Tag Archives: classroom management

Flexible Seating: A Reflection in Practices

8th January 2018

I have decided to start my reflection on my trial run of flexible seating with an analogy.

I have never wanted a tattoo, not because I have anything against them necessarily, I mean I have plenty of friends and family that have adorable and meaningful tattoos. I personally never wanted one because I knew that it was an expensive FOREVER investment. I just like change too much. I change my hair style, color, and cut every two to three years, I change around rooms of my own home very often (thanks hubs for all the help), and in my classroom I rotate out student work on the walls, I put up and take down holiday decorations, and I change the seating arrangements on a VERY consistent basis.

So, for me, flexible seating has been difficult for me to come to terms with – it is an investment in something pretty permanent. That THIS is how my classroom looks all the time and I can’t rearrange the furniture as easily as I could with individual desks. Now, that being said, I still really like it, but I have a feeling that I will need to add to it or take away from it often to fulfill my own personal need for change.

Unlike the tattoo, however, I can make some slight changes and adjustments which is nice. Here is what I am changing going into second semester in terms of flexible seating: 

  • Instead of students choosing a working spot for their team on a first come, first serve basis, I am going to be rotating each team through each working spot so that each team gets the opportunity to work in a variety of spots. Even though I had the rule of only one spot per week, since there are 8 spots and only 5 days in the week, some teams were just never getting the “cool” spots. I am going to rotate the table numbers that I made using the IKEA standing frames at the end of each school day. 

  • Sit-on-the-floor-on-cute-pillows-working-spot?…she gone. You can see the table and pillows in the photo at the top of this post and in the below picture you will see it has been REPLACED. The younger students (eehhh, my Freshmen) couldn’t handle it. It became the try-and-lay-down-and-sleep-on-the-floor-table and I am just NOT okay with that. No matter how many times I reminded, scolded, or just plain yelled, “SIT UP PEOPLE!”, they couldn’t manage proper seating or posture in this working spot and so it had to go. It has been replaced with a round table with four chairs. 

  • The chairs at the back bar table used to have wheels and have been replaced with regular four legged chairs. I had many wheels falling off or breaking and it wasn’t worth the upkeep at this point for me. I am going to look for some of those bands that go around the chair legs as an alternative for slight rolling for some of my students who have the need to fidget and are missing the rolling chairs. 

  • I was lucky enough to stumble upon these amazing coffee house chairs on Offer Up that a local senior living center was selling (for $10 a chair!!! And if they would have had more I would have bought more). These chairs are amazing and if you find anything like this I highly recommend them for your classroom. This has become such a favorite spot in my classroom – I mean my own teacher-PLC works here! 

Some other considerations and observations that I am going to make over the next semester are: 1) which working spot do the students work best at? and 2) where do I see a need to improve a working spot or location of the spot in the classroom? and 3) what other spots could I create that aren’t too distracting for the students in order to keep it fresh?

Overall, flexible seating has been challenging for me, mainly because it is a pretty permanent fixture in my classroom space (so if you hate change and like to leave things alone, this may be a great way to go for you). Please comment with any questions or suggestions on flexible seating for high school students, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts! Hope everyone is off to a great start for second semester and Happy New Year!

Motivational Clothespins

17th November 2014

2014-10-30 13.55.07

“The Bingold Cup” stemmed from “The Hogwarts House Cup” as a way to not have to purchase so much candy as extrinsic motivation in my classroom.

I am an avid user of Kagan strategies in my high school classroom. I love the “learning teams” concept and it has worked well in my classroom the last two years. I am sure many teachers can relate though that groups can be a classroom management nightmare: there are times when my students get distracted by each other or when I just feel like I want to do some sort of friendly competition to get them motivated “on the fly” but do not have anything to offer at that given moment.

Here is what I do:

  • My student’s desks are in teams of four.
  • Each team has a number stand on their table (bought stands from Ikea).
  • Each team is switched around each quarter based on test scores (and also just in case we have a dysfunctional team).
  • When the quarter starts, the new team makes a shield with their table number in the center. They discuss what four things are important to them as a team (their norms) and they create images that represent these norms (great day back from break activity).
  • Each team starts the quarter with one mini-clothespin (bought a ton to have on hand in my desk from Party City from the baby shower section).
  • As the quarter progresses, teams can earn clothespins to their shield (who can get all the study guide questions for Act 1 correct in 15 minutes, who can create the best poster that represents our current performance task in 20 minutes, who can come up with the hardest question about the passage, etc.)
  • Teams can lose clothespins for talking, phones being misused in class, not being positive, etc.
  • When I do review games, teams can also steal clothespins from other teams (who can give the most complete answer to review questions or who can come up with the best piece of evidence for a common claim, etc.).
  • At the end of the quarter, the team with the most clothespins gets 10 extra credit points on the last assignment of the quarter and second place gets 5 extra credit points.

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That is it. When I see a lesson getting dull or eyes rolling or heads dropping, I stop and say: “Okay, this next activity is for a clothespin…” and I make something up “on the fly” like it was planned. Some of my best lessons are “on the fly” because I modify and adjust at that moment.

I am shocked by how motivating a clothespin can be – but it is.

Before students do any group work now, they ask “is this for a clothespin?” sometimes I say yes but most of the time I say no. The other day, we were writing hooks for the same essay prompt. They were goofing around and having a hard time staying focused…then I told them the best one gets a clothespin and I will tell you those were the best hooks I have seen in a while. At the end of the quarter, the winners get to sign a trophy cup (from Party City) and place their shield in it. I display these in my classroom to give some recognition to the different winners per quarter.

Feel free to adapt this to fit your classroom style. I hope it provides a way for you to manage learning teams in your classroom like it has mine.

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