Active classroom models improving performance in West Seneca schools

WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WKBW) - In an effort to improve student performance, focus and behavior, some classrooms in Western New York are trying out new teaching styles and activities to get students up and moving.

Dyan Scritchfield, a teacher at East Senior High School in West Seneca, introduced flexible seating to her 12th grade English classes this school year. She has bean bags, exercise balls, stools and other seating options in the room. It's up to her students to choose where to sit. Some opt for the traditional table and chair, while others feel more comfortable sitting on something else.

"They are far more conducive to doing better work," Scritchfield explained. "When they're sitting at a desk, their attention can be brought away. They're just not in a format that's a little bit more comfortable. When they're comfortable it tends to lengthen their attention span."

"In a comfortable setting you want to be there," Aaron Brown, a senior at East and student of Scritchfield's, said. "You want to learn and you want to excel."

The students are also welcome to stand up, move around and change seats throughout the class. Scritchfield recommends teachers adjust the model to what best suits their classroom and their goals. For her English class, the more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere has been helpful.

The freedom of movement and seating options is helpful for students like Kassidy Aiken, who admits she can get antsy sitting still for too long.

"Being not forced to sit at a desk and sit still, I'm able to sit on my ball and rock back and forth and fidget without distracting the rest of the class while I do it," she said.

Clinton Street Elementary, also in the West Seneca Central School District, is experimenting with another version of an active classroom model.

In Kara Blaszak's fourth grade classroom, the students practice different drills and activities with bean bags and rubber balls. It's meant to improve student hand-eye coordination and attention during classwork.

"The research shows kids need to move to learn," explained Amy Turner, a physical therapist at WSCSD. "In this age, kids seem to not be moving as much, they're not outside as much as they used to be. That's where we're finding that kids are having more difficulty sitting still and concentrating in class."

The program, known as Bal-A-Vis-X, uses specifically designed drills to get the students moving and hones particular skills that have been shown, at least in this instance, to improve student performance.

"They're listening longer," Turner said. "They're focusing longer. They're able to listen to their peers more."

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