My two elementary colleagues gave up chairs a long time ago, and they have urged me to do the same for many years. One of them has a room that is smaller, and the other just prefers not to use chairs. But I held out. Maybe it was the high school teacher in me. Perhaps it’s that I just crave order. Seating charts make life easy. For whatever reason, I needed my elementary students to sit in chairs.
Last year, I found myself moving around the classroom more than ever. And I had the students moving more than ever. We were singing around the piano, gathering by the Smartboard, working at xylophone centers around the perimeter, bringing instruments to the middle, working at centers in groups, dancing in the middle, setting up risers for concerts, etc. Often we moved chairs (always a struggle when you are 5 years old and the chair is as big as you). The only thing we seemed to be in chairs for was attendance at the beginning and dismissal at the end.
But over the Summer I realized the chairs were also hindering one more crucial element in a music classroom – the community that comes from seeing one another’s faces while making music. That sealed the deal – no more chairs. If I want my students to be collaborative creators, then I needed to arrange them in a way that allowed for better collaboration.
|My classroom (before I finished the bulletin board, I guess!)|
A retired choral director friend of mine always used to rehearse in the round until concert time. I am a big advocate of big, flexible space in a music room because you never know how it might be used in the future. Wenger or Stageright seated risers are much more flexible than cast-in-place concrete steps in a music room.
Frankly, I have a large elementary music classroom and one of my fears is that without chairs, people will think I have more space than I need. People like that don’t understand that flexible space is creative space. A big, blank palette in the middle of a room that is used 50 different ways every day. But to the untrained eye, it looks like my class could fit just fine in a room half the size.