being a student, being a teacher, student choice, Student dreams, student driven, Student Engagement

Some Ideas for Channeling High Energy Needs Into Better Learning Opportunities

I have the honor of teaching an incredible bunch of very energetic kids this year.  Their kinesthetic energy level is high throughout the day, couple that with some also voicing loudly how bored they are in school and I have the best kind of challenge ahead.  This will be a year to remember.

So I have been googling, I have been asking, and I have been spending a lot of time trying to think of ways to channel their energy into something great.  Not to get them to quiet down necessarily but to get to a place where their energy is a tool rather than a hindrance.  I have a lot to learn still, but a few things I have tried I thought I would share with others who may have the same awesome challenge we do.

Yoga balls.  I have invested in 18 yoga balls and while the bouncing drives me a little bit nutty at times, I cannot help but marvel at the sight.  After all, if this is what the kids need even right away in the morning then I cannot imagine putting them in regular chairs.  Sure we have popped a few in the 6 months I have had them but when I am at a super store I pick up a few more just in case.  Note; I have not switched all of my chairs for yoga balls because for some kids they are a nuisance or a distraction.  Besides paying attention to their preferred seating arrangement is also giving me clues to their personality.  We also have other alternate seating such as bean bags, exercise bands around the chair legs, office chairs and regular old chairs, but the yoga balls have made the biggest difference.


Switching up seating arrangement.  I am a huge proponent of “choose your own seat” but this year in a few of my classes I have been doing a little bit of seat arranging to spread the energy.  You see, when I have one really high energy cluster they may get really sidetracked but when I disperse the kids throughout the classroom their energy transfer to the new group.  This does not always work and I am still tweaking it to get it right, but I like what I am seeing so far.

Picture book read alouds as calming tools.  I end my days with a group of amazing boys.  They are bouncing off of the walls by the time they get to me so sometimes trying to teach them is like a game of who can interrupt the most.  Not because they are rude but because they are wired and excited.  Today I had them sit on the floor with me, away from anything they could fiddle with and then read them Where the Wild Things Are in honor of Banned Books Week.  I read it in the most soothing of voices, even when the Wild Things roar, and it was incredible.  Immediately their demeanor changed, their voices hushed and for a few moments we got to work at a level of concentration and focus that I had not seen for a while.  There is something incredible about the power of a great read aloud.  There is something incredible about story time on the floor.

The turn and talk.  When I teach my kids, i know I cannot be the only voice in the room so very little of our discussion is done in whole group, instead we utilize the turn and talk almost constantly.  My students want to share, they want to discuss, they want to participate and so I need to make sure they all have the chance.  Not just those that have enough courage to raise their hands in the air.

Incorporate brain games.  I work with really smart people and one of them suggested I use some of the same brain games that another colleague had used.  Genius.  So in some of my classes, when we have worked for 15 to 20 minutes, the students will get 3 to 5 minutes of brain game time.  All of our brain games are cooperative not competitive.  All of them have very few props and are easy for kids to participate in.  We play tri-bond, we build card houses, stack cups, hit a ball through the air as many times as we can without it falling to the ground and we do riddles.  I am searching for more brain game activities to do with the kids as I see the benefit of them using their brains in a different way after working hard for awhile.

Writing before speaking.  My students all process at different speeds and some times the very first thoughts that come to mind are not always the deepest.  So we have started a write before we speak routine whenever they are doing formal discussion.  It is simple; each child has access to a whiteboard (or they write right on the tables covered in whiteboard contact paper) and before they discuss something they take a few moments to write down their thoughts.  Having these few minutes to gather their wits, channel their energy and also come up with something interesting to say means that all of the students have a better chance of being a part of the learning.

The right to move.  Students in our classroom have the right to move as they learn.  They are not asked to sit down; they can stand, nor are they are asked to sit still.  As long as their movements do not distract others, they are perfectly fine.  This is important because for some of our kids they listen better when they are in movement.  They learn better when they have control over their bodies.

I know I need more ideas than this.  I know I am only scratching the surface as far as incorporating more movement into our days but at least this is a start.  This is a way for me to think more consciously about the need for movement and to embrace needs of all of the children that enter our classroom rather than just the quiet, compliant ones.  So if you have more ideas please let me know, I would love to be inspired by your great ideas.

I am currently working on a new literacy book.  While the task is daunting and intimidating, it is incredible to once again get to share the phenomenal words of my students as they push me to be a better teacher.  The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

9 thoughts on “Some Ideas for Channeling High Energy Needs Into Better Learning Opportunities”

  1. Fifth grade students in my classroom all use yoga balls. It surprised me that I had a harder time adjusting to the balls than the students did. Students that previously were not in motion were now in motion. We have a few simple rules. Two feet must stay on the floor, their bottoms must stay in contact with the ball and when it’s their time to speak, they must remain still or stand up. This is the third year for the balls. I have decided that flexible seating is a very kind thing to offer students.

    Use of white boards to organize thinking is a great strategy. I plan on trying this starting tomorrow.

    Thanks for sharing so many useful ideas and book reviews.

  2. We also use yoga balls, but we’ve purchased ones with feet so they don’t roll. After losing so many of them to popping or slow leaks, we discovered hoki stools, which our students love and they work really well, too. They have a rounded bottom, so there is lots of motion involved in sitting on them. They are more expensive than the balls, but since they don’t pop, and take up less floor space, we think the investment has been worth it.

    Thanks for the other good ideas!

  3. Great ideas! A few others I use to help that energy level is Brain Gym-kinesthetic movement activities by Paul and Gail Dennison, go noodle or u-tube brain break dance and movement videos and trampoline center- I have a mini trampoline which they bounce on while they silently spell one spelling word, math fact, grammar pairs, etc.. then go to the end of the line, in a small group of 2-4 to take another turn as they go down the list. They love it. I have also used hop scotch squares made out of tape on the floor which they hop through while reciting a spelling word, math facts, etc..There is also a great rocking stool(shaped like a spool of thread) I forget the name, they like those, especially for the kids with balance/carelessness issues(no falling). Also bean bags, dice games(#, letters, words, dots, symbols) where they are moving things. Have a great day and keep up the good work.

  4. Hi Pernille,
    I’m currently reading a book called “Teach like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess. Your post reminded me of his book. He has lots of suggestions for the classroom in the latter part of his book. Thought you might be interested.
    By the way, thanks for your inspiration. You validate my thinking and I’m able to show your posts to colleagues who might need to think a little differently.

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