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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?