Walking into my classroom, I have come to appreciate the non-traditional way that my students work at their desks. Rather than seeing 24 identical looking chairs, I have a room full of brightly colored stability balls (they are the same as those big fitness balls you see at your gym).
Because there are often fads that come and go with schools (as with anything else) I was fairly resistant to the implementation of the stability ball in place of the regular classroom chairs. Previously, I have heard of ball chairs made for people who sit at desks (ie: in offices, etc.), but I hadn't heard of this concept being used in the classroom as well. Oh, and for those of you who hadn't heard of the ball chars in the office, PLEASE take a look at this clip from The Office:
Ok, I'm hoping that was entertaining to you all (it was to me, that's for sure)...but that was not the point of this note....getting there...
So, as I was saying earlier, I was not sure how I felt about the idea of the stability balls in the classroom....a few of the people I work with started inviting kids to bring these balls into school in place of their chairs. It wasn't until I actually read this article in the Star Tribune that it all started making sense. If you want more details, check out this link (if not, just keep reading):
The article basically explains the benefits of the ball, which include better concentration, increased physical fitness, and the ability to burn off all that extra energy. Sounds like gold, doesn't it?! The beauty is that not only does it do all of those things, but it is an exceptional tool for kids who are really fidgety, or kids with ADD.
When I stop to think about these little humans that I interact with every day, I realize that they are kids...and kids need to move...that's just in their nature, developmentally. To ask kids to sit still in their seats for a majority of the day, is like asking me to sit silently in a room with all my closest friends...nearly impossible. Often times the kids need some sort of movement as an outlet for the energy they have.
This is where the balls come into place. The balls allow them to have this much needed movement in a way that is not only healthy, but it's not even distracting in the least! The movement on the balls is 100% less distracting than when the kids tip back in their chairs....when they fall out of their chairs....or when they crash the back of their chair into another chair behind them.
Some of you may be thinking that having these balls would spell DISASTER....I thought so too. Here's what I came up with....I offered to let any and all of the kids bring the balls in, if they thought they could benefit from it. Then once some of the balls started coming into the classroom, we had a fairly serious class discussion about the balls...I asked for one volunteer to come to the front of the room and demonstrate how NOT to use the ball....this included picking the ball up, throwing the ball, rolling the ball, bouncing really high on the ball, among other things. The kids laughed....no, they cracked up...I let this last for about 2 minutes max, and then I cut it off. They had their fun, and got to chuckle at the inappropriate behaviors. Then I had someone else come up to demonstrate the PROPER way to use the ball...At this point, they had seen the two various ways to use the ball, and they knew which way was acceptable in my classroom. Now they were able to be accountable for their behavior on the balls. And it's worked like a charm! I can't believe it. There are a few times when I need to tap someone on the shoulder if they are bouncing a little too "high"...but for the most part, they totally get it...and treat it like any other learning tool we have in the classroom!
I have seen it literally transform a few of my students' concentration and focus ability....it's just great! I wouldn't say that using these stability balls in the classroom is the solve-all for every student....but for most students, I can see it being such a benefit. Right now, about half of the kids have these balls (and trust me, if you are chuckling at the way that last sentence sounded, with the use of the word balls, I sometimes have to keep myself from chuckling at school when talking about them...luckily only a select few of my students, with older siblings, snicker at the word....). I anticipate a majority of the kids bringing these in within the next few weeks....and I can't WAIT!!!