Anyone who works in a school, or with children in general, could tell you that kids have a seemingly limitless amount of energy. They are always ready to run around, go from one task to another, and then run around some more. While it’s great that they are so energetic, it can make it difficult to sit and focus in school. School days can feel long for students, especially when they are fighting the urge to move their bodies because they’re supposed to be sitting at their desks doing work.
There is no getting around having to sit and get work done in school, but classroom teams do work hard on being able to provide movement breaks for their students to make the day move along smoothly while also giving kids a good outlet for their energy. Part of our role is to help students balance getting their work done, getting the energy release they need, and making sure their sensory needs are met. One of the many benefits of working as classroom teams is that we have a lot of options at our disposal to make sure our students get what they need.
Physical Education classes throughout the week are a huge help and a great outlet for their pent-up energy, as well as outdoor recess and time for walking the track when the weather permits it. Outside of those designated scheduled activities, however, staff offer their students a variety of other options when they start getting jittery in their seats.
A popular option is a “Shake Break”, which usually takes place at the end of one activity before starting the next one. This kind of movement break is usually accompanied by music or videos from either YouTube or GoNoodle, and the videos are created specifically with movement breaks in mind--they include dance videos, and even short guided exercise videos. There is a large selection, and if you were to ask each classroom, they would be able to tell you which videos are their students’ favorites, as the kids probably have all of the words and dance moves memorized. It’s a fun break that gives students a few minutes to get up and dance it out before transitioning into another work activity.
Something else that is offered to our students is the chance to walk laps in the hallway. Some students walk their laps independently, and others walk with one of their classroom staff. Walking laps is a good option for students not only to be able to get up and move around, but if they’re feeling overwhelmed in the classroom, or just need a break from their current task, they can ask a teacher to go with them for a walk to help reset themselves and get ready to finish their work. If they’re upset about something, it gives the student a chance to talk with their staff about what is bothering them, as well as giving them a little break from the situation. Walks in the hall also give students a chance to socialize with others who aren’t in their classroom, this includes both staff and other students, so it’s beneficial on multiple fronts.
Teachers and teaching assistants work in conjunction with a team of physical and occupational therapists, as well as behavior specialists and the PE department to brainstorm ideas when students have specific movement and sensory needs. Some students have extra movement times built into their schedule, times when they can go and use the school’s fitness room to run on the treadmill or use the stationary bikes. Other students may use a yoga/exercise ball instead of a chair because it allows them to have more movement, and some rooms also have rocking chairs that students can use to help regulate their sensory needs. We also have students who enjoy using exercise trampolines for their movement breaks, so after completing a work activity they bounce on the trampoline for a couple of minutes to move around and then they’re able to sit and focus on their next task.
A large part of the school day is about academics, reaching goals, and learning new skills. However, making sure that a student’s physical and emotional needs are met is just as important as any math or literacy lesson. Our staff works together to make sure that students have as many energy outlets, and as many ways to meet their sensory needs as possible. Finding positive ways for students to let their energy out is not only good for their physical and mental well-being, but it sets them up to be able to focus better on their schoolwork. Giving students options, rather than just trying to make them sit in their seats for the entire school day, works out better for everyone.