Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

September 18, 2014

Should There Be More Movement in the Classroom?

By: Ashley Glasser, MS, OTR/L

As the school year commences, visions of sharpened pencils, backpacks, and new outfits dance in our heads. Teachers are busily preparing their classrooms.  When one envisions what the rooms will look like, images of bulletin boards perfectly papered and desks in straight lines come to mind. What if I threw a wrench in the picture?  Instead of students sitting all day at desks that confine them, what if they were allowed to move?  To stand, shift weight, rock, or bounce as needed?

A teacher in Minnesota, who was profiled in the New York Times, decided to allow just that:

After observing the behavior of her students, she took grant money and purchased standing desks with moveable foot rests that give her students the option of standing and moving, as needed. At the time this article was published, desks with adjustable heights for adults were not a new concept, but allowing them in classrooms for kids was a novel idea.

Why is this important? Some people concentrate better in silence, while others prefer noise. Some individuals need a snack to stay awake during a lecture, while others do fine without one. Hence, some students need to get up and move their bodies in order to maintain focus. Most of us have to shift our bodies in some way if we’ve been sitting too long, whether it’s simply changing position in our chairs, jiggling our leg, or getting up to take a walk. For kids, this is especially true. Without movement, their attention will start to fade. However, if you consider a child who has increased difficulties with sensory processing, then the need for movement is especially true.  Some children are sensory seekers and need constant movement to help regulate their bodies.  Others are defensive to tactile inpu,t so the feeling of the back of the chair irritates them.  These considerations should be taken into account for their learning environments.

Adjustable desks may not be an option, but there are other strategies for incorporating movement into the school day. Check out this list of ideas:


Photo 1, Photo 2


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