So many students have a difficult time sitting still during class time. I don’t blame them, it’s hard for me too!
Seriously, I’m that teacher during Professional Development days that’s at the back of the room stretching, going to the bathroom 20 times just to get a walk in, and colour coding all my pens.
For students, this can be extremely challenging as different teachers have different expectations.
Other students also often get irritated when they’re being distracted by a fidgeter.
Of course, allowing kids to move around and have different areas to work and sit is always a great choice. But sometimes this isn’t always available. Maybe they have to write a test and must remain in their desks. Perhaps there’s limited space and few seating options.
Whatever the reason, it’s always handy to have some tools and strategies on hand to support these students as they wiggle about.
Give opportunities to move
Whenever you can, it’s helpful to allow wiggly students the opportunity to move around. Now, we don’t want them tanning like a maniac in the middle of the room who or you teach, that may be enjoyable for some, but not others.
Instead, let them go for a drink of water. Provide break cards they can use throughout the day when they need a movement break, assign them a task like carrying a book back to the library for you.
These are all great ways to get the student up and moving which won’t distract you or the other students.
I find that if students don’t want to be singled out for being wrigglers, giving them a useful job to do is the best option. I’ll sometimes get a student to walk back and forth between my class and another teachers’ giving “important notes”.
It’s also, of course, important to build frequent time for all the students to get up and move around throughout the day. You can do this with group work, body breaks, centres, allowing them to do independent work in different areas, and so on.
Allow space for movement
If you know a student is a fidgeter, don’t jam their desk into a tiny corner or push them right up against other students’ desks.
Instead, make sure they are in an area of the room where they can move their legs and arms without annoying anyone else.
Now, I know some teachers like to create “islands” for some of their more active students, but I tend to advise against this.
Putting the student by themself in one area of the room while everyone else is together is not okay. They are going to feel isolated, weird, and different.
This can have a pretty traumatic impact on a kid. Not to mention, if they feel like they’re singled out, their behaviour may actually get worse. They may think “we’ll, I’m already a ‘bad kid’, I may as well act bad”.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is extremely common and varies from student to student, don’t punish a child by isolating them simply because their mind works differently than others’.
Arrange a cue with the student that acknowledges their need to go for a walk, take a drink, and so on.
Students often do not want to be singled out as being different from their peers, so asking them if they want to take a break is not always a great idea.
Even if you do this quietly, they may still be uncomfortable thinking other kids can see them and will think they’re “weird”.
Instead, try to create a system you can use with the student in which they can signal to you when they need to take a break. They could use a card, a hand gesture, or so on.
Sometimes, I’ll have the student give me a peace sign and then I’ll know they need to go for a walk. Or, they may have a small card in their desk, and when they put it on top it means they would like a break.
This can alleviate any fear they have about looking different and still allow them the opportunity to take any breaks they feel are necessary.
Break tasks down
Sometimes our wiggly kids are unable to sit and focus on a task. They get easily distracted, or bored, or feel uncomfortable sitting for extended periods of time.
In an attempt to make school work easier for them, try breaking the task into smaller chunks.
This can help the student because the assignment won’t seem as daunting and large. Additionally, you can build in body break time for them.
For example, after they answer one question, they can go for a walk. This helps to both give them a small reward for completing a task as well as providing them with a movement break.
Make sure you also praise them when they complete these smaller “chunks” of work. Letting students know that they’re doing well, trying hard, and that you recognize their accomplishments generally work to make them want to continue doing well.
Allow alternative movement
Sometimes our wiggly kiddos can’t really control their wiggles. Maybe you’re leading the class in a body break and some of your AHDH students just can’t seem to follow along with the whole group.
Sometimes, you just need to let this go.
For example, if you’re doing Just Dance with the group, who cares if little Freddy is doing a foot jiggle instead of a butt wiggle? It’s not hurting anyone, and he’s still moving. If that’s going to help get him to regulate, fantastic!
Sometimes our students need to move in a way which seems atypical. While they may be okay going for a walk through the hallways occassionally, other times they may need to jump, kick, or dance. If this is what they need, find a space that works and let them take a break there.
Whatever works to help our kiddos regulate is alright by me!
Give challenging tasks
We don’t ever want our students to be bored during class. This can definitely lead to restlessness and excessive fidgeting. Sometmes or kids fidget a lot because they’re early finishers or they aren’t feeling consistently challenged.
To keep students from becoming bored or restless, make sure you provide them with things to do which challenge them.
These can be both mental and physical tasks, depending on the student. Also, keep in mind that what is challenging will vary from student to student.
One kiddo may find long division easy while another may enjoy the challenge. A student who excels at basketball isn’t going to find it very hard to dribble for a minute.
Also keep in mind that you want tasks to be challenging, but not frustratingly so. If a student is unable to complete the task you’ve given them, they are going to get upset and discouraged.
Make sure that you also vary the tasks you’re giving to the student. They’ll get very bored very quickly if the only thing you continue to give to them is word searches (for example).
Give students a fidget
Letting students use a tool to help them regulate is a great idea.
As long as they are not distracted and are not distracting others, a fidget tool is a great idea for while you’re speaking, while they’re watching a video, or while they’re listening to something.
Having something to do with their body or hands while they listen is a great way for many students to pay attention. It may sound contradictory, but it’s actually extremely helpful.
It’s amazing to watch a student look as though they’re in their own world, doodling, or playing with a fidget, then asking them what you were talking about and have them rattle it all back to you near-verbatim.
Depending on the student, the tool that works best for them will differ. Some may like a fidget tool, others will like a wiggle stool, some may need to be able to stand while you’re teaching, others may doodle, and so on. In fact, some may need a combination of these.
Try to chat with the student and observe them during the day to see what tools will work best. And, of course, make sure they’re aware of all of the rules around these tools. Remind them that they’re tools, not toys, and tehy should be used as such.
Any time a student is distracted or is distracting others, they’re using the tool inappropriately!
Well, what do you think? Are these tips helpful? Is there anything you do which I missed on this list? Let me know!
Enjoyed this? Here are some other blog posts on Katie is a Teacher you may like:
Want even more? Here are some Katie is a Teacher resources you may be interested in: