Bouncy Ball Revolution

There are are lot of words written about how we need to get our kids to move.

“Movement isn’t a break from learning; movement is learning” – Washington Post

Children are going to class with bodies that are less prepared to learn than ever before. With sensory systems not quite working right, they are asked to sit and pay attention. Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to “turn their brain on.” What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to “sleep –  “Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today”  in the Washington Post

“the use of therapy balls for classroom seating is one strategy that therapists in school system practice might consider when working with children with ADHD who are having difficulty meeting school expectations of staying on task and remaining seated. Additionally, this intervention strategy was found to be compatible with inclusive educational practice and interdisciplinary teaming.” American Journal of Occupational Therapy concluding that in students with ADHD, sitting on therapy balls improved behavior and legible word productivity

I always feel vaguely guilty about making kids sit on the red plastic chairs I have in my classroom. I try to get my kids to move, but I know from my own school days that those chairs are uncomfortable. So two years ago, on a whim, I bought two giant yoga balls to try out as replacements for chairs in my classroom. I’m now up to four exercise balls, of different sizes. It’s really been a case of asking forgiveness not permission. I’m sure the lovely cleaning lady is annoyed by these balls when she’s vacuuming the mess the kids leave behind. And I know the bouncing can drive my principal crazy when he stops by the room (though he’s never ever asked me to get rid of them to his credit).  Other teachers have looked at me like I’ve lost my mind. And all the bouncing can make me dizzy.

But if I could, I would have 10 more in my room.

This is how my kids sit.

Grade 7

Grade 7

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by ndbekah

Grade 7 (not sure this meets Health and Safety)

Also not the safest thing I’ve ever seen

These guys came in one day and just started stretching. I wish they did this more often.

Grade 11 after a test

Grade 7s

Grade 7. That takes core strength to sit on the ball on your knees.

This is the normal way they sit. Just like chairs


Sometimes even the adults when meeting in my room will sit on them.

And in the two years I’ve had them, I’ve noticed a few things.

  • Not all kids like to sit on them, but a lot of them do. They have figured out their own system for sharing the balls and over the course of a week the majority of kids will have had their turn on the ball. And sometimes, on grading heavy days, I like to sit on them too.
  • Boys really like them. There have been a lot of studies and articles written about how traditional schools do not benefit boys who often need to move more than we allow them to. The bouncy balls let them move, stretch, and change their sitting position when they feel like it. And anecdotally, I honestly think it helps them focus. Of course my girls love the bouncy balls. But there is a reason a lot of the photos above are of boys.
  • They are rarely distracting. They are literally part of the furniture. You’ll have to trust me on this.
  • They are sitting much better and this helps alleviate some of my guilt for when they are spending so much time on their laptops. The bouncy balls force them to sit upright and use their core. Otherwise they fall off.
  • In a related note, I’ve never had a kid hurt themselves falling off a ball.
  • It’s spreading…since I’ve gotten them I know there is a yoga ball in the grade 1, grade 5, learning support and in the counselor’s office. I wish (and my kids wish) there  more were in middle school classrooms but the bouncy ball revolution is happening.

All photos creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by ndbekah

About Rebekah Madrid

MYP Humanities Instructor. International School Teacher in Japan. Google Certified Teacher. Apple Distinguished Educator. National Board Certified Teacher. Traveler & TV Watcher. This is where I write my thoughts about all of the above.
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