to be able to create their own story problems in order to fully understand how they work. Writing their own helps them play with the language used in a story problem and therefore provides them access to better understanding story problems that need solving. After posting a story problem, students then scroll through the feed to solve others’ story problems. They have learned to write better problems that require multiple steps and make sure to include a question at the end and not the answer! This has been one of my math stations for the last 2 years and they LOVE it! I change out the manipulatives for them occasionally to keep things fun and interesting! (#math1OA2)

    https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.42ce1265-2173-43c2-9814-bd8f33ddf75f&share_token=gTvKg3TwQAGdICDoLdcVOg&mode=embed

https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.42ce1265-2173-43c2-9814-bd8f33ddf75f&share_token=gTvKg3TwQAGdICDoLdcVOg&mode=share

https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.a43f96cc-65f3-482c-b175-361d04a19641&share_token=6XyASDNIRAGDSxX36yJHwA&mode=share

https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.ded27a4f-dcb4-4f67-b671-ced42b19c3c0&share_token=FSelo5GOTWSLmfdIY_fF6Q&mode=share

https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.62d78ca1-2eea-45bb-9717-22da9d82b64d&share_token=ycae-zyARtu7maMObWaQ9w&mode=share

https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.d9c52808-a4cc-4ed8-b867-ca8aa6736bb2&share_token=cjhglUSHSY-vTjCAaRcWWw&mode=share

https://app.seesaw.me/pages/shared_item?item_id=item.08e03b4e-6b56-4ec7-a594-42be62810f4a&share_token=kNoufDy0Qumkv0s1AzPqOw&mode=share

  • Relationship building
    • Students also share photos on Seesaw at home. I love getting notifications on the weekend of baby brothers and sisters, road trips, a book they’re reading, and songs they made up. I even had a student upload a video to Seesaw in the car as they were moving to another state!

I would love for you to share in the comments why you Seesaw or your favorite things for students to upload on their student Journals!

Not included in this post: encouraging positive interactions through likes and comments and family involvement! Those are blog posts for a different time!

The 5 W’s of Breakout Edu with Littles

I see it as my mission to take all the innovative pracitces popular in education and make them accessible to littles. Breakout Edu was a tough one for me. I played around with it in my head for a long time before actually trying it. I’ve still only done it a handful of times and I love it. I’m interested in creating my own breakout puzzles.

Why I like breakout boxes…

Breakout boxes provide students with the opportunity to practice problem solving strategies. They encourage students to persevere and show some grit. They allow students to collaborate toward a common goal. Breakout boxes can hit so many standards and hit every one of the 4Cs all at once! And, they are SO FUN!

What I’ve tried…

I’ve chosen breakout boxes that focus on solving different types of story problems (OA.1.1, OA.1.3, OA.1.5) and ones that focus on answering questions about a story (RL.1.1). I found these breakout boxes on BreakoutEdu.com. I printed all the materials and followed the instructions to assemble my box and set up the puzzles around the room.

I introduced the problem and their goal to unlock the box. The math breakout we did had a football story (it was the beginning of the season and I have students super into sports). We had to unlock the footballs for the team. In the literacy box, the mouse locked up our markers and we needed to break them free or lose them forever! I broke my class into groups (one for each puzzle), set the timer, and set them free. We rotated around to all the puzzles until everyone had a chance to solve them all.

Who are the Breakout boxes for and how I made them more accessible for littles…

I planned my first breakout box for my whole class to do at the same time. I split them into small groups so they had to work on 1 puzzle at a time and I rotated them around as they seemed to reach a solution. The second time, we partnered with a second grade class and they had free range to solve the puzzles around the room with their second grade buddy or a group of their choosing. Both of these methods worked well with my students however, they made a lot of mistakes when I turned on the timer. My advice for making breakout boxes more accessible for littles…

DON’T SET THE TIMER!

Woah! My kids got so obsessed about how much time was left they made silly mistakes on problems I KNEW they could solve otherwise. As soon as I turned off the timer and they felt safe to take their time and solve the puzzles, they were much more successful and were able to breakout. I tried twice thinking the first time it was just the newness. But, they had the same reaction to the timer both times. I will no longer use the timer with my littles.

