Arts & Humanities
Teachers say ball chairs engage students brains and help them focus on lessons.
Ask students: What kinds of things can get in the way of your concentration and learning during the school day? Make a list of some of the distractions that occur in the classroom that get in the way of students learning. Then introduce this weeks News story, Some Schools Replace Desk Chairs With Ball Chairs.
Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: concentrate, balance, posture, business, upright, and activity. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:
If youre looking for an _____ that benefits you and your dog, get up off the couch and take the dog for a walk. (activity)
Suzanne could not _____ on her homework because the TV was making so much noise in the background. (concentrate)
When a T. rex stood _____, it could be as tall as 21 feet. (upright)
Slouching is easy; its more difficult to practice good _____ habits. (posture)
The recession forced one local auto dealer out of _____ . (business)
I have no idea how the high-wire performer keeps her _____ on that thin wire. (balance)
You might share with students this USA Today news video about students who use ball chairs in class:
In addition, you might share these facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.
Katie Messina, who teaches at Central Elementary School in Grandville, Michigan, told the Muskegon Chronicle that ball chairs require students to engage torso and leg muscles in small ways to balance, which drains off energy that might normally cause them to squirm.
Messina first experimented with using balls as chairs six years ago in another school, where her class included seven second-graders with attention deficit disorders. This year, a $350 grant from the Grandville Education Foundation outfitted her whole class with the balls. The district pitched in to buy tables, since the classroom desks had chairs attached.
Reading the News
You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:
Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.
Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.
Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.
Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.
Students in Messinas class have the option of substituting a regular chair at anytime. Few do, except during cursive-writing lessons. When you wiggle a lot, you think a lot," 8-year-old Alex Whitman, one of Messinas third graders, told the Chronicle. I'm not sure how it helps you concentrate, but it does."
Zion Lutheran School in Mayer, Minnesota, has introduced ball chairs in some classrooms. I was hesitant at first but I thought, Why not? There's too much sitting around that goes on," Principal Deb Kelzer told the Star-Tribune. The colorful balls help students concentrate, burn off excess energy, and get more physically fit, says Kelzer. She even uses a ball chair in her own office. You can really feel how it works your muscles," she said. It works your core area and makes you have better posture." Kelzer is considering replacing all chairs in her school with ball chairs.
Donna Yehl, a fourth-grade teacher in Elgin, Illinois, searched the Internet for ways to help her restless pupils sit still. She stumbled on a story about exercise balls improving concentration. So she replaced her classroom's chairs with bouncy 21-inch-high balls in colors students chose. They're more focused, theyre sitting upright," Yehl told the Chicago Tribune. Adrienne O'Brien, a fourth-grade teacher in Barrington, Illinois, added, You'd be surprised how many kids really need to move while learning. That would be the majority of them, frankly."
Experts told the Tribune that subconscious mental activity lies at the core of the science behind the balls' success. The tiny movements kids make to stay balanced stimulate their brains and help them focus, says Dr. John Ratey, a Harvard University professor. Children with attention disorders, he says, have a sleepy cortex," and exercise combats that mental disengagement. Just by using their core muscles more, they're flipping [their cortex] on" and increasing their mental activity. The cerebellum part of their brain is really working to adjust, every millisecond," added Ratey.
I found during the winter when it's too cold to go outside the kids were really hyper," Halifax, Nova Scotia, fourth-grade teacher Cyrille Deveau told CTV News. Outfitting his entire class with stability balls cost nearly $1,000, and it appears to be paying off. I think Im getting better grades because of it," said one student, and I listen better."
Use the News: Answer Key Comprehension Check
1. b, 2. b, 3. a, 4. d, 5. c. Main Idea
Ball chairs can help kids pay attention to schoolwork and do better in school. Vocabulary Builder: Idioms
Accept reasoned responses, for example: 1. fidgety, squirmy, wiggly; 2. working, operating smoothly, repaired; 3. enjoys, gets pleasure from, gets excited about; 4. be flexible, make plans as we go, take each day as it comes.
Refer back to the list of classroom distractions that students created before reading the News story. (See the Anticipation Guide above.) Discuss: Would sitting on a stability ball instead of a desk chair add to the potential distractions or eliminate some of them?
Use the Use the News printable activity as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the news story page.
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