5 Compelling Reasons to Get Rid of Chairs in Your Room

Editor’s Note: Today we welcome the newest member of our Writing Team, Kelly Phillips! Kelly teaches 4th and 5th-grade art in Massachusetts using a TAB approach. Read more about Kelly here, and be sure to give her a warm welcome in the comments!  

On the first day of school this year, my students entered the art room and found…no chairs. No assigned seats, no stools, not one chair to rest their weary bones.

Why? Well, why not?

Getting rid of my chairs has been one of the simplest and most effective changes I’ve made to my classroom management plan.

Here are 5 benefits of a chair free art room.

kids standing to work

1. It gives kids a chance to MOVE.

Let’s face it. Kids sit all day long. Physical education and recess make up about 3-4 hours of a student’s 24-hour school week. That means students sit an average of 20 hours a week in school! Just take a walk around your building and peek into the classrooms. You’ll likely see students sitting for most lessons, and rightfully so. It’s hard to teach a math concept to a room full of standing students.

However, as art teachers, we have a unique advantage. We can have students gather around a table for a quick demo and then release them for independent work time. All without ever using a chair.

If you’re fortunate enough to work in a school that already promotes movement, give it a try and see if getting rid of chairs works for your space.

2. Standing encourages focus and mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the simple act of being more aware of yourself and the space around you. Standing is a great way to keep the brain not only alert but also focused on the present moment.

student standing using a drill

How does standing help students to be more mindful? It increases blood flow and keeps students’ brains and bodies alert and awake. When students rely on their own muscles to keep themselves upright, their minds are forced to stay more present.

Mindful students are better able to stay focused on their artwork from start to finish.

3. Standing provides a better angle for art making.

Before getting rid of chairs in my room, I would often suggest standing as a way to “unstick” the mind of a struggling student. Changing the viewing angle of a piece of work is a technique I use in my own art making to give myself a fresh perspective. Standing can give a student who feels cramped up and uncreative a more confident and powerful feeling.

students standing and painting

Standing also gives students the ability to move around their artwork more freely. A standing student has a better range of motion for art tasks including painting, drawing, or kneading a ball of clay.

4. It allows for quicker transitions.

You’d be surprised how much time it saves when students don’t have to transition in and out of their seats. These precious moments add up to create more student work time.

When students enter my room, they either sit in front of the board or gather around the largest table for a demonstration. This is the fastest way I have found to get them ready to learn. When the demo is complete, students can easily walk over to the materials and get started on their projects.

When you only have 45 minutes to demo a lesson, get students working, and clean up, every minute counts.

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5. You’ll have more room.

Fewer chairs mean more space! Removing chairs provides more room to move around, collect materials, collaborate, work on the floor, and take a step back to assess progress. Couldn’t we all enjoy a little more breathing room and fewer bumps and bruises?

Chairs as Choice

As the year of no chairs progressed, students became less reliant on sitting and more comfortable moving around in a room without chairs.

My classroom follows the Choice-Based model, so I figured why shouldn’t I test out reintroducing a couple chairs as a choice? What I found was this- even with 4 or 5 chairs available, students still choose to work on their feet. They enjoy the freedom and power it gives them, and I appreciate the space and time it saves. Win, win if you ask me!

Would you ever consider removing chairs from your classroom? What challenges or benefits do you foresee?

Have you tried having students NOT sit in your classroom? What was the outcome?

Kelly Phillips

Kelly teaches elementary TAB in Hopkinton, MA . She strives to create an environment where all students can become independent, self-directed risk-takers.

Related

  • Welcome to Art of Ed!
    I think this might work better if the chair are high, as in stools? I see the students are working at about waist-high–with high school students and regular 30″ high tables, some things might be uncomfortable. We do stand for more active projects, like sculpture and printmaking.

    • Lanita Southard

      I agree with Kathleen. I teach Junior high and the tables are too low for drawing purposes. They would have to bend over and some of my students are really tall. If I had regular drawing desks that would be perfect. I can see how that would benefit students not to have chairs. However I would have to have 30-32 desks and that would be a lot of $$$$. I love the idea for elementary students though.

    • Kelly Phillips

      Yes, Kathleen. What works for your classroom is what works! Standing is not for every situation. Stools are awesome for art-making too.

  • Leo Barthelmess

    Interesting idea. Most of your reasons seem to be perception based but I do like it. I have tried to get different tables so students can stand in my HS or at least have the choice to but the tables are way too low for them. I have several easels and recommend standing when students use them and have gone on craigslist and bought a few used adjustable drawing tables (you’ll be amazed at how cheap people will sell them) but not enough to revamp my overcrowded room.