When I do a breakout box…

I tried a breakout box with my class as a culminating event for our math unit right before an assessment and they did well. However, it took nearly 3 hours to do. I pretty much lost the rest of my day.

About once a month my district has early release days where the students go home early but the teachers stay normal hours for professional development. I’ve found that these early release days are the best for breakout boxes because they fill up our day, they’re fun, students are engaged in rigorous work focused on multiple standards.

The next one I did was on one of these early release days and in the middle of our study on making predictions. The breakout box went with If You Take A Mouse To School. Students were familiar with this book since we had already read it and made predictions throughout. When we returned from specials, the room was a mess and the mouse left us a message about our missing markers. This worked great and really piqued their imaginations. No one predicted the mouse would come to OUR school!

Where I’m going…

My next plan is to try to start creating my own breakout boxes for my students. This way I can decide on specific curriculum points to hit and include my students’ interests.

 

Coding Unplugged – A number sorting computer

I learned an amazing coding activity at the #NCSTA17 conference in Greensboro, NC in October. The activity is from csunplugged.org. The mat works like a computer. It has rules and paths the information must follow. I was mind blown the first time we did it as adults at the conference and I immediately had the idea to use this as one of my comparing numbers introductions. #math1NBT3

The first time I did this, I taped the pattern out on the floor copying it from the photo I took at the conference. I didn’t want to spend the money making the cloth if it didn’t work. I was worried that my firsties wouldn’t get it since they would need to know right from left in order for the computer to be successful. I was so surprised! They did not want the computer to “break” and were very careful to chose the correct direction and help each other figure out where to go on the coding mat.

I bought this drop cloth at Lowes. I painted the pattern with tempra paint from my classroom. I copied it from the photo I took at the conference. It was pretty easy except I didn’t eyeball the paths correctly and ended up with 2 curved ones when they should all be straight. I also had a few cat prints from my dear sweet 15 year old torti cat, Calypso, being nosy and walking across the mat.

The kids DID NOT MIND! They love hearing all the crazy stories about my pets!

The first time we did this, I gave the kids single digit numbers 1-6 that I knew they would be able to compare and put in order easily. I had them line up out of order at the starting end of the mat. I asked the kids who were not on the computer to tell me what they noticed:

  • “They are 1 digit numbers.”
  • “They are out of order.”

So far so good! I explained the rules and paths on the computer and gave reminders for right and left so the knew which direction to move. At each step forward I had them stop and the observers to notice any changes (Nothing changed except the order of the numbers. And they were still out of order.) I slowed this WAY down. One step at a time asking them to compare and decide: right or left? By the time they go to the other end of the computer they were just as amazed as I was at the conference that this unplugged computer WORKED!!!

The next time we did this, I gave them teen numbers which I knew they were familiar with from kindergarten and had 1 or 2 numbers missing (i.e. 11, 13, 16, 17, 18 19). I kept it at a slow pace. Taking 1 step at a time and comparing and following paths and asking the observers to notice any changes. They were less surprised that the numbers ended up in order and more concerned that some numbers were missing in the order. This led to a great conversation about comparing numbers and the numbers that come between other numbers.

We moved on from there comparing more 2 digit numbers. I gave out another set of cards with 2 digit numbers specifically chosen so that it didn’t matter if they only compared 1 of the digits, it would still work out in order (i.e. 12, 23, 34, 45, 67, 89). I anticipated this would be a common misconception with comparing 2 digit numbers. We talked about always comparing with the tens number firs then the ones if the tens were equal.

The next set of cards had more random 2 digit numbers. I had them draw the base ten picture for this number so they could begin comparing both the number and a picture of that number and visualizing each 2 digit number. The last set of cards had just base ten pictures and they compared the images.

Each time I gave out a new set of cards, I called different students to be in the computer so that everyone could have a chance to observe and notice and participate. Each time we worked the computer, they were able to follow the rules and paths faster. Our observation skills even got keener as they noticed mistakes in the right/left stepping and corrected their friends so we didn’t “break” the computer.

