Improving Body Awareness in the Classroom

WRITTEN BY MICHELLE BROWN

What can we do in the classroom to help students have better control of their bodies?

Do you have students you would describe as:

  • clumsy
  • awkward and/or moves stiffly
  • bumps into things
  • trips or falls
  • constantly moving and touching
  • chewing on clothes or objects
  • stands too close (or too far) from people or objects
  • struggles with organizing written work on the page
  • has challenges with printing and cutting activities
  • has difficulty following directions that use positional language (eg: over, under, in or out, left or right)
  • has difficulty in PE
  • craves rough play, jumping, crashing, pushing, hanging
  • seems weak
  • watches his/her feet during walking or running
  • seems like a space cadet

These descriptions are often the result of a student having reduced body awareness, poor spatial awareness and/or difficulties with receiving and organizing the sensory information coming in from their environment. 

Many of these children have low muscle tone (or weak muscles) especially in their trunk (postural muscles).  When someone has weakness in their core, it is difficult to have strength and coordination in the limbs.  Some students may have been diagnosed with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), Sensory Integration Dysfunction, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  They may be designated as severe behaviour. Or, not have a diagnosis at all.

Regardless, these children need to learn how to function more optimally in their school environment.

Here are some activities you can use right in the classroom to develop improved body awareness:

  • Proper positioning at classroom desk – always start here! (refer to 5 Ways to Help Kids Sit in Class for more details)
  • Action songs, Simon Says or any games requiring locating body parts
  • Brain gym® activities
  • Draw a person activities
  • Teach calm breathing to get an awareness of the body when it is quiet
  • Use their muscles to develop weak muscles, especially postural muscles, such as:  running, cleaning the board, wall push ups, jumping jacks, handing out textbooks (also see Deep Pressure and Heavy Work Activities at School for more ideas)
  • Teach direction, distance, and location by using words such as:  in and out, front and back, next to and between, left and right, or near and far (eg: your journal is beside the math books, inside the drawer)
  • Encourage fast movers to slow down
  • Teach that everyone has a personal space bubble
  • Allow alternative work positions (eg: standing, lying on tummy, sitting while leaning into cushions, etc.)
  • Stomp feet (increases awareness to feet and legs)
  • Chair bum lifts (increases awareness to arms and trunk)
  • Trial wiggle cushions, stretchy band around chair legs, wobble stools and ball chairs (as the movement from such items gives the body information about where it is in space)

 Ideas for outside of the classroom:

  • Load up student’s arms with weighted items while in hallways to keep arms occupied and to give more body input
  • Set up obstacle courses to navigate through
  • Do balance games (stand like a statue, statue on one leg, walking along a line, walking on/around objects on the floor, balance a bean bag on your head, hopscotch)
  • Play ball games, throwing games using targets to judge distance
  • Follow directions on a map

Action Plan:

ENSURE DESK SET UP IS OPTIMAL!  Look at how the student manages with action songs and drawing a person.  This will give you an idea of where they are.  Then pick 2-3 strategies and incorporate them into your classroom routine with your challenged students.  Get your students to report back on how they are working.

Let me know how it goes!

Good luck!  And as always, be the hero you are meant to be!

Courtesy photo by AGB in AR, Creative Commons

Author: Michelle Brown
Michelle Brown is an occupational therapist and has been helping people since 1996.

You can find out more about Michelle Brown here: http://www.specialkidshero.com
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