Finding the Right Fit: Classroom Seating

Updated: Feb 18, 2019

We like to talk about different ways you as a parent or teacher can maximise your students learning, and when it comes to maximising your student’s learning, proper desk and chair position in the classroom are essential! Properly positioning your student’s desk and chair will help them with staying focus, paying attention, and writing neatly. So where do we start?

First look at the student in their chair.

We want their feet to be flat on the floor, with ankles, knees and hips at approximately 90 degrees. (see below image)

Next look at the child’s desk.

We want the top of the desk to be slightly above the bottom of their ribcage or with their elbows bent 2-3 inches above the elbow. (see above image)

Sounds pretty easy, right? Maaaybe not. Sometimes the chair will be too tall causing the student to sit closer to the edge of their seat to reach the floor. Other times, perhaps the student is too tall and the desk is not tall enough to reach the bottom of their ribcage. In these situations, you could look to either

a) adapt the table or chair to fit the student, or

b) use different chair accessories or alternative seating options. I’ve see teachers use bungee cords and pool noodles to make a footrest that is attached to the chair. Rocker boards, cushions and old telephone books (do they still exist?!) can also be used under the desk to support the feet.

Table & Chair Adaptations

Standing stations have also become quite popular these days in the classroom and is an excellent alternative to traditional seating. You still want to make sure the standing desk is at the right height for each student. The top of the desk should be slightly above the bottom of their ribcage or, with their elbows bent, 2-3 inches above the elbow- just as if they were sitting at a desk. You can make a standing table by raising a standard table and placing a tabletop desk on top of the tabletop.

Look Into Alternative Seating

In addition to chair accessories and standing stations, there are a lot of other alternative seating options available to purchase...ball chairs, rocking chairs, cushions.. the industry has really taken of the past few years and I love seeing all of the different options out there! Remember, it is still very much important that these chairs are the correct size for your students. When using balls as chairs, the children’s feet should be flat on the floor. This may mean that the child sits on the side of the ball and not on top.

Setting the Ground Rules

I also find it beneficial to have a conversation with students about why they are using it and how to use it correctly. We provide alternative seating to children so that they can stay focused, pay attention to the lesson, and do the hard work of thinking. The “rules” I normally discuss with students that I recommend alternative seating to include;

-they need to be in control of their body,

-their bottom stays on the seat/ball,

-they can bounce lightly, move forward/backwards or side to side as long as they are in control of their body and they can do their work.

If they are having trouble following these rules, then that specific chair is not helping them and they need to pick a different chair. There is no punishment, the chair is just not helping them at the moment. Maybe next time.

Managing Alternative Seating

Alternative seating is good for everyone, however it is critical for some. Often times teachers will ask me how they can allow one student to sit on the ball chair and not another. What I suggest to teachers in this situation is to have several options available, that way the students who do not need alternative seating will still have opportunities to use it, while the student who does need alternative seating has what they need.

Another concern I hear from both parents and teachers alike is that the child who uses alternative seating will stand out and/or be different, and they don’t want that. I like to remind them both that the ultimate goal here is to maximise their student’s learning. As teachers and parents, it is our job to provide our students what they need to learn. It’s as simple as that. Some children wear glasses, some children wear ankle/arm braces, some children sit on a cushion, a ball chair or a stool...whatever it takes. If a student is feeling like they don’t want to use (fill in the blank) to help them because they don’t want to stand out, I would suggest having the same conversation with them. Our classrooms are full of diverse, unique learners who all want to learn and do their best, so lets do everything we can to help them!

As you start the new school year, please take a look at your students as they sit in their chairs and make the necessary adjustments to desk and chair height. If you have any questions feel free to ask!

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5655 Peachtree Parkway Norcross, GA 30092 Suite 117

photography by Lydia Chang