For the past 4 years, my students have been sitting on yoga balls, instead of chairs. I got rid of all of the chairs in my room except for by our computer stations. Why would I make this move? What are the benefits?
In my second year of teaching kindergarten, I had a class of 18 boys and 6 girls. Yikes! They were a BUSY bunch and I needed to incorporate even more movement into our day. That was also the year that I has a student with ASD in my room. I attended many special education trainings and professional development on movement in the classroom (also the topic of my Master's thesis). I met a teacher in our county that has been using yoga balls in her room for chairs and had incorporated yoga breaks throughout her day. This was it- a light bulb went on! This was my solution. Unfortunately, I couldn't secure funds in time to benefit my class that year, however the special education department gave me a grant to purchase a class set, based on my research. I studied the work of Eric Jensen along with many others. Through his research, I also found the support for recess and movement breaks benefiting learning and achievement. Here are links to some research references and a Jensen article that is user friendly (for us non-brain scientists!).
Reference list for Play & Movement (download file - the Google view looks weird, but the file is good)
|Jensen article link|
|Recess document link|
There are 3 main purposes for using the ball chairs and incorporating movement into the classroom:
- Movement increases blood flow to the brain, which is better for brain function (and learning!).
- Movement helps children "get the wiggles out" which aides their natural need to move. This helps them focus by expending the excess energy they build up throughout the day.
- Sitting on a stability ball supports and builds their core mucles. Pediatritians are finding that children in the last 10 years are suffering from poor core strength due to the pratices that are used while they are infants and small children (swings, back to sleep, car seats/ carriers, strollers, activity rings). They are not developing the same strength as previous generations. This also helps develop large motor muscles, which support small motor muscles (think writing and hand strength).
The following year, I introduced them to my kindergartners right away, beginning with a safety lesson and creating a list of procedures. Here is the list we made this year with first graders this year (similar each year- not by chance!).
The changes in my classroom were noticeable within the month! They had more stamina during work times and their negative behaviors were reduced (getting up, playing around, etc.). I have recieved so much positive feedback from students and parents. I also get parent requests for my class because they believe in the theory and want this for their child.
|My current 1st grade room- one of the rare times |
that the balls are neat! Front of the room.
|The back of our room.|
|At night, we put the ball on the table using clear frisbees. |
These are my old tables.
|In my old room, a shot of student working at |
There are a few drawbacks... I cannot use chair pockets for storage, guest teachers get sea sick when teaching a room off bouncing kids, and the balls seem to escape out our door at times. Other than that- I LOVE them. I wouldn't give them up unless I was forced to :)