Sitting Too Much?

“My students have such a hard time sitting still! They call out all the time! They’re constantly out of their seats!” After hearing this refrain over and over again from teachers, I decided to do a little research. However, instead of trying to verify whether teachers were right about how wiggly their students are, I wanted to know more about how much students were being required to sit.

Sitting for long stretches of time is challenging for many children (and adults, too!)  For many of us, frequent opportunities to move are a key to maintaining attention and focus. I wondered if teachers were seeing the antsy behavior because their students needed more chances to move.

So while on a school visit recently, I scanned classrooms as I walked through the halls. In sixteen of the nineteen classrooms I passed, most or all of the students were sitting down. (Two of the three classes where kids were up and moving were art and PE.) I don’t think this was unusual — in many schools, students are expected to sit for most of the day — through math lessons, reading workshop, science lessons, and so on.

Another complaint I hear often from teachers is “Staff meetings are so hard! I hate having to sit still for an hour!” Teachers move around a lot during a typical school day. When I scanned those nineteen classrooms, I saw sixteen teachers who were up and about: traveling across the room to answer questions, kneeling at a student’s desk to help, striding to the front of the room to write a problem on the board. I started wondering if part of teachers’ frustrations with students’ wiggles comes out of the contrast between their movement-filled days and their students’ much more sedentary experience.

What do you think of this theory? Does it ring true for you? If so, I’d like to challenge you to start adding more movement for students into your school days. In my next few posts, I’ll share some specific suggestions for doing this while still keeping the class under control.

Mike Anderson is a Responsive Classroom consultant and author of several books, including three in the What Every Teacher Needs to Know series.

Tags: Engaging Academics, Movement