In most primary classrooms, there are two main areas: a desk or table area for students to sit at while doing independent or center work, and a carpet or rug area for gathering. It is common practice for teachers to require students to sit “criss-cross applesauce” with their legs neatly folded and their hands to themselves when seated in the rug area. The reasons for this are obvious – the teacher wants all students to be able to see the lesson and not bother other students. (Secretly, I think it gives teachers and teeniest illusion of classroom control as well.) There are even rugs designed entirely with teachers in mind – rows of perfectly sized rectangles in bright colors to encourage students to “stay in their box.”
After years of working with “out of the box” students, I really began to question this practice. With so much research out there about the benefit of movement, I began to wonder if criss-cross applesauce was really necessary. So I started paying attention to my students – especially the wiggly ones. I began playing around with moving them to the back few rows and encouraging them to sit on their knees, kneel, or even stand (gasp!). Our budget does not allow for modern standing desks or exercise balls, but giving students a little bit of choice was free, and very manageable.
We discussed the expectations ahead of time – students couldn’t block another student’s vision and they couldn’t touch another student. Allowing this change kept those wiggly students more engaged. They had a better vantage point (think self-made stadium seating) and engaged their bodies with the slightest bit of movement. The ones who preferred criss-cross applesauce weren’t affected – they just went about business as usual.
Sometimes as educators we need to recognize the amount of energy it takes to fight a losing battle, such as requiring all students to sit the same way. If students are completing a sustained, silent-reading exercise, why is it necessary for them to be seated at a chair? Is the point of the exercise for the students to practice sitting, or practice reading? Does it really hurt anyone else in the classroom if some students lie down or stand while others sit?
Allowing students to sit in a way that is more comfortable for their bodies is an easy accommodation that you can implement immediately.
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