    • Kelly Phillips

      Easels are a great way to work for many students. I use them as well. I’ll have to look on Craigslist for some drawing tables! Thanks, Leo.

    • Melissa Gilbertsen

      Okay – here’s what I did to raise the tables to standing height: bought a set of bed risers for 6 of my 10 tables. They are between 4 and 6 dollars at Walletmart. I found stools there since they aren’t in my budget for apx $12. The tables weigh a ton but both the bed risers and the stools have fared excellently. I find kids really like the change from sitting to perching and often they stand, especially my squirrelly ones. I love the idea of no chairs. Hunh. Might try that out this week. Btw, I teach middle school.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eccf0905c1eb7ab3f69e0fe8ba091af5add44149ef193f1c9d956577069b279e.jpg

      • Kelly Phillips

        Melissa, thanks so much for sharing and posting a photo. I love the idea of using bed risers. The health teacher at my school just told me she uses those to make standing desks in the health room. That’s super creative!

  • Tracy Mathys

    I have flexible seating options in my classroom that include standing tables and my students love them! It is a great change of pace

  • Tim Bogatz

    My son has flexible seating in his first grade classroom, and honestly, choosing his spot is one of the highlights of his day. I love that you are giving your students this option!

    • Kelly Phillips

      I wonder how the teacher likes it and how much support she gets for this type of seating from her admin. Thanks, Tim.

  • Susan Thorne Zavagli

    I do this often….the chairs get in the way and besides they do get a better prospective while standing over their project…good article…will do this more often..thanks

  • Emily Joyce

    I just did this last week when working in clay with K-5. I put all the chairs in storage because they needed their bodies to help roll slabs and coils. It was wonderful. I am thinking of going the “choice of a chair” route!

    • Kelly Phillips

      YES! When working with clay, standing is a game-changer! Let me know how “choice chairs” works for you. Thanks for the comment, Emily.

  • Lee Ten Hoeve

    Hey Kelly,
    Great idea and awesome reasons to give it a go. Wishing I didn’t have stools built into my tables. 😕
    I’m going to keep this in mind when I order new art room furniture. Thank you!
    Welcome to the writing team!
    -Lee

    • Kelly Phillips

      I’ve definitely had those types of tables. It makes it hard to change your space to facilitate different lessons. Although, I bet students find a way to stand and kneel on those, as well! Thanks for the comment, Lee!

  • Nic Hahn

    I take away chairs a lot! The kids like the change. I always give options to stand anytime.

    • Kelly Phillips

      Nice. It’s good to have variety, Nic!

  • Kris Kellenberger

    Genius! I completely agree with the loss of time transitioning out of chairs takes as well as the mindfulness that occurs when a student’s body is fully kinesthetically engaged in the art-making process! I’ve never tried to eliminate the chairs, but am inspired to give it a go! Thanks, Kelly!

    • Kelly Phillips

      Thanks, Kris. You have those nice, tall tables to work on, too!

  • Suzanne Starzyk

    Great idea Kelly! I can’t imagine sitting all day, especially during art. I do my best work standing up and you are right, the angle is so much better!
    Kudos to you for advocating for that!

    • Kelly Phillips

      Thanks Suzanne! I love to hear adults who say “I stand while I work!”

  • Robin-Jo Norris

    My students have the option to sit or stand. I am experimenting with working on the floor, as well. Some students would rather color on their stomachs and swing their legs.
    Choice works well. One of my joys is watching a handful of kindergarteners go gather their own painting supplies. This year, I am giving my 6th graders a choice of project within a time period. So far, they have loved it. It does take more time to design the rubric, though.
    My anchor activity is almost always a choice of drawing from a prompt, free-drawing in their journal, building with blocks or with old math manipulatives.

    • Kelly Phillips

      Choice is magic! It’s a struggle and imperfect as most things are but after students get the hang of it there is nothing like watching a classroom of kids run their own learning.

      My kiddos love floor work and they’re 4th and 5th. Whatever works for kids, works for me.

  • Cindy Phillippi

    These are all elementary students – do you have pics of hs students without chairs?

    • Brian A. Reynolds

      I’d be interested in that too . . . since my classroom houses K-12 my seating options are important. I have stools that easily push under the tables when not in use and my classroom regularly has students standing and sitting. I think giving choice is important.

      • Kelly Phillips

        Does anyone teach hs without chairs? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I think offering choices is great! Kids should be not only given the option but shown the benefit of working at a higher angle.

  • Gordon

    Love it. I am in the process of transitioning to a standing room. We are getting rid of the old-old tables and buying new standing workstations. Some kids just end up standing all the time any way. Great for those with naturally high energy levels. If they whine about not having a seat, my response- “Sitting makes you weak!”

