Title: Beatrice Zinker Upside Down Thinker
Author: Shelley Johannes
Beatrice Zinker was our first chapter book read aloud of this school year. What a fantastic choice! I chose to read this book, because we are an IB school and our first unit covers the transdisciplinary theme of Who We Are. Beatrice makes no apologies for who she is. She is an upside down thinker. This can sometimes get her into trouble, but her unique way of looking at the world allows her to navigate friendship and, of course, espionage. After the first chapter, one of my students wrote her name upside down, and another wore her backpack upside down on the way out the door. My students were immediately taken by Beatrice and were rooting for her the whole way. After we finished reading, I was so happy to announce that I had just bought the sequel, Beatrice Zinker: Incognito. My kids are itching to find out what happens next! I know you'll love Beatrice, too.
Late last school year, I decided to make the switch to flexible seating. Why did I do this in April, you ask? Let me paint you a picture.
Before using flexible seating, I was constantly searching for that perfect seating arrangement. Who is going to talk to whom? Who needs to be closer to the board? Who needs to not be within arm's reach of the bathroom pass? (You need to go again?!)
I spent so much time figuring out who needs to be where, that I was missing the reality that we hardly spent any time at our own desks. Students always moved supplies to the side or to the ground because they needed space to work in centers, spread out their writing, or get creative during indoor recess.
The flexible seating trend was nothing new at this point. I had heard about it all over the internet and witnessed a few of my colleagues making the switch. Honestly, one of the reasons I was hesitant was because I was that kid who loved having her own 'space.' Oh, you mean I can stack my Lisa Frank notebooks here AND have my own container of cool mechanical pencils? Yes, please.
(side note: who remembers those pencils that had the tiny stackable leads? You had to push the dull one in the eraser end and the new one would be ready, except if even one of the leads was missing, the whole thing was useless. The 90's were a magical time for school supplies).
I digress. My point is that I loved all my stuff. Would my students be okay with losing some of that personal space in order to gain more choice when it came to our everyday activities? The answer is yes and no.
My group last year did well with the switch. At that point in the school year, we knew the routines and changing the desk situation wasn't a huge deal to them. They already knew that their supplies landed wherever they were.
This year, I hit the ground running with flexible seating. My one condition was that there still be enough surface space for each student to have a seat at the same time if they needed. This has already come in handy when it comes to taking state assessments. Luckily, I am super blessed to have a large room. I know not everyone has this luxury. It's a small perk to working in what was once a middle school. If I haven't mentioned, I teach 2nd grade.
I have bean bags, DIY bouncy seats, a floor table, and lots of carpet space. I also have a computer station, and a few groups of tables and desks to provide surface and chairs for the kids to sit in if they wish to do so.
A couple kids came in on the first day of school hoping and wishing that 2nd grade would be the year they got their own desk. We have tables, so this was never really going to happen. A part of me felt that pang of regret that I wasn't letting my kids personalize their space. However, each student has their own bin to house the majority of their supplies, and it goes with them around the room. We also share supplies in a caddie on each surface. We are only 6 days into the school year, but I have to say that despite some initial disappointment, my students have risen to the task. They know that they have to make smart choices about where to sit or they may lose that privilege. They know that they can move around the room, but need to be respectful in doing so. They know that not everyone can sit on the bouncy seats ALL the time. I don't have a rotation for these coveted seats, but they really do work it out. It's amazing what kids will do when they get the chance to explore, make choices, and solve problems on their own.
Is it perfect? No. I'm sure I will be changing and tweaking our room arrangement as the year goes on. Next year it may look completely different. What I do know, is that I don't think I can go back to seating arrangements any time soon.
Each new school year, I come back into my classroom to a mountain of furniture, blank walls, and filled with that back-to-school nervous excitement. I arrange tables and chairs, put up some fresh bulletin boards, and then I get to do my favorite back-to-school task: organizing the classroom library. I purposely save this for last, because I could spend weeks doing this every year and nothing else would get done. I've been known to stop part way and start reading. I mean, am I supposed to not read the books?!
Last year I made some MAJOR changes to how I organized my library. All books are organized by genre or author instead of level. This has been life-changing! I kept a small bookshelf of leveled readers that I use during assessments or small groups, but otherwise my students choose books from our shelves just how you would at a real library. Minus the Dewey Decimal System, of course.
Here is this year's result after adding a few bins, a fancy spinning rack for series, and re-numbering books so it made more sense.
Teacher, reader, tea drinker, and dog mom.