Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Standing Desks and Other Classroom Micro-environments

I stumbled across these Standing Desk Hacks while wandering on Twitter the other day (be sure to scroll down once you open the link to see all of them).  I immediately made a connection to the self-regulation idea of micro-environments, or creating small spaces within the large spaces of our indoor and outdoor learning classrooms where students can go to up regulate or down regulate.

But as I went back and looked again at the Twitter images, I realized that none of them seemed to involve children or to be situated in an elementary school context.  I wonder how often we discourage children from creating these standing desks or other micro-environments even though their behaviour is clearly communicating to us that the current environment is a stressor for them.  As students burn energy trying to stay seated, they have less energy for learning.

Last week I was in a grade three classroom, working with a group of 6 students as they learned a new math game called Blokus  (It is a fun spatial awareness strategy game.  If you haven't played it yet, you should try it. It is so much fun! ) Each student had a partner and they had a colour of tile, and then I had the yellow tiles on my own. While we were playing some students were seated, some were standing, and all were able to learn.  If I had been worried about making sure everyone was sitting down, some of them wouldn't have been able to focus on the math and that's what was really important.  And really, how awesome is it that they are so excited about a math game that they can't sit still!!!!

Playing Blokus - some students standing, some sitting, everyone engaged!
Photo by Sherry Doherty (Twitter @sherrysws)

Having said that, one student was still having difficulty even while he was standing - he was banging his metal water bottle, he was singing, he was bumping into the desks. After a few attempts at redirection, I finally had to say to him, "Adam*, you need to go sit on the carpet for a couple of minutes until you can join us at the game without distracting me so much."  He went to the carpet and sat quietly while we continued to play, then after a minute announced, "I'm ready to come back."
(*name changed)

"OK Adam, but this game requires us to concentrate.  You have to make sure you're not too distracting."

He stood through the game for the whole period, and he still needed to move around a lot, but he was able to do it in a way that wasn't bumping the desks and threatening to send the game board to the floor and he wasn't disturbing the students who needed a quieter environment to concentrate and strategize.

Ideally, I wish I had taken more time to talk through the steps of self-reg with Adam and to debrief with him afterwards about his strategies that the used; that will be my goal for next time.  But, for now, I was able to recognize the behaviour as stress behaviour not misbehaviour and he was able to find strategies to successfully be part of the group.  I'll count that as a success.


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