Please share other unplugged computer science or coding activities or ideas you have for this activity in the comments!

Amazon’s Echo Dot in the Classroom

This is not a sponsored post.

I bought an Amazon Echo Dot at the beginning of the school year and have set it up in my classroom as an additional learning tool. The Echo Dot uses an Artificial Intelligence, Alexa, to interact with humans through voice commands. Having an AI in the classroom helps students work on their speaking and listening skills. They have to speak clearly so she can hear them. They have to listen carefully because she sometimes answers quickly.
I have seen a lot of questions around lately about how these are can be used in the classroom. I linked a podcast at the bottom where they talk about the benefits of AI in the classroom. I’m going to share 5 ways I currently use my echo dot and then some of the new skills I just added and look forward to using.

I chose to use AI in my classroom this year because it can help support students with different needs. It takes the pressure off students because they don’t need to read or write in order to interact with the device. I also love that it is a relatively new technology on the market and I love the challenge of making it work in the classroom.

Note – We changed the wake word on our Echo Dot to Echo instead of Alexa since I have a student with that name.

*tips* turn OFF shopping, put it in a spot that doesn’t have a ton of regular activity so she can hear and be heard

1. Muisc

From day 1 I have used my Echo to play music. I have amazon music set up and can ask her to play anything from a specific song to a genre or artist playlist. My kids love to be the DJ for the day as one of our classroom rewards. They get to pick the music for morning arrival, movement breaks, or quiet music when we need to concentrate.

2. Timers and Reminders

I will ask Echo to set a timer for the number of minutes students have to complete a task or remind us of something we need to do that is not part of our regular schedule.

3. Spelling

First graders are really good at phonetic spelling and can stretch and write the sounds for any word they want. However, they start to realize that their spelling doesn’t match conventional spelling and they want to spell words correctly. I let my students use Echo to spell a word for them or check their spelling of a word. At first they needed to ask me before asking Echo to spell a word (I didn’t want them using it for sight words or words we have learned the spelling pattern for). They are good about this now and I’m ready to release control to them (or an Echo Manager – student job).

4. Brain Breaks

Echo can play music, tell a joke, or play quick games to help with brain breaks. We can ask her to play a song for a quick dance break, tell a joke to lighten the mood, or play a quick game. We love to play the Animal Game (one of the skills you can add). It works like 20 questions about animals.

5. Genius Hour

We have an (almost) weekly genius hour in my classroom. When students are ready to choose a topic or question to work on for their genius hour, they need to have their idea approved by Echo first. The purpose of Genius Hour is for students to spend time exploring their own curiosities. Part of this is in coming up with ideas that are not “googleable.” Alexa, being and AI, works like google. My students need to ask her their question and get an, “I don’t know” response from her to know that their question is going to take some time and work to reach an answer.

Skills I like or will be using soon

  • Invisible Dice
  • Ambient Sounds
  • Animal Game
  • Flip a coin
  • Kids Affirmation
  • Kids Mad Libs
  • Laugh Box
  • MathFacts
  • Mother May I
  • Rock Paper Scissors
  • Translated
  • Would You Rather
  • Word Look Up
  • Weather

Do you have and Alexa or another AI in your classroom? How do you use it? Please leave ideas in the comments!

Google Teacher Tribe Episode 31

Building Relationships …a work in progress…

Author’s Note: I’m not proud of the post below. Actually, I’m embarrassed by it. But learning and growth must be shared! This is about to get real………

I started reading The Curious Classroom by Harvey “Smokey” Daniels. And of course it begins talking student relationships. I have good relationships with my kids. They know I love them and they love me. I try to get to know my kids outside of school and academics. I share my life outside our classroom with them.

In the first chapter, Daniels brings up a quote I’ve heard many times before by Donald Graves,

You are not ready to teach a child until you know ten things about her life outside of school.

It got me thinking. I actually went back to that quote 4 times in the time it took me to read the 18 pages of chapter 1. Do I know 10 things about each of my Firsties??? Of course I do! ……… WAIT! Do I REALLY know 10 thing about each of my kids? I decided to make a list.

