Great Ideas in this Article –
This website has FANTASTIC resources and information from pediatric Occupation Therapists on teaching strategies etc: http://www.minds-in-bloom.com/2012/04/advice-from-ot-if-you-want-children-to.html
If You Want Children to Sit Still, You Have to Let Them Move
Children need to move their bodies in order to be able to stay focused and to learn. A good thing to remember is that a nerve in the inner ear, called the vestibular nerve, serves to tell the body how upright, aroused, and present to be in direct response to movement. The only way to activate the vestibular nerve so that it can do its job is to move.
Are Your Students in the Just Right State or in a Sensory Needs State?When we are forced to sit still for long periods, we are either in one of two states: the just right state, meaning that our bodies can support our ability to stay present by remaining effortlessly aroused and upright, or in a sensory needs state, which means that we cannot attend because our bodies need something to help our brains stay alert and ready to learn. The just right state doesn’t last long when we are forced to sit without moving, unless what is happening in the room is highly interesting and engages our full attention. Attention spans in young children are quite short. Most of the time, they require constant movement and novelty to stay engaged. Some children don’t have responsive vestibular nerves. If a child has had a series of ear infections, for example, and has had tubes placed in his ears, his vestibular nerve may not fire with just a little bit of movement. His vestibular system requires a great deal more intensity before it will respond and tell his muscles to sit up. This child will have an especially hard time sitting for long periods without being allowed to get up. How Can I Keep My Classroom Alert and Focused? Think of movement as quick bursts of brain fuel, and try to top off your students’ tanks frequently. Transitions should always be accompanied by some sort of structured movement activity as a class. Perhaps a quick “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” with the accompanying gestures, or put on some rhythmic music and lead the class in a round of old fashioned calisthenics, like pushups, toe touches, or jumping jacks. Accompany this with a drink of water and the children will be able to stay much more alert and in the right physical state for learning. You’ll feel pretty good, yourself! If you teach the children to recognize when their attention is flagging and they need to do something for themselves in order to stay present, they will have the tools to recognize when they drifting out of the just right state and into the sensory needs zone. They can then employ a discreet sensory tool to get themselves back. Here are some suggestions for things that students can do at their seats to help them pay attention:
- play with a fidget toy
- suck a hard candy
- squeeze and relax all of your muscles
- rub your hands on your legs
- give yourself a big hug
- quietly blow out all of your breath and hold it, then let the next breath come rushing in.
- For a child who needs to chew to stay grounded, a few inches of clear plastic fish tank tubing on the end of his pencil is easy and discreet. This can be easily and inexpensively purchased in a pet store or hardware store. If the child doesn’t like the flavor, you can soak it in vanilla extract for a day or two.