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Alternative Seating

In her classroom this spring, Cindy explored some alternative seating options with her

students. The idea came to mind because Cindy noticed students standing and

bending over their desks to complete worksheet assignments, or fidgeting in their

seats during teacher-led lessons. This behavior indicated to Cindy that some students

were not comfortable sitting in their chairs at their desks all day. A private conversation

with the standers and wigglers confirmed those suspicions. While alternative seating is

not as directly related to helping dyslexic learners as direct and explicit instruction, it

does fall under the category of helping students feel comfortable in their learning


After reading articles about various types of alternative seating for the classroom, and

with the advice of an occupational therapist who works in a school setting, Cindy

decided to try out three types of seating: wiggle seat pad, wobble stool, and furniture

lifts. All were purchased from Amazon, and the total cost for the experiment was about

$100. Permission for the experiment was granted from the school administration, and

the Amazon order was placed.

A simple lottery system was set up to choose which student got to try out which

seating option. A container was labeled for each of the seating choices, and students

put their names into the containers for the seats they would like to do a sit-test on.

Names were drawn each morning. Seats were returned before lunch, and a new round

of names was drawn for the afternoon. Anytime students got tired of the alternative

seating, they were always free to go back to their chairs and desks. It was part of the

experiment to note how long students chose to stick with each option, and which

choices remained popular after the new factor wore off.

A wiggle seat is an inflatable silicone pad with nubs on each side. It comes with a pump to inflate it, although one inflation was enough for the entire six weeks it was used in our classroom. Wiggle seats lay on the student’s chair, and it causes them to be able to gently rock back and forth, engages their core muscles, and helps them sit more aligned to the desk. All of those factors make the child more comfortable in their desk. Although warnings were given about possible punctures to the seat from pencil points, that was never an issue for us. The seat is easily wiped clean with a Clorox wipe. The cost was about $20 for a 20” seat.

Furniture risers under the legs of student desks make them into standing desks. This was the ideal solution for students who were formerly standing to work but ended

up bent over at the waist to write. Furniture risers came with two sets of risers, one five inches tall and the other three inches tall. Both heights were used by my students because at third grade, some kids are tall and others are still pretty short. The stability of the risers was excellent, as well as ease of installation. The next door teacher borrowed them for a day to try out in her class. She used both sets to raise a table to standing height for her fifth graders and allowed them to stand at it anytime they needed a break from their desk. The set was about $20.

A wobble stool is a plastic stool with a slightly cushioned top and a rounded rubber-coated bottom. The stool allowsgentle movement side-to-side or back-and-forth, activating the core as well as allowing for small movements or static seating. No one seemed in danger of tipping over at any time they sat on the wobble stool. This brand was recommended by a school occupational therapist because of its stability. It had the lowest early-return rate of any of the three options my students tried out. When the alternative seating choices were evaluated by the students, the wobble seat was the

clear favorite. It comes in an 18” height, the same height as the classroom chairs used

by the students, and is offered in a variety of colors. It easily wipes clean with a Clorox

Not all students wanted to use the alternative seating choices after the newness wore

off. The furniture lifts that converted standard student desks to a standing desk had

the least fans, however, the one student who liked it the most claimed it “Changed his

whole day” to be able to stand as he did work. From a teacher’s perspective, standing

desks would need to be arranged on the edges of the classroom so the line of sight

between the teacher and students can be preserved. The idea of an elevated table at

which students are free to take work anytime they need a break from sitting seems

intriguing. Two or three students at a time could share the resource when it is used in

that way.

Wiggle seats rarely made it through an entire half-day of use, no matter how much the

child liked the idea of getting to use one. As an adult trying them out, the instability

made it difficult to concentrate on writing tasks. These might be best used as students

are completing silent reading assignments or math sheets without tricky cursive writing

to keep neat.

Wobble stools took top prizes in the limited classroom trial. Students reported feeling

more calm when they could rock just a bit. The wobble seat is also fairly easy to keep still when completing a writing task. From the teacher’s perspective, during teacher-

led instruction, it was not obvious who had the wobble seat. No bobbing and weaving distracted those in line of sight.

Cindy’s private practice tutoring students are now using the alternative seating options

during tutoring lessons with great delight. This was an experiment well worth


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