Alternative Classroom Seating Helps Students Concentrate


Sun Valley Elementary School in San Rafael, California uses balance balls as chairs for kindergarten kids, which they say allows children to learn more effectively by channeling physical energy appropriate.

Janis Mara of the Marin Independent Journal profiled teacher Ally Mitchell, whose entire class sits on lime-green stability or balance balls. They are doing precisely what a 2008 study from the University of Central Florida suggests, which is allowing kids to move so they can concentrate during complex mental tasks.

"Some kids need more wiggle time," Mitchell said. "So I got a stability ball. Soon all the kids wanted to sit on the wiggle chair. They loved it. I thought, ‘Why not let everyone do it?'"

When the students move away from their work tables, they push their balls under the table to leave more space for activity in the room.

After Mitchell explained to the children the boundaries and rules involved in using the ball chairs, such as not bouncing too high and always having feet on the floor, the children caught on quickly. If they still had trouble following the sitting directions, they were warned and then asked to sit in a regular chair for a certain amount of time.

The children's core strength is developed because the ball moves and the body compensates by engaging core muscles, such as the abdominal muscles. Even the slightest movement results in the kids balancing to stay seated, which in turn helps kids focus.

Another study in 2007 from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota also found that the round "chairs" and the attendant movement by the kids made the students more attentive.

Other classrooms, such as the fourth-grade class at Vallecito Elementary School in San Rafael, use standing desks, which are also a beneficial way to keep students from being stationary.

But the tables are expensive, costing roughly $250 each, while the balance chairs are priced at a mere $20 a piece. The ball chairs at Sun Valley were purchased through a teacher grant from the San Rafael Rotary Club.

Stephanie Hansen, a second-grade teacher at Lake Ripley Elementary in Litchfield, Minn., uses a silver cushion (the air stability wobble cushion) to help her students stay on task. She says just being able to move a bit without disrupting others is beneficial.

Along with the cushions, Hansen has included high desks, at which students can stand or sit on stools. There are also low desks at which students are able to sit on the floor or on one of the silver, disk-shaped cushions, according to the Litchfield Independent Review's Martha Lueders.

All second-grade classrooms have a minimum of six wobble cushions which were purchased by using a Litchfield Public Schools Foundation grant. Teachers work out their individual systems of sharing the cushions among the students in their classes.

The fourth-graders in April Jenkins' class at Walter Elementary School in Warrenton, Virginia sit on stability balls as well. The round seating alternative was purchased through a grant from along with matching funds from Disney.

Comments from Jenkins' students were positive across the board. The kids said the seating helped them pay attention, keep focused, avoid daydreaming in class, and keep their minds from wandering, reports Karen Parkinson for Fauquier Now.

"I thought that maybe the donations would be something I could implement during the next school year. I had no idea that the donations would come so quickly," Ms. Jenkins said. "Disney ended up matching dollar for dollar each donation that was made, and in less than two days, the project was paid for."

Jenkins added that the students adjusted to the new seats immediately, and she saw a positive change in classroom behavior right away. The kids put their stability balls on top of their desks when they leave at the end of the school day. They stabilize them by using an upside down frisbee.

The Kokomo Tribune reports that Maconaquah School Corporation is using grant money to purchase exercise balls to replace traditional desk chairs in a Pipe Creek Elementary School kindergarten classroom.

Kindergarten teacher Andrea Snyder proposed the installation of the balance balls for seating as a way to allow students to wiggle and fidget without disturbing their fellow students.

02 15, 2016
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