I left off names and things I know to keep some privacy for my students. Below reflects what I was able to come up with after thinking about my students for a short time. The number on the left represents a student and the number in parenthesis is the amount of things I could come up with.

1.  (5)

2.  (5)

3.  (7)

4. (4)

5. (5)

6. (8)

7.  (4)

8.  (4)

9. (2)

10. (3)

11. (2)

12. (3)

13. (5)

14. (6)

15. (3)

16. (3)

17. (4)

18. (3)

I have a lot of work to do. I’ll update this post as I work toward my goal.

Strengths Based Approach (3 blog posts under 250 words – post 2) #IMMOOC

Feedback is the most influential, powerful practice teachers can implement in their classrooms. Research (Hattie) shows that no single other practice in a classroom has a greater impact on student learning than feedback. However, how often does feedback come in the form of negatives.

  • “You need to start your sentence with a capital.”
  • “Did that sound right? Try a different strategy.”
  • “Check your counting. You made a silly mistake. “

I’m guilty of this type of feedback myself. I think I’m helping my students. But what message are they actually hearing? I worry that it could be:

  • “I’m a terrible writer.”
  • “I can’t read.”
  • “I’m not good enough.”

I have to be mindful daily to focus on my students strengths. It’s a decision I have to make every 5 seconds: tell them what they did great or what they need to fix.

I find that I get my fristies’ attention and interest when I start with something they did great. They love to hear how amazing they are. I try to make a point of telling each of my firsties something I love about them every day. They need this positive affirmation.

Today on flipgrid, one of my firsties was WAY off in her response but I didn’t even address it right away. I started by telling her how amazing she is at selfies (and she’s better than I am!) She lit up and hung on my every word after that! We hit her grow area after she was able to glow!

“I failed my way to success” #IMMOOC

I teach little kids. Modeling EVERYTHING is important. I model reading strategies, writing conventions, counting methods, steps in a process. Every. Single. Day. Multiple. Times. A. Day.  Modeling my learning is just as important. I preach growth mindset, the power of yet, and the miracle of mistakes all the time. I try to see into the future and predict the mistakes my littles will make then plan ahead to make those mistakes as I’m teaching my mini-lessons. These moments can be powerful for them. But I’ll tell you what, those kids are smart! They can see right though me! They know I made that mistake on purpose and they know I know better!

It is far more powerful to make natural mistakes in front of students. I don’t play those off as if I meant to. I model the process of how I realized there was a mistake and what I’m going to do to fix it and learn from it! My kids help me realize my mistakes and they cheer me on as they observe my process to improve.

My littles know I’m on twitter, they know I blog, they know I read books about education, they know I go to teacher conferences and workshops both to teach other teachers and to learn from other teachers. My kids know that teaching that their learning is my passion. During our morning meeting time we share what we’re learning, mistakes we made, and our curiosities. It’s important for me to be open and honest with them. I don’t tell them kid friendly things. I share the real things in my life that I’m learning, my actual mistakes, and what I’m actually wondering about. My kids know I just bought a house and I’m struggling to work my front garden to make it look nice and keep the weeds out (they even offered to come help).

When kids see the adults near them learning, making mistakes, and improving they will realize that’s what life is all about. My goal is for my students to learn to enjoy the struggle and lean into it. Our favorite quote is from Thomas Edison, “I failed my way to success.” It’s our mantra.

What are you learning right now?

#IMMOOC I’m a risk taker.

I’m a risk taker. I love to learn new things from twitter, podcasts, books, friends, and even billboards! I enjoy trying new things with my students and helping them find enjoyment in learning. I truly believe that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life! I see it as my mission to help children find a love of learning that will last them their lifetime. My purpose is to help them find their passion and explore it. I teach first grade and I constantly think about my students as adults. What I design for them in first grade will help them in their future.

I #innovate4littles in my classroom because they CAN ! The first time I tried Genius Hour, I did it because I just knew it couldn’t be done with littles and boy was I wrong! At the time I taught kindergarten and they ran with it. Littles are natural risk takers because no one has told them they can’t yet and so they believe they can! That year, my littles inspired me to be a risk taker through their hard work, learning, and application of standards and content though self guided experiences in Genius Hour.

