Stand, bounce, wriggle and learn

Instead of telling students to sit still, some Wisconsin and Minnesota teachers are giving them stand-up desks and stability balls that let them fidget as they learn.

Reading teacher Pam Seekel’s fifth-grade students can use adjustable-height stand-up desks “as well as a big, tall table that lets students work in groups while standing and shifting their weight, leaning, stretching, wiggling and generally doing everything but sitting still,” reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

One school lets kids use stability balls instead of traditional school desk chairs.

Anecdotally, teachers have reported positive results after freeing their kids from the confines of “feet flat on the floor” and “no rocking!” — greater attentiveness, fewer behavioral problems, better posture and more enthusiasm. Kids who are habitually fidgety or who suffer from attention disorders appear to show the most improvement, teachers say.

Via Flypaper.

Richard Whitmire thinks boys, who are the most likely to be fidgeters, will benefit.

About Joanne


  1. What about the kids – like me – who would be monumentally distracted by their neighbors bouncing and jiggling?

    I learned, when I took a college class in a room where the chairs were all connected in a row, NEVER to sit in the row with Leg-Jiggling Guy, or I’d get nothing at all out of the class because I was too busy being distracted/annoyed/made seasick by the constant shaking of the row of chairs.

  2. If you were taking a college class you ought to be old enough to realize that between waiting for the world to conform to your requirements and moving to another row of chairs it’ll be the latter that works out best for you.

  3. This sounds to me like the Hawthorne effect.

    I might be wrong, of course.

  4. I was one of those ‘good kids’ who never really had a problem sitting still in school, but when I was in college and grad school I found that I had an easier time remembering things if I stood or walked when I studied. When I had to learn large amounts of information (biochemistry and genetics-style classes have lots of terminology and pathways to learn)I would read my notes and pace while I remembered them, or find an empty classroom and fill the boards with the information.

  5. Just hook ’em up to pedal-powered generators. Ought to be able to get at least 20 watts per student, on the average.

  6. “If you were taking a college class you ought to be old enough to realize that between waiting for the world to conform to your requirements and moving to another row of chairs it’ll be the latter that works out best for you.”

    Sometimes even that doesn’t work. Really depends on how much of a severe leg jiggler the other person is. I’ve been able to feel the rumbles when the person was sitting a couple rows behind me.

    You’d think that these people would realize what an annoying habit it is and try to quit. In my experience, most people who do this have just thrown up their hands and say, “Yeah, I know, I’m sorry, but whatever. I can’t stop.” I know that it’s hard, and that many people do it without realizing. But it’s not impossible. I used to shake my own leg a lot as a kid (my brother had the same habit). Fortunately, my mother stopped us both. Now we don’t annoy the hell out of other people by doing it. Of course, we probably annoy them in a million other ways… 😀

  7. And also, if the leg-jiggler showed up after me, when class had already started, and I wanted to be POLITE and not get up and disrupt the class more…And yeah, there were times where the seismic activity was detectable almost everywhere in the classroom.

    What about the kids who claim to learn best while singing loudly at the tops of their lungs? Should that be encouraged, too?

    Sometimes, you have to accept that living in a community may mean restraining yourself a bit for the comfort of others. If they want to have separate classrooms for the kids who are driven insane by constant motion, fine. But making quiet kids work alongside noisy ones doesn’t seem fair to the quiet kids.

  8. Catch Thirty-Thr33 says:

    ricki would probably have killed me, as it seems that every single thing can and must conform to her. I am 100% restless and cannot sit still to save my life. Yet here I am in a graduate program.

    I found the perfect outlet for this very early on. In middle school, I went to the school’s master clock, and synchronized my watch to it. Then I would play a game: how much of the campus could I roam, and then make it to class, without being tardy? This was enough to get it out of my system for awhile. I continued doing this in high school, and though college clearly is a little different in attendance policies, I still worked on a variation of this, as well as avoiding classes longer than 50 minutes whenever possible!

  9. ricki,

    Sure sounds like the classroom you mentioned was poorly designed. And the movement behind the article seems to be to design classrooms more conducive to learning. So at least on a purpose level you seem to be in agreement with them.

    I don’t see any mention that the new furniture is the cause of distraction for other students. Perhaps they are just not mentioning that problem. Assuming that the student achievement really did improve I’m wondering if the new furniture actually reduced distractions. I’d guess that is one of the things they will attempt to study formally. Perhaps what they learn will change the commonly accepted meaning of distraction in that that the old furniture will be seen as a more significant distraction than students moving or fidgeting.

    Most likely any lessons learned will have some variation and I suppose given any fixed situation schools will end up using the “average” successful approach. However, as you mentioned it would be better to try to structure the environment to meet all students needs. Which I’ve always found to be a reasonable argument for school choices of all kinds. And yes, as you mentioned with your comment on screaming, it would seem prudent to avoid anything that is detrimental to a significant number of students even if that only comprises a minority of them. But at least as I read the article, I don’t see any cause for concern along those lines.

  10. My husband teaches. His instructors said to bring a bag of toys, like those plastic insects given away at children’s parties to keep people busy (fidgeting) as he lectured and took questions. However, he teaches motorcycle classes and these are adults that they were recommending it for.

  11. I just in a classroom today that is experimenting with stability balls. The kids loved it. They were all on task, all engaged, and all having a “ball.”

  12. I confess I’m a leg jiggler. It keeps me thin.

  13. i recall reading about some companies that have employees sitting at desks attached to a treadmill, so the person burns calories all day by walking while they work.

  14. *gasps in horrified disbelief and chucks an eraser at Lori* 😛

  15. While there are limits to how much you can modify a classroom to make it better for one student before it becomes worse for another some changes can be better for everyone. I would love to see some research on the benefits of these modifications. Does anyone know where I can find some? I often let my students choose to stand or sit because I have found my elementary boys do better standing up. I am really curious about these balls though…I might have to try one myself.

  16. The leg jigglers will win.

    Classrooms have seldom been great places for serious intellectual engagement, and rarely is that even the goal any more.