Get moving! Tech tools and tips to help students be calm and attentive


Getting students to pay attention in class is a challenge that every teacher understands. For good or bad, in the United States there is increased emphasis on academics and decreased opportunities for movement in school. It is now left up to teachers to figure out how to help students “get their wiggles out” so they can focus on their lessons.

This was the topic of “Meeting the Developmental Needs of All Learners Through Movement and Design” at the #COETC16 conference Michigan State University. Occupational therapists Stacy Turke and Jodie Fowler of Ingham Intermediate School District presented some strategies for using mindful movement to improve learning.

  • Go Noodle provides hundred of free videos that get kids active.
  • Brain Gym has published several YouTube videos which exercise both sides of the brain.
  • More recess! This article  describes what happened when an elementary school decided to give three times as many recess breaks, for a total of an hour a day. The school followed recommendations provided by Liink Project, an organization dedicated to increasing recess to achieve greater academic achievement.

Stacy and Jodie also demonstrated the following group exercise to get kids ready to listen. They recommended using it after recess. It takes just a few minutes and they said it never fails to make the class so quiet you could hear a pin drop. The Brain Buttons, Cross Crawl and Hook Ups exercises are demonstrated on the BrainGym video.

  1. Water sip: Have the kids take a zip of water, ideally from a water bottle if they have one.
  2. Brain Buttons (30 seconds): Place the thumb and forefinger of one hand directly beneath your clavicle and massage gently. Place the other hand on your stomack. Continue for 15 seconds, then switch hands for 15 seconds.
  3. Cross Crawl (20 reps): Touch your left hand to your right ankle, then switch and touch your right hand to your left ankle.
  4. Thinking Caps (30 seconds): Put your index finger and thumb together and place them directly in front of your ear for 10 seconds. Move your fingers so your index finger is on top of your ear and your thumb is on your ear lobe, and hold for 10 seconds. Gently pinch the top of your ear to straighten out the curve as best you can, and hold for 10 seconds.
  5. Hook Ups (30 seconds): Extend your arms in front of you and cross your wrists. Clasp your hands together, then bend your elbows to bring your hands next to your chest. Relax your breathing. Continue for 20 seconds.

For more no-tech, no-cost ideas, see Stacy’s article, “Using heavy work activities to help students focus on school work.” Find out more about mindful movement by reading Stacy Turke’s blog at


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