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Give your hands a clap
Put them in your lap.
We hear it all the time.
You can walk by any TK or Kindergarten classroom and you’re bound to hear that rhyme being directed at the little, wiggly kids as they attempt to sit down in an orderly fashion before an activity begins.
It makes sense. It’s sticky. It’s easy to remember. It gives them direction in a very clear, concise manner and explains what they’re supposed to do with all their moving body parts that they’re still figuring out how to control.
And, even better, it gives the teacher a quick phrase that they can whip out to remind the students of the expectations. It’s a win-win, right?
The Problem with “Criss-Cross Applesauce”
There are a number of research studies that show us that “criss-cross and hands folded” is not actually the best way to gauge for a child’s attention. Instead, when teachers have implemented more of a flexible seating policy in their classroom, kids were engaged, attentive, and ended up retaining more information. When children are more comfortable and have a choice in how they sit, stand, or lay, they are able to be more involved in the learning process.
Yes, there are a number of research articles that back this claim.
But it also doesn’t need to be that complicated.
Related Article: Sensory Processing Disorder in Children
Just think about it.
You, as an adult, would have a very difficult time sitting upright and cross-legged during your conference call at work, right?
You, as an adult, swivel in your chair when you’re thinking about how to respond to an e-mail. Right?
And you, as an adult, get up to take a lap around the hallway when your brain needs a break from the task on hand. Am I right?
So, yes, it’s great that there is research that illustrates that flexible seating in classrooms achieves higher results. But, you can also just step back and recognize that the children we work with are just little human beings.
They should be allowed to have bad days. They should be allowed to express how they feel. And they should be allowed to sit in a way that’s comfortable to them.We must stop holding our children to a higher standard than we, as adults, are able to attain ourselves. Click To Tweet
Flexible Seating Elementary Classrooms
Sitting at a desk for a long period of time or sitting “criss-cross applesauce” on the rug can be extremely challenging for students. Sometimes, their full cognitive attention is spent trying to sit upright that they are not focused on the lesson being taught.
Here are a few alternative seating arrangements you can consider for the classroom or their home space.
At Their Desks
If you walk around some of the most successful companies, you may see nap pods, beanbags, treadmill desks, standing desks, recliners, or customized ergonomic chairs to ensure that their employees are comfortable and able to perform at the best of their ability. Why should our students be any different? Think outside the standard chair-and-desk. What do your children need in order to maximize their engagement and, as a result, their overall production?
Wobbling on a Kore chair can increase movement for students during what would normally be considered a sedentary activity. This increases blood to the brain and thereby quiets the requirement for fidgety kids to move. Students are able to get their “wiggles” out and stay focused and attentive.
Some teachers may have restrictions from administrators or district folks and are required to keep all desks and chairs in the classroom. You can still be creative and tie a bouncy band to the legs of student desks. Students are able to move their feet in a quiet, productive way while they work at their desk. I’ve also gotten a little creative and have used Therabands for my classroom since they are more affordable and I like to buy them in bulk!
A lot of people in the workplace use yoga balls during their sedentary, 9-5 office job. They also benefit from increased focus by keeping the body active and the mind engaged. Similar to the wobble chair, the constant movement from using the balance ball increases blood flow to the brain, which leads to better concentration. I used to have yoga balls in my middle school classroom, but these ones are even cooler because they’re not going to roll all over the darn place.
On the Carpet
Whether it be small group lessons or whole-group read-alouds, students spend a good portion of the day on the carpet. Being confined to a tiny space on the rug can lead to a lot of behavioral challenges. Imagine if you, an adult, were forced to sit in a small square without creeping on your neighbor’s space. I can NOT physically do that for longer than 5 minutes. So we shouldn’t expect our children to be able to sustain that level of rigidity and structure. Here are a few tools and resources that may help kids engage for longer while sitting on the carpet.
Sitting on a wiggle disc can provide students with sensory input and can help calm children that have a hard time sitting still. There’s a smooth side and a “pokey,” unstable side which requires students to use more muscles to stay balanced. Again, it’s a non-distracting way to get some of those wiggles out while still staying focused on the lesson.
A weighted lap pad or a blanket can be used on the carpet or while sitting at a desk. It’s meant to be worn over the child’s body (in their lap) as a way to help “weigh them down.” This can be a great tool for a “flighty child” that has difficulty sitting and attending for long periods of time.
Hand fidgets have gotten a bad rap lately since the fidget spinner has taken over classrooms and schools nation-wide. But, in reality, hand fidgets are a great way to keep your students’ hands occupied with something while listening to a story read aloud or while doing seatwork. When the creative part of our brain (or body) is occupied, the logical part of our brain can concentrate.
And, though this shouldn’t need to be said, I’m going to say it anyway.
Involve the student.
Don’t expect your student to magically be engaged and hanging off every word you say just because you handed them a tool or a wobble chair. Conversations are the most important part of this. Not only do you actually find out what will benefit your children, but you are actually helping them develop the skills to independently identify what their body may need. You’re asking them to tune into their body and seek out the tool or support it needs to be most successful.
Let them know that it’s OK to try something out and decide later on that it’s not the right tool for them. Let them know that every child learns in a different way. But, most importantly, let them know that you recognize that they aren’t little robots and you care about them and their success. When you tell your students they are responsible enough to make these decisions on their own, they step up. They own that responsibility. They take the initiative and make decisions. And it bleeds into other aspects of the learning process.
Questions of the Day:
- What are some other suggestions you have for flexible seating in the classroom or at home?