Sunday, June 30, 2013

Why make the switch to alternative seating?

Desks and chairs were the bane of my existence last year.  All year long kids were tipping, wiggling, falling out of- come on, you know- their chairs.  On top of it, since I teach first grade it was the first time they had a desk... so they were secretly cutting, gluing, playing with toys, anything but paying attention- in the secrecy of their own desk.  Teaching kindergarten last year, it was my first time with desks as well, and let me tell you, I was wondering what all the hype was about.  Thats why when I got moved into my new itty bitty room I said "There's  no way I'm putting 20 desks in here!"  Seriously.  That would be my whole room!  And you could only tetris them  in one specific way to make them all fit!  No thank you!  I went with tables.

Not only that, I went with two tables.  Like- as in, seating for 8.  Now add my horseshoe table for small groups and you have seating for 13.  I'll have 20 kids.  But it's okay because I'll be doing alternative seating.  When I went to the Daily 5 conference last month and one of the sisters, Joan, said that she only had seating for half of her students.  She uses alternative seating... in fact, she said that all of the classrooms in her school use alternative seating.  If it works for them, it will surely work for me.

Think about it.   If someone told you that you have to exhaust your stamina reading books and practicing writing, where would you choose to tackle this task?  I would choose my bed.  Seriously. I love reading or writing while propped up in my cozy bed... I'm there right now!  I'm guessing not that many people chose to work in rigid plastic chairs at a table or desk, right next to others who were more than likely audibly mouthing their own stories to themselves.  Why should we expect kids to do it??

By letting a child sit/stand/crouch in a spot that is best for him, it will completely change his ability to work independently in reading and writing.  Meaning, it will make him a better reader and writer!  Who doesn't want that!!

A Pediatric Physical Therapy study conducted in 2006 indicated that when a group of children diagnosed with ADHD were given alternative seating instead of school chairs they paid better attention and scored higher on standardized tests.  When kids with an extra amount of energy are given the freedom to sit the way they choose, and switch positions freely, they are more likely to be engaged than if they were forced to sit a certain way for a long period of time.  Take it from me, a person who has struggled with ADD since grade school myself, this is HUGE.

Apart from the academic benefits, there are also behavior benefits.  Children that are constantly out of their seat can feel at ease in their new comfy spot, and will more likely remain there for longer.  Kids that prove to always be a distraction will be more engaged, so they won't take learning away from others.  Kids that get tired and ornery half way through the day are more likely to stay alert.

Other benefits include:

x      It creates a community in the classroom.

x      It forces kids to be more organized.

x      It fosters independence.

x      It helps develop metacognitive skills.

x      It's so stinkin' fun!

Stop by later, and I'll show you some pictures of what I'll be using for my alternative seating!

Here is a few articles on the benefits of alternative seating:

What? Not every student has a Desk? --The Sisters talk about their own experience with alternative seating.

Students stand, balance and bounce to learn -- An news report about alternative seating in the classroom.  A lot about standing at tables.

Standing Room Only in Classroom of the Future -- This study conducted by the Mayo Clinic was set up to study the effects of "no seats" on fighting obesity in a classroom.  Scroll to page 4 for the article.

Teachers, parents favor exercise balls in classrooms (with video) -- A news article that shares the benefits of a "chairless classroom".

Alternative Seating Brain Research -- Benefits of using stability balls instead of chairs.

Health Benefits of Alternative Seating -- Health benefits for adults using alternative seating in the office.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lap Boards

Since I am doing alternative seating this year, I will only have table space for about 12 out of 20 kids.  *GASP!* Where will the other sit to do their work?!  Why the floor of course!

I took it upon myself to take a little trip to Home Depot last week to see what I could find to make my own lap boards (since I will not be buying anything fancy).  I asked an employee where I might find shower board, since I knew that that is what they used to make our white boards at school.

Here it is called "Thrifty White Panel Board.  Thrifty indeed!
I found the stuff, and at $13.65 for a board the size of one of our big white boards at school it was pretty cheap.

I explained to the employee that I needed these to make lap boards for school because I am a teacher (magic words, you'll find) and he was more than happy to cut them to whatever size I needed. Happy day!

He cut them 12 x 18 inches.  Even an adult could use these! :)

I got a solid 15 boards that were exactly 12x18, then an extra 5 more that were like a fraction of an inch off, then an extra little guy that I don't know what his dimensions are.  I'll be keeping 8 of them, and giving the rest to another teacher in my school.  Oh, and I'm sure this goes without saying, but they can be used as dry erase boards too.

