If you were to walk into a classroom, you are bound to see at least one student that can’t seem to sit still throughout the day. And what seems to be a fidgety student to you, is simply a student who needs physical movement to stay concentrated on their work. It is not uncommon. This article from the Washington Times discusses this exact phenomenon, citing the experiences of a classroom in West Virginia and the teacher’s use of yoga balls as desk chairs. The author includes direct quotes from the students and how much the yoga balls have helped them with concentrating on their work. If you walk into my mom’s kindergarten classroom you would also see several of these yoga balls at the students tables in place of chairs.
When she first introduced these to the classroom I thought this was an incredible idea. You could immediately tell a difference in the students ability to concentrate on their school work as they were able to focus their excess energy on bouncing up and down and keeping their bodies moving. Classrooms all over the country are adopting this idea of alternate seating. In addition, with the increased popularity there are tons of other tools on the market for this exact issue. There are sensory toys for students to handle as they work, there are straps for the bottoms of the chairs to bounce feet off of and the list is endless. If you’re curious, like I was, you can check out this website that sells several of these types of items.
The amazing thing about these tools is how effective they are at directing the student’s focus on their work and decreasing the amount of time teachers have to spend getting students back on track. There have been multiple studies that show the benefits of using yoga balls in the classroom. In fact, a study by the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (2003) found that students with ADHD that used the yoga balls had increased focus, improved behavior, and more productivity with more legible words. The benefits go far beyond students with ADHD as well. The evidence is abundant.
But, and of course there is always a but, these supplies are obviously not free. Not all schools can afford to stock a classroom full of extra toys and gadgets when some can hardly afford paper and glue. Even for my mom, who’s school is in a upper- middle class area, she was only given a few yoga balls that she has to rotate among the students every few days or so. In a perfect world we would produce the funds to provide these to every classroom in America. Cue my mothers voice “let me know when you find the tree that money grows on.” While this all seems like wishful thinking, why can’t it be a possibility? For some classrooms it might be, and it’s starting to be. Just like the classroom in the article I cited at the beginning of this post, there are a number of grants available specifically for funding yoga balls to replace the traditional classroom chairs. While this is clearly not a necessity, and there several other crucial things that schools direct their budgets toward, this is a unique solution to high energy students and directing focus back to quality work. In my opinion, it’s simply something to look in to.