Toolbox for Teachers

The need for classroom sensory supports, tools, and strategies has steadily increased over the last few years. Trends of increased screen time, less opportunity for movement, and fewer breaks in the school day has a direct impact on a child’s attention to task, focus, and self-regulation (mood, emotions, and behavior).

The following are some “tools” for your teachers’ toolbox to help students succeed in the classroom and throughout their school day – and they are time and cost efficient! We have you covered—from head to toe!

1)HEAD

Movement is a must! Our brains need sensory input at least every 90 minutes. Movement increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Beyond utilizing what recess time is available, here are other strategies to support engagement and development. These are big muscle activities that are quick, easy, and usually most effective when done with rhythm and at a steady pace (ie: on a count of 10).

  • Wall pushes, wall push-ups
  • Isometric exercises such as palm pushes, hand pulls
  • Chair push-ups
  • Cross crawls (arms up, hand comes down to touch opposite knee, alternate sides)
  • Jumping jacks
  • Animal walks
  • Yoga

2)EYES

  • Work on a vertical surface and tape the paper to the wall
  • Tape together (side by side) a couple of two- or three-inch 3-ring binders and use as writing or reading surface. The slant helps take strain off of the eyes.
  • Use natural light whenever possible

3)EARS

  • Soft background music
  • Quiet spaces for those that get overwhelmed by sound

4)MOUTH

  • Oral input can often provide calming and organizing input.
  • Chewing gum
  • Suck drinks through straws or water bottle throughout the day

5)HANDS

  • Broken crayons or short pencils to promote proper grasp
  • Age appropriate tool use – scissors, tweezers, tongs, etc.
  • Hand fidgets (squeeze balls, paper clips, rubber bands, pipe cleaners, pencil toppers, Velcro for them to place in or on their desk)

6)BOTTOM

Appropriately-sized seating. The rule of 90 (hips, knees, ankles, and elbows resting on table should all be at 90° angles. This help kids focus on what is being taught, not on keeping themselves upright and stable.

Alternative seating options to try:

  • Sitting on an exercise ball
  • Slightly inflated beach ball on a chair
  • Cut tennis balls and place on the bottom of 2-3 chair legs to provide an unevenness to the chair
  • Exercise band across the legs of their desk or chair to kick into
  • Short periods of being on tummies on the floor, kneeling at desks, standing, etc.

7)FEET

  • Balance on one foot
  • March/ stomp in transition
  • Wrapping feet around the legs of the chair

It helps to remember that humans are sensory beings, and our learning – starting in infancy - depends on exposure to sensory stimulation (light, sound, taste, touch, and movement). Addressing those sensory needs can make all the difference!

-Alex Schema is an occupational therapist, former classroom teacher, and a mom of young children.

Call us for details: In Sioux Falls, 605-444-9700. In Sioux City, 712-226-ABLE (2253). In Rapid City, 605-791-7400.

Learn more about our therapy services here.

Alex Schema, OTR/L Occupational Therapist, Lifescape