Saturday, February 27, 2010

"At Attention" vs. Topsy Turvy

Why do we demand that students face the front with eyes on the adult during a talk or lecture?  Read this post on Everyone Listens Differently and see if you change your expectations for attention.  The bottom line is, know your students.  Know what engages them.  Know what  "participation" looks like for them. 

I have a fourth grade student with autism.  His instructional assistant is a little perplexed by his listening style, but doesn't try to change it. "He'll sit leaning off the chair with his head upside down but when I ask him about what the teacher was saying, he knows it all."  As an OT, I recognize that his is getting needed vestibular input through the positional change in his head.  This can be quite alerting.  As a student of Tai Chi, I can hear my instructor say. "Everybody needs to spend some part of their day upside down."

I have another fourth grade boy with ADHD who struggles to stay focused in his seat.  He disrupts others by talking and moving around.  I asked him what would help him in class.  Without hesitation he said "a chair that swivels".  I had just visited the site The Third Teacher and read this passage:

‘Growing bodies have a natural need to move,’ explains Dr. Dieter Breithecker, Europe’s foremost expert on the relationship between ergonomic design in educational furniture and the physical development of school children. ‘Increased opportunities to move while seated, including rocking, swiveling, and rolling, improve blood flow and oxygen to the brain, thereby increasing attention and concentration levels.’
Idea # 22 fom the site is Swivel to Attention
Give students furniture that lets them twist and lean safely. The movement will increase their ability to concentrate.
My student knew what he needed.  There is a biological need behind it.  It is not just something "fun and frivolous". 

Know what  "participation" looks like for your students.