Publish at November 26 2017 Updated September 29 2022

The freedom to sit for better learning

When the class gets rid of desks for balloons, sofas, etc.

Should we always use the same formula in education? There are those who go with the English expression translating as: "If it ain't broke, don't change it". Others, on the other hand, believe that learning, like many other fields evolves with the times.

Among the questions of stability versus modernity, the question of classroom design arises. It is true that for decades, the model of desks neatly lined up in rows seemed to do the trick. Why change a simple, pragmatic approach? Yet, little by little, teachers are daring to change the geography of the classroom.


In fact, particularly in North America, classrooms no longer look anything like the old model. Students are sitting on soft chairs, Swiss balls, etc. It's called "flexible learning."

The idea is first and foremost to combat the sedentary lifestyle that is very much a part of a child's daily life and is often reinforced by school, which forces them to sit in a seat for nearly 8 hours, often more, daily, which is pretty bad for their health and posture. Not to mention that some students need to move more than others to stay focused or simply eliminate anxiety. flexible learning may well address these needs.

Different ways to sit

Consequently, it greatly changes how the classroom is divided. No more rows of desks, but different ways of sitting all over the place. Sometimes it can be just a classroom corner offering couches and chairs for working and reading. On the other hand, others mix styles like round tables with benches, other larger tables with Swiss balloons in plastic crates so they stay put, a few lawn chairs in the middle of the classroom, etc. There are plenty of ideas for creating unique experiences.

But does it have to cost a fortune? Not necessarily. As this American teacher will explain, it's possible to get by for almost ridiculous amounts of money. In her case, for less than $50, she managed to design unique corners with various furniture. She did this by asking around if people were getting rid of chairs or benches, going through her school's old equipment, scouring the internet for cheap sales (especially Facebook sale sites) and also keeping furniture she already had. After all, some students are going to prefer old-fashioned desks, and this should not be overlooked.

More focus

Of course, there might be some who would be rightly concerned about giving children so much freedom. Won't they be distracted or, worse, nod off during class in overly comfortable seats? Yet when American teachers who have adopted this approach are surveyed, the majority say that students are, on the contrary, less dissipated and fall asleep less than at traditional desks. Obviously, this kind of project needs to be integrated in a smart way. Clear rules should be established with learners from the start. The goal is to improve their comfort and allow them to learn in a more relaxed setting. It is not a recreation and those who are constantly fussing will return to a traditional desk.

Everyone's involvement

Ideally, flexible learning is integrated bit by bit. For example, this American teacher did it in stages. At times, she had to move students who were distracted in certain seats. Step by step, with the complicity of the children who were highly motivated by the project, the ordinary desks practically disappeared from the classroom. Moreover, this involvement of learners is highly recommended, including by the few Quebec teachers who have done so.

You also have to be prepared to have to deal with little fights between kids who will want to try new seats when they arrive. So, randomness or a set schedule determines who gets to sit there to avoid overflow. Despite the freedom offered, the teacher must remain in control of the situation and adjust it as problems arise.

While research on the impacts of flexible seating is just beginning, some are already claiming that it is a fartinent solution. Including with anxious children who normally fail to open up to learning. Indeed, as these teachers describe, they are suddenly much more inclined and motivated to follow along by being able to move or, at least, being more comfortable.

Could freeing the classroom from desks lead to better academic outcomes or less disciplinary intervention? Hard to say at this point, given the youth of the approach. However, in a context where many want to see real modernization in education, this type of design could propel the classroom into the modern world.


Aierstock, Emily. "How I Created Flexible Seating for Next to Nothing." WeAreTeachers. Last updated October 5, 2017.

Almer, Kelly. "Top 3 Reasons to Use Flexible Seating in Classrooms." Ideas & Inspiration from Demco. Last updated January 25, 2017.

Boudreault, Marc-Antoine. "Countering Sedentary Students With Flexible Seating." LAUGHTER. Last updated June 12, 2017.

Clermont, Penelope. "FEATURE OF THE WEEK: The Soothing Power Of Flexible Seating." Journal La Revue. Last updated April 4, 2017.

Hollowell, Malia. "15 Flexible Seating Ideas." Playdough To Plato. Last updated July 7, 2017.

"How to Get Started With Flexible Seating." Create-abilities. Last updated December 15, 2016.

Louise Lepage, Ninon. "Flexible Seating: A Trend that Fosters Attention." Connected School. Last updated May 16, 2017.

Merrill, Stephen. "High School Flexible Seating Done Right." Edutopia. Last updated August 8, 2017.

See more articles by this author




Access exclusive services for free

Subscribe and receive newsletters on:

  • The lessons
  • The learning resources
  • The file of the week
  • The events
  • The technologies

In addition, index your favorite resources in your own folders and find your history of consultation.

Subscribe to the newsletter

Add to my playlists

Create a playlist

Receive our news by email

Every day, stay informed about digital learning in all its forms. Great ideas and resources. Take advantage, it's free!