Active Sitting: Creating Comfort and Concentration for Fidgety Students
Last updated on August 23rd, 2021
Sitting still in class is a challenge. Active Seating is the solution.
In the early 20th century, progressive educator John Dewey famously unbolted desks from the floor, arguing that the quality of one’s education stems from experience. Today, both educators and researchers alike have taken Dewey’s enlightened thinking one step further by acknowledging movement not only encourages activity and discourages sedentary behavior, but also enhances students’ ability to engage in learning.
Traditional classroom seating is rigid, static and restrictive when it comes to allowing movement and, for some students, sitting still for hours on end is a real challenge.
For these students--some of which may have learning disabilities such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or even sensory perception disorders--having the ability to move about freely is critically important when it comes to being able to focus on classroom work.
Yet, many schools still aim to tame student’s physical movements, rather than incorporate them into the learning process. For students who need to fidget to focus, this sort of restrictive nature can curtail their overall learning potential.
Fortunately, many schools around the country are radically changing their approach to classroom design to include active seating, which encourages movement and allows fidgety students to focus on the lesson, rather than the challenge of sitting still.
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What is Active Sitting?
Active sitting, also known as dynamic sitting, is seating that naturally encourages us to stay in motion, rather than passively relaxing into a slouch or attempt to rigidly hold a “correct” pose.
The Furniture Industry Research Association argues that, unlike traditional classroom seating, active seating, “accommodates natural movements and boasts a range of benefits including better spinal positions, muscle stimulation, blood circulation, and neurochemical processes that promote concentration.” One of the simplest examples of active seating is a “sitting donut," which is a flat circular air filled rubber disk that can be placed on a chair or on the floor to encourage user movement.
Students will find a way to move around regardless of the type of chair they’re sitting in. Because traditional school seating lacks the flexibility of active sitting, students often resort to creating their own movement by leaning the chair back on two legs and frequently shifting their position on the chair.
Forced movement such as this can lead to tight muscles, soreness or even physical injury.
How Active Seating Helps Students Focus
Movement, when channeled correctly, actually helps students focus. A 2008 research study found that children need to move while conducting a complicated mental task, according to a National Education Association article.
The study also found that “children, especially those with ADHD fidgeted more when a task required them to store and process information rather than just hold it. This is why students are often restless while doing math or reading, but not while watching a movie.”
Active seating is fidget-friendly, so, for children who squirm in their seats and can’t resist the impulse to move, it’s a way to channel their excess energy into constructive activities. Active seating acknowledges a child’s need to move, but at the same time, keeps them sitting still enough so that teachers and other students may continue lessons uninterrupted.
This is in contrast to forward-facing and rigid seating, which can result in poor attention, poor memory and ultimately, lower achievement scores. In turn, this has an impact on teachers, principals and administrators, who have to have to spend extra time and resources to keep these students engaged in class.
Creating a Fidget-Friendly Classroom
Smith System® has multiple active seating options, such as the Flavors® Noodle Chair as well as both the Groove® Noodle Chair and Oodle® stool. While the Flavors® Noodle Chair allows for the most movement, the standard Flavors®, Groove® and Theorem® chairs all offer ergonomic advantages over traditional school seating.
To expand, the Noodle Chair offers back support and is designed to integrate seamlessly with Smith System’s existing Flavors® Seating product line. This is especially helpful if the majority of students in a class use traditional or non-active school seating. The particularly antsy student in class assigned to the Noodle chair is able to blend in and avoid the risk of being seen as different or outsiders because of his or her needs.
The Flavors® Noodle Chair looks like an average classroom chair but discreetly houses a patented suspension system underneath the seat pan that allows students to shift slightly to the back, front and both sides. Its discreet design helps students feel comfortable. In addition, it has prominent cutouts in the back, which means that if a student wants to turn around or face another direction, he or she does not necessarily have to turn the entire chair around.
This is an example of how the Flavors® Noodle disrupting the learning process, other students, or the teacher.
Helping Every Student Succeed
In today’s fast paced world of iPads, instant gratification and continuously narrowing attention spans, keeping a child engaged and sitting still in class can be a considerable task. For children with ADD, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder or other learning disabilities, it can be even more difficult to stay engaged. Many of these students have a “constant need for movement-based sensory input, which is why many students are fidgeting, slouching or even chewing on pencils.”
Unfortunately, students typically don’t receive the amount of physical activity or free time that their bodies need, which can lead to restlessness in class and can diminish their ability to focus and concentrate on complicated tasks.
Active seating can really make all the difference in this regard. Unlike traditionally rigid and restrictive school seating, active seating encourages student movement and incorporates it into the learning process. It gives students who need to move a better chance at success in school because they don’t have to constantly fight the restrictive nature of their chair. Instead, they can use their chair’s flexibility to their advantage.
- "Active Seating in the Special Needs Classroom." ESpecial Needs Blog. 11 Aug. 2014. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.
- "Active Seating- Is It a Right Move for Your Classroom?" All Things Office Church Daycare and School Furniture Educational Specialty Furniture News from Worthington Direct RSS. 16 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.
- "Active Sitting for Active Minds - Math Mom with a Blog." Math Mom with a Blog. 21 Feb. 2015. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.
- Bright, Rebecca. "Kids Who Can't Sit Still." Kid's Who Can't Sit Still. National Education Association. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.
- "Safe Seats of Learning." https://www.fira.co.uk/document/safe-seats-of-learning.pdf. FIRA. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.
- "Why Do We Make Students Sit Still in Class?" CNN. Cable News Network. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.
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