Another thing worth mentioning...

At the Daily 5 conference that I attended last month, The Sisters said that having kids lie on the floor using a lap board to write works wonders for kids with underdeveloped fine motor skills.  These are typically the kids that have great gross motor skills (typically highly active boys) that try to use the larger arm muscles to make up for their little hand muscles.  The result is very sloppy handwriting and fleeting stamina.  Here is what they said to do:

Have the child use a lap board and lay them on their stomach with their paper and lap board out in front of them.  Have them prop themselves up on their elbows, and let them write like that.  This way, their elbow acts as an anchor, forcing them to rely on the smaller hand muscles that they clearly need to develop.

The sisters say that it may take a week or two, but they will progress so much faster than if they were sitting at a desk doing drill after handwriting drill.  Sounds good to me!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Alternative Seating

So as I mentioned in a previous post, I got the OK from my principal to scrap my desk and chairs and use alternative seating.  I have been exploring the idea of it on the internet, and people are generally saying one of two things.  There is the first group (primarily made up of veteran teachers) that think it is crazy to ditch the desks for this new age practice, and a second group of teachers who have tried it, loved it, and have never even thought about going back to it.  Seriously, I have not even found a person who has tried it and hated it.  Sure, it is going to be hard to have to teach them to be able to do... everything... from literally anywhere in the classroom, and I'm sure that it will take a lot of time to teach the DOs and DON'Ts at the beginning of the year, but I am doing Daily 5!  A part of Daily 5 is teaching them how to be extremely independent and giving them a choice on what to do and where to sit (or lie, or stand, or crouch).

I have been doing a lot of research and I have many things that I want to try next year.  Unfortunately, the classroom that I am moving into is a lot smaller than the one that I am used to.  In fact, it is small by anyone's standards.  I was given the choice, and I actually chose this room though.

The room that I oh-so-professionally hi-lighted in yellow is my new room.  The room above it was my old room.  Needless to say, I am in a closet.  The problem is, is that when my school was being built, they never intended on having more than one teacher per grade level.  Well the numbers were higher than expected last year and they hired a couple of teachers to teach some combo classes.  This year, apparently the numbers have increased again because there will be TWO TEACHERS PER GRADE LEVELS!! I could not be more excited!!  It will be so awesome to bounce ideas off of someone that is teaching the same standards and going through the same grade level behavior drama!  As of now, they have not hired anyone to be my other half... but I did get an email telling me that they have given someone a second interview and they are considering hiring her!  I hope we get along!

Anywho, here is a list of the things that I'll be using as alternative seating:

X      exercise balls

X      couch cushions

X      t-shirt pillows (DIY)

X     bean bag chairs (DIY)

X     bucket seats (DIY)

X      crate seats (DIY)

X     PCV camp chairs (DIY)

X     Rugs, blankets, pillows, the usual...

These links will take you to the Pinterest pins that I got my inspiration from, but I haven't taken my own pics yet.  They will come soon!  Let me know what you think of my ideas!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Daily 5

Alright, so I am ECSTATIC to announce that in the beginning of June I got to attend a Daily 5 conference from The 2 Sisters in Charlotte, NC! 




My principal sent my two favorite teachers and me for two days!  We got to go to Daily 5 AND Cafe!  It was seriously so great!  I learned a TON, and it really reminded me why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place!  The Sisters were so inspiring and down to earth! I could go on and on!  Let's just say that the conference was well worth it!

I went into the conference with very limited knowledge on Daily 5 and Cafe.  I attempted to bust out the first book The Daily 5 on the plane to NC.  I didn't get very far, however, and decided that I would probably learn just as much at the conference as I would have reading the book... And learn much I did.  And we even got two little workbooks during the conference that held all the most recent theories and practices that The Sisters had to offer.

Oh, and did I mention?  They gave out a bunch of freebees too!  My favorite little gift was a set of wind chimes!  I will hang them up from the ceiling and use them to signal when to regroup to discuss and reflect between dailies.  This was the first gift we got, and people went nuts!  I swear, it felt like an episode of Oprah's Favorite Things!

Well I am so inspired by what I learned so I am giddy to get into my new classroom and start setting up.  A lot more to come soon!

Upcoming Daily 5 Conferences

Thursday, June 13, 2013

New developments

My principal just gave me the okay to do alternative seating in my classroom!  Meaning balance balls, papasan chairs, bean bags, and cushions galore!!! No pics yet, but they will be coming shortly!

(Sorry I haven't been the avid blogger that I set out to be!!)