I am a risk taker for my littles because they take risks everyday. I empathize with them because it must be so scary! So, I join in and model taking risks, failing, trying again, and hopefully succeeding. I hope that my risk taking inspires them to love learning for the rest of their lives and become innovators of whatever they choose to have a passion for. I hope that my littles never work a day in their lives!

My Flexible Classroom Journey

About 2 years ago I moved from a traditional classroom set up to a flexible classroom. I’ve learned some things along the way and made some adjustments. I noticed that different groups access flexibility differently. I’m going to share with you my growth process for flexible seating. For reference, Year 1 and Year 2 are years that I taught kindergarten. Year 3 is the current school year and I am teaching first grade. Year 1 was the year I began BYOD as well. You can read about that here.

Year 1:

My school purchased hokki stools for each grade level. They were evenly split between the classrooms. If you’re not familiar with these, they have a rounded bottom and when you sit on them you have to use your core to balance. I got 3 hokki stools and spread them around the room for my kinders to sit in. At this point, all I had were 3 hokki stools and chairs. I made a plan for students to take turns sitting in the hokki stools. My kinders had assigned seats so I had to move the hokki stool to a different kinder’s assigned spot each day.

Once I saw the benefits of the hokki stools for some kinders, I was interested to try other things. Our school had a staff PD about flexible seating and we talked about ways we can add things to our rooms with out spending money and then we were challenged to write a grant for the PTA to fund more flexible seating options.

Free options: raise tables for students to stand at, lower tables so students have to sit on floors, old crates turned upside down are strong enough to hold littles. I had pillows and cushions in my room already so I moved them to the floor tables and put them on top of the crates so they were more comfortable. My kinders also asked if they could go under tables to work and… YES! why not?!

Things our PTA funded for us: scoop chairs, more crates, seat cushions, tall stools, and yoga balls. These were spread around the room at different tables.

I transitioned from assigned seats to home bases. My students had placemats with their name tags on them and every week, they would choose a new table spot for their home base.

I made my own basket seats with my husband with plywood, cushion, and fabric. I followed a DIY I found online. I used these instead of upside down crates with cushions. Cassidy helped! 😜

Year 2:

I had all the same furniture in my room. My big shift year 2 was to move to daily home bases. Kinders chose a new seat every day. This would be the spot they go back to for independent work time. It worked great until a kinder went home sad because he didn’t get to school early enough to have lots of choices in his seat. Mom emailed me to let me know and I developed a plan to make sure each kinder got a turn in each flexible seat type. I had a chart with each seat type across the top and all the students names listed under. Once kinders chose a spot for the day, they had to cross off their name. They couldn’t choose that seat type again until everyone had a turn. This worked fabulously!

Year 2 I also made the decision to explicitly teach each seat choice. I made an anchor chart with diagrams and labels to show how I expected my kinders to sit or stand. I also had kinders model the right way and the wrong way to use the flexible seats. This was great because the had the chance to play with the seat choices. I revisited the chart and modeling as I observed patterns of kinders using seats in unexpected ways.

Year 3:

This year I made my expectations chart with the class and had them act out the right and wrong ways to use the seat choices. I love how the anchor chart serves as a daily reminder. I no longer use name tags as home bases. I have moved to a completely flexible option. Firsties can choose a different spot each time they need to go to the tables to work. I find a lot of my firsties like to lay on a pillow with a clipboard. My centers don’t have assigned areas, firsties bring the materials they need to whichever table or seating area they want. This year I plan on using some of my morning meeting time to talk about why we have each type of seating and the type of learner it supports. “If you ___ the ___ would be a great choice for you!”

I have come to the realization that there is a difference between having flexible seating and having a flexible classroom. Flexible seating refers to the furniture in your classroom and students get to choose where they sit (daily or weekly). To me, a flexible classroom includes student choice in more than just their seat location. It includes, their choice in how to complete work (digitally or paper), what they are learning (interest driven or options), books they read (shout out to my PLN buddy Allie Bond for inspiring me to move away from leveled readers!), and more! What do you do that makes your classroom flexible ?