Posted: Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Photo of two elementary students with reading booksWhen you enter Lynnette Bumgarner’s first grade classroom at Gateway Elementary, you might be surprised to see children lying on the floor, sitting on their knees, or gently bouncing on yoga balls. It’s called flexible seating, and Bumgarner uses it to give students choices about what kind of learning space works best for them.

Elementary student prone, reading a book“I researched flexible seating for about a year and a half before I decided to implement it,” said Bumgarner. “I found the students were performing better in the classroom when I allowed them to either stand at their seat or lie down. That’s what prompted me to look a little deeper.”

Bumgarner’s research shows that students retain more when they are allowed to move, and physical activity is linked to higher academic performance, better health, and improved behavior.

Elementary student sitting, reading a book“I have yoga balls for them to sit on, crates with cushions on top, yoga mats so they can lie down, and a table with no legs so they can sit on the floor and work in a comfortable position,” she explained. “Students love the floor cushions, too, where they can spread out with their books and read.”

Teacher sitting on floor reading to sitting student“It’s been great because they have started to learn what a ‘smart spot’ is for them. At first everyone wanted to sit on the yoga balls because that was the cool place, but eventually some of them realized this wasn’t the best choice for them because it was too much movement,” she said. “It’s been fun to see their independence grow and learn to make their own choices. It also has brought them together to problem-solve and communicate.”

Students in classroom reading in various locations.Vanessa Simmons said flexible seating has enhanced her son Atticus’ reading habits. “He has never been one to dive into a book. But when he is comfortable, he reads more. At home he built a fort with pillows. This comfy spot makes it’s easier for him to learn and work,” she said.

Bumgarner does a lot of modeling in her classroom. “I have a yoga ball that I sit on so I can show them that bouncing doesn’t help me read my book. I can move, but it’s not a loud movement, so I’m able to get my wiggles out and still be able to teach,” she said.

Students sitting on yoga balls“I think that this is the way that society is going. Google, Apple, and other big corporations are embracing this, and they find that they are getting more quality work from their employees. Their employees are happier and comfortable when they do their work. I’m getting the same results with my students.”

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