About Lori H Rice

Lori Rice is a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary in Wamego, Kansas, who has taught K-2 reading as well as kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade since 1996. She has a passion for creativity, learning, questioning and the whole child. Her classroom is a place of acceptance and celebrating differences.

I have never been a traditional teacher.  This year I removed most of the desks from my classroom and have added a standing table, coffee tables and areas for students to work away from a desk. This has been an amazing transformation with many benefits.  Last week the custodian was in my room and she asked, “What are your kids going to do next year when they have to sit in a desk?”  I smiled and said, “Not my problem.  I am supposed to teach them to the best of my ability and I am.”

Last weekend I was reading posts about nontraditional seating in the classroom.  One educator commented about how we need to prepare students for the world.

This educator's opinion was basically that in the world you have to fit the mold and therefore classrooms should have desks and we need to teach children to work within those expectations. My thought was, but what if they don't?! Click To TweetWhy would you decide to work in a place that did not fit your personality?  Why would you choose to permanently be in an environment that did not make you comfortable? Don’t we want our students to pursue their interests and use their talents?  In doing this, won’t’ they end up in a work environment suited for them?  Is desk sitting a necessary skill for the 21st century and beyond?

Changing my classroom environment was not a quick and simple move.  In August I had a standing area and one coffee table for sitting on the floor.  Students were assigned spots and could choose to move after instruction, during their work time if they needed a less traditional space.  As the year went on, I noticed the desks were rarely being used.  I got another coffee table and removed more desks to create more floor space.  As of January students select their work space for the day when they get to school.  The first week was novel, but now they are sitting (or standing) where they are comfortable for the day.

Knowing yourself as a learner is important.  We  use habits of mind in my classroom and talk about goal setting and thinking about your thinking.  We have spent this year talking about how we learn and each week my students do a quick reflection on what helps them learn and what stops them from learning.  We have conversations and I make observations.  Students are moved if they are off task and stopping learning.  I hear them verbalize areas that work for them and see them make choices to move where they can work.  I am looking at the whole child to help them see what they need to be successful.  Don’t we want them to be able to reflect on their needs and make adjustments to do better?  Being able to identify your strengths and weaknesses only helps you as a learner.

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