How Active Sitting Leads to Active Learning

A young developing brain requires various types of motion to develop important foundational skills for learning. The sensory system that responds to movement helps to coordinate the eyes, hands and body for fine motor and gross motor activities.

Many people move or fidget unconsciously when they are working. Some people tap their foot, shake their legs, or change positions when seated. These are all unconscious strategies we use to help us pay attention. Some children may need more movement than their peers to help them organize their bodies for school work. The rhythmic sway of a rocking chair can have calming and organizing effects that will help a child to “settle in” and be ready to work.

Some children may need more movement than their peers to help them organize their bodies for school work.

Studies have shown that dynamic seating improves a student’s ability to participate and engage more effectively in class. Children who appear to have disruptive behaviours, such as tilting in their chairs or standing up, may, in fact, be unconsciously providing themselves with movement or other sensory input (i.e. heavy work, touch, fidgeting, chewing) in order to learn.

Active sitting leads to active learning. Depending on the individual needs and age, every child may learn differently. While some do well in static chairs, others do better in seating that provides movement. Think of the students that sit on their feet, rock back in their chairs, are constantly out of their seat, fidgeting or who are impulsive. These students may be seeking movement needed to better attend to their lesson.

Zuma Rocker
The Zuma rocker provides movement experiences that allow the student the input he or she needs to maintain attention without being disruptive to the natural environment of the classroom

In a typical classroom of about 30, about 10-20% of children have a difficult time remaining seated or paying attention. While the learning styles and need for movement varies among each child, it seems that having at least 3-5 rocking chairs available to the students is a good starting point. In younger grades, it may be beneficial to have more opportunities for dynamic seating as the sensory systems are still developing.

In one study, by occupational and physical therapists, about 70% of children preferred using dynamic seating. The study saw benefits for children with diagnosis of ADHD, oppositional defiant, and severe behaviour disorder. Although students, without diagnosis, rated dynamic seating as preferred or comfortable.


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, gdsteam.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.