    • Kelly Phillips

      I also have said something similar about how standing makes you stronger because your using your own body to hold yourself up!

  • Erin Fry

    I got rid of my chairs 2 years ago and it made a HUGE difference in behavior as well. I put 4 coffee tables in for my kiddos that choose to sit and they sit on the floor. It has been amazing

    • Kelly Phillips

      Love the coffee table idea!!! I was thinking about doing some low tables as well.

  • Eliz Townsend

    I don’t think I’d go so far as to actually remove chairs from the classroom–They do come in handy for some things. I do allow my students to stand and do their artwork if they choose to. I travel to the classrooms, where the kids are all ready sitting, so kids coming in a room and getting seated isn’t an issue. We also have to work at desks–no nice big sturdy tables.

    • Kelly Phillips

      Desk height has been the biggest drawback for most teachers when it comes to standing. My school’s heath teacher use bed risers like the ones you use in college dorms to rise her standing desks.

  • Wendy Reunion

    This concept came up at a professional development session [aimed particularly at boys in education] that I attended last year and I figured my Art room was an easy place to introduce it. While I still have stools in the room, many children choose to stand as, like you’ve said, it is a better angle to work from!

    • Kelly Phillips

      YES! I love that this concept is garnering support.

  • Karen

    I have wanderers in my class. Does anyone think no chairs would work?

    • Kelly Phillips

      My students use centers so they are able to move around the room freely. They get to choose their own media and subjects (I’m a TAB teacher) so they only wander to get materials and get back to work!

      When I do have an unmotivated wanderer, I set them to task at an table and choices are not given for that class period. This is often the only motivation they need to get to task the next class.

      You could also tape off areas for kids to stand if you have assigned seats!

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  • Jerri Palmquist

    Wow! Love this concept/theory. I glanced at the title and assumed it was about teacher “un-chair”ing. Topic was well thought and article presented clear ways to make this a reality in my classroom. Thank you @disqus_8ynuXO0uwX:disqus .

    I have stools and often make the kids stand. When they complain I remind them standing makes their leg muscles stronger for running faster and jumping higher for recess and p.e. Competition challenge usually a motivator.

    • Kelly Phillips

      Awesome, awesome, awesome, Jerri! I don’t use a chair really in my classroom so I often tell kids “If I have to stand, so do you!!! AND I’m old!!”

  • Megan Kemper

    After reading this article, I decided to try it out with my kinder classes first. They struggle with staying on my art stools and fall all the time. We talk about being safe in the art room almost every week and I still have kids getting hurt. So I prefaced the class with standing rules and you know what happened 5 minutes in? A kid swung from the tables, fell, and BROKE HER ARM. So, what does classroom management look like in a sit/stand classroom?

    • Kelly Phillips

      HI Megan,

      I’m so sorry to hear your student who broke her arm. Kinders are very movement oriented so I believe having a classroom with standing benefits them. It sounds like your kiddos may need some scaffolding such as an actual demo of what good standing looks like and what recess standing looks like, and why recess standing could hurt them and make them lose privileges?

      My students enter the room and have 2 options for receiving directions. Either on the floor where I work on an easel, show a flipped video, read a story, etc. or more commonly what I call “Toes on the tape” where students stand around my main central table and can see my give a demo on things like clay etc. I’ve given them tape to stand on and I actually pretend with my younger kids that they are “gluing” themselves down. It takes some practice but it’s a great way to show students new materials!

      I use centers so students then find their way to their work spot and can move around the classroom easily if they need to. For your class, you may have them stand inside of an assigned tape square instead of sitting in an assigned seat.

      Good luck!

  • Nancy La Re

    What about large classes? I have all art classes in our school from prek3 through 8th grade and most have between 25-30 students. I also have no time between classes- bell rings, one class barely makes it out and the next is barreling in. I don’t see how I could avoid chaos with 30 kids mulling about, socializing, while I’m trying to give directions.

    • Kelly Phillips

      HI Nancy,

      My classes are about 25 kids, sometimes less. You would have to see if this works for your space and class size.

      My students enter the room and have 2 options for receiving directions. Either on the floor where I work on an easel, show a flipped video, read a story, etc. or more commonly what I call “Toes on the tape” where students stand around my main central table and can see my give a demo on things like clay etc. Ive given them tape to stand on and I actually pretend with my younger kids that they are “gluing” themselves down. It takes some practice but it’s a great way to show students new materials!

      If you have more questions, let me know.

  • Ashley

    My questions are
    A) would my school administration approve?
    B) How does this work when it comes to taking agtenda and subs who come in not knowing my routies?