If you’ve ever walked into a primary classroom the first weeks of school you have probably observed a squirming tangle of post-toddler tykes trying to sit “criss-cross applesauce” on a rug. You’ll hear multiple moans of “I’m tired!” Try as we might to keep them focused, we find ourselves playing whack-a-mole with our calls to attention. As teachers we are working to build stamina so that our young learners can focus and pay attention. But what if our efforts are directed more keenly on mental stamina and not as much on physical stamina?
As observed in over a dozen kindergarten and first grade classrooms this week I noticed how difficult it was for so many students to sit on the floor in an upright position. They were tipping over, lying down, rolling around…(in other words, normal kid behavior in most situations). But as I saw the teachers reminding and redirecting in order to get the students’ attention, many were struggling to sit upright in a comfortable position.
What if it’s not attention, but core strength that needs more stamina?
I don’t think it is an either/or proposition, but I wondered how we could help our kiddos develop more core strength. I think the first step may be to talk to them about it. Maybe a conversation like…
“Hey kids, I notice it is hard or a lot of us to sit upright for awhile on the rug. We need to build up our bodies’ muscles so that we can sit comfortably and have stronger bodies. The muscles in our tummies and back are called our core. We use our core to help us sit and move. Try to tighten up your tummy muscles. What you are feeling is part of your core.”
Then we can remind and encourage students as they fidget that they are working on building up their core, the more they sit upright the stronger it is getting. We can also try to implement a few core strengthening activities (and perhaps talk to our phys ed teachers about some games and activities as well)
Here are a few resources I researched. Not surprisingly they come from parenting and child development sites. They might good for us to share with our students’ families.
Another idea might be to consider variations in sitting posture for our students. I know space is often limited, but are there opportunities for students to try a non-criss-cross-applesauce posture? This video goes over 4 basic ground positions:
- Cross Sit Position
- Bent Sit Position
- Side Bent Sit Position
- Long Sit Position
I am certainly not advocating that students need to sit still and upright like robots in order to be paying attention. (The teacher in the photo above recognizes that we don’t all have to sit the same way to attend and learn.) And I’m not saying this will cure all attention issues. Human beings are complex critters. We know some of our kiddos lack healthy diets and sleep regimens, are struggling with issues of trauma, may suffer from ADHD or mental illness, or are developmentally delayed. These can all contribute to a lack of attention. But giving our student some awareness and tools to help them build stronger bodies and minds is what we are all about as teachers. There are benefits to floor sitting that can help with strength, flexibility, and physical fitness. Let’s tap into them. I’d love to know what you’ve tried and what works for your kiddos.
Here’s to a strong start to this school year.
One More Off My TBR Stack
SONG FOR A WHALE by Lynne Kelly
Twelve year old Iris is a genius at fixing up radios, what makes it even more remarkable is that she is deaf. Iris feels isolated as the only deaf person in her school and a father who barely knows sign language. She becomes fascinated with Blue 55, a whale who is unable to speak to other whales. Iris empathizes with him and devises a plan to sing to him using what she knows about radio frequencies and technology. But Blue 55 lives in the Pacific and she lives in Texas. Thus begins an unlikely adventure with her deaf grandmother who is grieving the death of her grandfather. Together they try to find ways to heal their loneliness and that of Blue 55. A great book for anyone longing for connection. Based on the life of a real whale (Blue 52).