“RESTLESS STUDENT SYNDROME” and what to do about it…

Just kidding. There is no such thing as “Restless Student Syndrome”–except, of course, that THERE IS. We all deal with it on a regular basis, whether we’re parents or educators or both.

We can find logical causes (physical inactivity, too much screen time, no experience playing in a forest ♥), but what to do when we’re in the moment?

I have only 30 to 40 minutes with each reading student, so taking a break to toss a ball, run around the parking lot, or anything similar, isn’t possible because it cuts into the child’s learning time.

Restless Student Syndrome at work!

Restless Student Syndrome at work!

I applaud the classrooms that use “hyperactive desks.” Have you seen them? Those ingenious school desks sport a foot rest underneath the desk, which is actually designed to give no rest at all: while doing classwork, the student can endlessly push the foot bar back and forth, discharging excess energy. (When I was a kid, we discharged that energy by climbing trees and riding our bikes for hours a day…just sayin’. We were lucky; the world is so different for children today!)

So what to do? Typically, the restless student is going to morph into wildly inventive positions on the chair, the table, on whatever he can reach with any part of his anatomy. I get it. He’s been sitting all day in a classroom, and now he gets to sit in mine. We’ve already started the reading session with some energetic Brain Gym. Now what? The best “quick fix” I’ve found is to do away with the chair and the table entirely.

The end zone in this scenario is the wall. I tape whatever he’s reading to the wall if it’s a sheet of paper; if it’s a book, use a music stand up against the wall, or even better, photocopy the page you’re working on and tape it to the wall. The fewer items in his visual field and the fewer items he can touch, the better.


Go To The Wall!

This solution worked perfectly with the student in this picture, who had been trying to wrap her body simultaneously around the chair, the table, the lamp…Part of the success is reducing the visual field, as I mentioned: that enables the child to focus more easily. Notice her use of a “pointer” (unsharpened pencil) and the eye-level position of the reading assignment.

This idea also has the added benefit of removing the teacher from her visual field; this keeps a student from searching for the correct word on the teacher’s face rather than using her decoding ability. I don’t have to use my “Eyes on paper!” mantra.

What tips do you have to add? How do you treat “Restless Student Syndrome” if leaving the room or taking a break aren’t options? Leave a comment!


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