To bounce or not to bounce

Posted by Rebecca Moore - 03 September, 2015

IMG_0793By Carol Richardson and Susan Short

Some people may say we’re crazy. 

Some people peek in our rooms, wide-eyed with a lifted eyebrow. Others have made comments such as, “Don’t you get seasick?”  or, “How can you stand all that movement?”

We’d like to dispel some of these thoughts and introduce you to some research-based findings regarding exercise balls, better known as stability balls, in the classroom.

Our 4th graders enjoy the chance to move during lessons while lightly bouncing on the balls. We started with research, then formulated rules for use, and finally, watched as our students increased their attention and core strength.

Even teachers like to sit on the bouncy balls. Even teachers like to sit on the bouncy balls.

“When balance balls were originally developed in the 1960s for physical therapy purposes, who knew that one day they’d be recommended for children who have trouble focusing in school?” says Karen Lynch, author of the article "How Sitting on a Ball Helps Kids Focus and Do Better in School."

Lynch cites a research study published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy that for “students with ADHD, sitting on therapy balls improved behavior and legible word productivity.”  She also cites the findings in 2007 from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.  “In the Mayo study, which focused on improving learning and reducing obesity by making children more active, researchers found that the ability to move around more while sitting made the students more attentive. Mayo Clinic communications consultant Bob Nellis told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune that he believes this is because kids are able to burn off excess energy by bouncing on a ball.”  Lynch notes that “some kids need more movement than others. And for some kids with a sensory processing disorder or ADHD, being in motion allows their brain to be engaged.”

IMG_0803Over the last year, we have noticed a reduction in the trips to the pencil sharpener, cubbies, and other locations in the room.

Even though the students may not recognize their improved attention or need for movement, the students have commented on the positive aspect of having balls in the classroom.

We polled our classes and asked them what they like about using the balls. Manav states, “I like it because it works out your core.” Wesley adds, “I like that they are just my size.”

Just about everyone comments that they like to bounce.

Here are some other responses:

  • IMG_0801You can roll the ball instead of picking up a chair.
  • They feel good.
  • They make my back feel better.
  • They’re more comfy than chairs.
  • Because they are bouncy and squishy.
  • They are soft and fun.
  • They are comfortable and cozy.
  • They are pretty because they are purple.
  • I like them because they don’t have backs on them.
  • They are soft, purple, and bouncy.
  • They’re more fun.

I’ve noticed when I’m talking, the class is bouncing, but when they are writing and reading, they are sitting still on the balls.  We won’t lie, it did take some time for us to adjust to the bouncing with all those heads bobbing up and down, but now, we don’t even notice it.  We’re grateful to Randolph for allowing us to try something that some might consider cutting-edge.

Carol Richardson joined the Randolph School faculty as a 4th grade math and science teacher in December 2010. Now, she teaches 4th grade language arts and social studies. Previously, she taught science in the lab at Whitesburg Elementary School and 3rd grade at Challenger Elementary School.  She holds an M.A. in elementary education from Alabama A & M University and a B.S. Ed in elementary education from Athens University. Both her children, Lauren '16 and John '20, attend Randolph School.

Susan Short has taught at Randolph since 2001 and currently teaches 4th grade math and science. She loves being the sponsor for math club and tennis club, as well as coaching the JV girls tennis team. She is the parent of two Randolph alumni. 

Topics: 4th grade, Academics, ADHD, attention, Lower School, professional development, sensory integration, teachers, training, People

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