Classroom Furniture

Wiggle, Wobble, Learn: How Flexible Furniture Boosts Engagement and Learning

By Kass Haut

As someone with ADHD, I struggled quite a bit when I was in school. I was the kid who would always get reprimanded by teachers for moving around—or, anytime I really needed to stand up or go for a walk. When I started teaching, I knew firsthand that the rigid rows of desks and chairs in the typical classroom were an antiquated approach not only for traditional students, but definitely for anyone who couldn’t “conform” to this structure.

The great news is that all students can learn as long as they’re in the right environment and have the tools at their avail to do so. Early on, for example, I took simple steps like putting little kick-bands on my students’ chairs, just so they could more easily move as needed. More recently, I leveraged the power of social media to enlist the help of a creator of 21st-century learning spaces to help me create a more flexible, engaging learning environment in my classroom. 

I have teacher TikTok and Instagram accounts, and I thought it would be great to partner with a brand and showcase their flexible seating options and their spaces. I reached out to a few different brands and MiEN said, “Absolutely, yes” right away. I talked to them about the kind of pieces I was looking for and what I wanted the space to look like. I sent in videos and pictures of my classroom, and they curated the pieces, picked the colors, and handled the whole process.  

A Body in Motion Stays in Motion
For students who benefit from constant movement, we now have stools, chairs, and even an activity chair that has a ball in it that moves around (for students to play with). It's really important for everyone to realize that you can still learn while you're moving. For me, I literally have to walk around while I'm teaching because I can't just sit there and stay still. I have to be doing something, and that's not a bad thing. 

In my classroom, my kids get to pick where they want to sit every day. They come in, take their name tag off the board ,and put that tag where they’d like to sit for the day. Obviously, that comes with restrictions and challenges sometimes, but for the most part the process works well.

My furniture partner sent a few different pieces, and my personal favorite is a table that’s low to the ground and comes with small seat cushions. It's a really cool table and it seats four. In most cases, the low tables are all selected first—which is a testament to just how much the kids love sitting and working at them.

I also received small activity chairs that are low to the ground and resemble a small ball. Each chair has a ball inside that spins all the way around. Those are really good for my kids that need movement in order to concentrate on their learning. We also have several rolling desks that are outfitted with wobble stools. I can move the desks and chairs around the room wherever I want them and since they’re modular I can also put them together to accommodate larger groups.  

I also have a wheeled teacher’s podium that I can relocate around the classroom. The podium goes up and down, so I use it for different things. We have various u-shaped tables as well, including an instructor’s table with wobble stools that my students and educational assistant can use.   

A Pop of Color
As a Pinterest teacher, I’m really big on colors. Everything in my room is black and white with little rainbow touches here and there. The color scheme that I ultimately selected—blue, green and purple—really matched my style, which is all about creating spaces that are attractive and fun.   

In fact, I like to have a lot of fun in my classroom and with my students, so we do a lot of activities that involve movement. As an adult, there's nothing that I dislike more than sitting at a table for eight hours and not being able to talk or move and just having to listen to a speaker (the typical professional development setup). It blows my mind that we expect 10-year-olds to just sit in one spot and listen to us talk at them all day.  

Not everyone agrees with me, of course, I remember when I first voiced that I wanted to do it, the teachers who had these kids last year were like, "Absolutely not. It'll never work with this group of kids." The reality is that a flexible, comfortable, and engaging learning space can work with any group of students. It’s all about how you set your expectations for it.  

The bottom line is that any teacher can replicate what we’ve done here at our small, rural school. You just have to set your expectations and establish a routine with your kids. The rest of it will work itself out.

Building a Classroom that Moves
When you’re trying to make impactful changes to the learning environment, it really pays to have an experienced partner in your corner. Look for a company that has a wide variety of options to select from. For example, some of the companies I was looking into had two or three wobble stools and a ball chair, and nothing more. This wasn’t going to work for us because I have one student who doesn’t feel comfortable at all sitting on a ball or wobble chair.

Thankfully, my furniture partner also offered some traditional chairs that have ergonomic features, and the kids love them. These small-but-important details have helped me create a very modern, engaging learning environment for all of my students.

Kass Haut is an influencer and fifth-grade teacher at École Westlock Elementary School from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.