Moving to Learn: improving attention in the classroom setting for elementary school children
Bateman, Kristin Diane
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As a result of increased academic rigor and limited movement opportunities during the school day, students may have more limited focus and difficulty in maintaining attention in the classroom (McMurrer, 2007; Stark, Rentner, & Kober 2014; Common Core State Standards 2014). As students have more difficulty maintaining attention, their learning can be affected and impaired. As the trend for increased academic rigor continues, teachers need strategies to help students maintain attention, such as movement breaks, classroom environmental modifications, and alternative seating suggestions that can be incorporated throughout the day and that do not impede on time spent on academic curriculum guidelines. The research is clear that occupational therapists should focus on best practice including multi-faceted approaches that meet the needs of the children and incorporate self-regulation and sensory integration strategies (Schaaf & Davies, 2010; Cohn, Kramer, Schub, & May-Benson 2014; Reynolds, Glennon, Ausderau, Bendixen, Kuhaneck, Pfeiffer, Watling, Wilkinson, & Bodison, 2017). Interventions in the proposed program will focus on three sensory integration strategies including the use of alternative seating in the classroom by students, modifying the classroom environment through consultation and strategies with the teacher and classroom staff to increase student focus and limit distractions and using classroom-based movement and physical activities. These specific approaches offer a variety of supports in the classroom setting to all children, as well as those with disabilities to help them obtain and maintain optimal attention for learning. The Moving to Learn program will take place for 12 weeks, unless additional consultation time is needed on an individual basis. The program starts with a two-hour in-service and training for regular education and special education teachers during their extended day time. During phase two, the occupational therapist will meet with teachers in small groups, preferably by grade level, in a consultation format in order give them the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the students in need of specific intervention. The occupational therapist will observe specific students in the classroom, following up to see and address the teachers’ concerns. Moving to Learn will be offered first during the Fall Semester of the school year in the school at which that I currently work, but will be offered both in the winter and spring semesters as well to other schools within the Springfield Public School District. Following the implementation of this program in a target elementary school building, teachers will participate in scoring satisfaction surveys. As Moving to Learn is offered in new parts of the school district, more teachers will share to continue the excitement of this important program.