10 Tips To Get Your Students To Sit Quietly In Class/Circle Time

Girl Sitting LearningIt can be hard to get children to sit still in circle time or at a desk. Ideally, we can take the time to see why a child may be having trouble. For those that are young, fidgety or distracted, we need to know they are not doing it to bother us, and we need to have strategies to help them be more attentive. Remember, some children can sit still longer than others. Others children need to fidget or move because their nervous systems just are made that way.

Here are some ideas and strategies for assisting restless kids:

#1-Use a visual cue. For example, if the teacher is reading Spot, the children can hold beanbags, and every time the teacher says Spot’s name, the children have to toss the beanbag into the bucket. This keeps him attentive!

#2-Use carpet squares or bean bag chairs. Space the kids out so they are not on top of each other!

#3-Some kids can not sit unsupported (and unless you are super strong in your core, you can’t, either!). Make sure you identify these kids, and lean them against the wall, let them lie down, or give them a chair with feet on the ground.!

#4-Have the kids stand up, sit down, get involved with the story, and listen for some name or place in the story to stay attentive.

#5-Use a checklist so that kids follow and check off as things are said or done.

#6-Use multi-sensory teaching strategies. March around while doing multiplication tables, have the children stand up while speaking, and develop fun routines during the day to that will get the kids moving around.

#7-Make sure kids have proper chair and desk heights – loose legs will cause loose lips and distracted brains!

#8-Have the children chant back at you when you use certain sayings. For instance, if the teacher says, “The only one stopping you is…”, the class answers, “you!” They know that will come up daily, so they are more attentive

#9-Be proactive, not reactive. If a child seems to have attention issues, refer him for a neuropsychological evaluation. Figure out why sooner rather than than later.

#10-Use visual schedules and timers so the kids know what to expect and know how to stay on task.

Deborah Michael

Deborah Michael, MS, OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist and the founder of North Shore Pediatric Therapy. She is a professional advisory committee member of the Autism Society of Illinois. She is also a mother of five children. Her life’s passion has been to improve the lives of children and their families.

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4 replies
  1. Arezz says:

    I am a preschool teacher and I have a hard time getting children to stop imitating others behaviors such as running in the classroom and refusing to walk in a line what do I do?

    Reply
    • Lila says:

      I have the same problem, because if one does it then they all try to do it…maybe try making a friendship chain and have them all hold hands, praise the ones who are following directions, because then the others will want to get praised too,or sometimes I do a CHOO-Choo train down the hall and make it a game, when ever so ofter saying chugga chugga chugga chugga choo-choo choo, repeate again then saying freeze, they really seem to like that one, it’s like a game to them…hope that little bit helps:)

      Reply
  2. Anna Everson says:

    I need some advice! Please.
    I nanny a 2.5 yr. old. We recently tried a library – story time class. During the entire event, he was running all over the room, not listening to the teacher, or his father to sit down and stay seated. He was also cutting in-between the other kids and making it so they couldn’t see the book. After the teacher’s eighth time of telling the child to sit down on his bottom and still not paying attention, we left. Being the only child out of 20 + that was acting that way, it’s pretty discouraging. I want to know what I can do at home to help change this behavior in public. This happens also at gym class. If we attempt to make his sit, he throws a tantrum. If he’s smart enough to use an ipad, then he’s smart enough to listen when we say sit. It’s not acceptable behavior at all. What about bringing his favorite blanket to the class and having him sit on that? Again, I”m open to any suggestions. Thanks! – discouraged nanny

    Reply
    • LibbyGalin says:

      Hi Anna,

      Here are some thoughts from our social worker:

      For most two and a half year olds, sitting quietly during story time at a public library is a tall request. Children that age are learning how to control their energy level and it’s likely that during gym class and story time, excitement level is high. If he generally has a lot of energy, it would be helpful to attend an event like that during a time of day when his energy level is typically lower. I would recommend taking some time to warm up to the library first and letting the boy explore the area and get comfortable before asking him to sit quietly. Also, be sure to take into account how he is in other settings when being read to or asked to sit quietly (not including in front of tv). When asking him to do a task like this, I would try starting small– asking him to sit quietly for 2minutes, then 5 minutes, then 10, etc. If the boy always has a difficult time regulating his energy level, I may recommend speaking to an OT as well.

      Reply

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