Teacher's Corner: How to Use Exercise Cards to Manage The Fidgety Student
We are all fidgety, to some extent. Think for a second, in the last 30 minutes, how many times have you moved in your seat? How often did you bring your attention back to what you were working on? How many random thoughts have you brushed off? How many cups of coffee have you had already? How many times have you checked your phone? You get the idea, right? All of us fidget, and our brains are working hard to focus and process. As an adult, we have managed to handle our stress, anxiety, fatigue, and boredom with socially acceptable activities. We get up and get some coffee, we stretch, we move, we adjust our posture, we excuse ourselves and go for a walk, we get something to eat or drink, and some even go out for a run or hit the gym. I might go for a chocolate cake :)
Now, think of your students. They are going through the same things and more. Besides, their little brains are still maturing, and they have no idea what is appropriate or socially acceptable. If they have any kind of special needs, then the problem multiplies. So, why do they move around? Because their bodies NEED to move around. The best way to address the fidgety child is to have them FIDGET, have them move and move a lot.
Fidgety students are usually exhausting most of their energy to be still. They will have a little left over to focus and learn. If you meet their movement needs, you will increase their ability to focus. Same with everyone, right? We are a lot more focused, confident, and ready to be productive after a good workout or activity of choice.
I regularly get asked by teachers for movement breaks and sensory diet. The most straightforward and easy way to do movement breaks is to use exercise cards. All you need is a deck of exercise cards that are age appropriate for your class. Below are some of the exercise cards that I use at work and with my children at home. The reason I like exercise cards is that they are safe and the student can do the exercise independently.
Age Appropriate Exercise Cards: there are a lot of options out there but here are the ones that I like and some I plan to try out. You want to use age-appropriate ones to get the students to be interested. You don’t want to ask your teenage student to hop like a frog. Okay, here you go...
Ways to play exercise cards:
1) Draw a Card: a student or yourself draw an exercise card, and everyone gets to move together.
2) Stations: create stations throughout the classroom and have your students rotate from one station to the next after completing all the exercise cards in each section.
3) Races: You can set it up in so many different ways. The easiest one is to do it on the playground. Set up 4-5 cards stations about 10ft - 20ft apart, divide your students into teams and have a race. The students will have to complete all stations before tagging their teammates.
4) Structured Exercise Sessions: pick out exercise cards and put them in the order you want them performed. I found this method to work best for older kids and teenagers. You can use a yoga flow like the Sun Salutation or come up with a routine that works best for your students.
*Tip: try the flow on yourself before you attempt it with your students.
5) Free Choice: divide the class into small groups and hand out exercise cards in advance. Put a timer for 5-10 minutes and let the students exercise in their groups. You know your students and how much freedom they should have. This is probably a better choice during rainy days when recess moves to the classroom. It is less structured but somewhat manageable.
6) Individual: for those specific students who need an extra movement break, you can choose exercises they can do while you are teaching the rest of the students. Ideally, these kids are independent and can follow directions. Pick about 5 - 7 cards and have them easily accessible for the students. During set schedule or as needed, help the student to go to a corner or outside the classroom to exercise for about 5 minutes and get back to class.
You don’t need any more equipment except for some space to move around and a deck of cards. I personally use these kind of cards at home with my 2.5 year or and 5 year old kids.
1. FitDeck Kids Exercise Playing Cards - guided workouts, 52 cards
2. Super Duper Publication Move Your Body - educational learning resources for children
3. Upper Body and Core Strength Exercises - Super Duper Publications
I hope you find these ideas helpful. It doesn't take much to create movement breaks for kids, but with these types of exercise cards, you can quickly meet some of your students' sensory needs and help them focus. Consult a trained professional or an occupational therapist if these kind of accommodation is not meeting your specific student.