Last week, I posted in complete excitement about finding out I got to take a class set of yoga balls into my room to replace my boring, ugly chairs. I was told (perhaps with some amusement) that I was the perfect candidate to try out this experience, which to my knowledge, is done only in a few other classrooms within my county. The kids’ came in the next morning and the squeals filled the room. Love.
But then it was time to get to work! Oh yes, that part of school.
So what does a Yoga-fied Classroom look like, with little kids flooding the room? Something like this.
So, it looks good, no? I’ve had one kid fall so far, but the rest have stayed perfectly balanced. Some have had some *near* falls, but caught themselves just in time. It’s good. We’re fine-tuning reflexes here. Which is actually kind of good for them.
You may be wondering why I’m so nuts though, as to take this on without any real guarantee that the kids would be able to handle it. But I did my research.
While studies have not been too extensive yet, this is what research has found so far:
- Sitting on therapy balls improved behavior and legibility in a study on ADHD students
- Therapy balls strengthen core muscles, which kids severely lack in comparison with kids raised in the 80s
- Being in motion is connected with engagement and focus, especially for our ADHD babies, but truly for all of our wiggly friends
- Excess energy is naturally burned off while just balancing, which can reduce disruptions
And here’s what I have found in my two blocks in particular:
- The kids are incredibly more engaged when at their tables, more equal to their engagement when they are cozying up on the floor with me for whole group reading time.
- My most severely ADHD, unmedicated child is way less likely to call out, get up without permission, or otherwise engage in fidgety and disruptive behaviors while sitting on a yoga ball (these behaviors return as soon as this child is on the floor during group time, though *sigh*).
- My second block, the more hyper of both, is ridiculously more quiet during Writer’s Workshop while sitting on the yoga balls. I thought it was my imagination until several others made the same comment to me while in my classroom.
- My ASD babies show a lot less anxiety while using the yoga balls.
- Test scores on the most recent one were higher than usual, with no real difference in level of rigor.
Here is how I got them started, though. Before they walked in on the first day back, I told them that there was a fun surprise inside that they absolutely could not touch until we all talked about the rules. They unpacked and immediately sat on the rug up front. They generated a list of “appropriate” and “not appropriate” ways to use the yoga balls with their partners. Then we discussed.
The three main rules we came up with were:
1. Bottoms on the yoga ball.
2. Feet on the floor.
3. Bounce calmly.
We talked about “excessive bouncing” and yes, we demonstrated examples of that silliness. Then we contrasted that with normal, calm bouncing needed to get wiggles out and stay balanced.
And then I hit them with “No-Exception Consequences” (which required explaining) and it goes like this:
- Fall off once, and you’re using a regular chair for 15 minutes, even if it was an accident. Falling off is a sign that we need to try harder to be safe.
- Fall off again in one day, and you’re in a regular chair for the rest of the day. When you have a minute, look around and see what your friends are doing to be safe.
- Repeated misuse of the yoga ball = bye-bye to the ball and hello to a regular chair until the teacher is convinced you can be more responsible.
So far, I’ve had to take away a yoga ball a total of 3 times (for 15 minutes) amongst my 34 total kids. Each time, it was really only for breaking one of the three main rules, such as having feet up on the sides and not on the floor or being overly bouncy. None of them have tried anything crazy. I’m just being ridiculously strict about the rules for at least another few weeks, until a habit of safety has been formed.
And truly, we don’t even spend much time at our tables. We are still spending plenty of time in other parts of the room during the day.
Overall verdict so far: we are enjoying the Yoga-fied Classroom experience. The kids are happy, focused, and learning. I’m enjoying their ability to burn off energy in a less obnoxious way. And my classroom just feels a lot more fun. 🙂
Thoughts? If your administration was on board, would you be willing to try out this kind of “experiment”? Or is this just a bit too much for you?