Mini-Grant Profile: Mrs. Millsaps

Grant Title: Hocus Pocus Everybody Focus
Teacher: Mrs. Millsaps, 3rd Grade

sensorystoolThe ideas for this PTA mini-grant were inspired by our school principal, Kathryn Hutchinson, who provided a sensory stool (shown left) for each classroom at the start of this school year. Over the first month of school, each of my students had an opportunity to try out the stool for a day – it quickly became clear that the movement, which resulted from use of the stool, helped students stay on task. There is lots of research that explains how movement impacts the brain and its ability to function. Movement can also help students calm their bodies and direct energy positively. The Out of Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz has been helpful in developing my understanding of this issue along with workshops and classes I have taken at Project Enlightenment. This research combined with the sensory stool experience led me to request a mini grant to purchase desk cycles and fidget tools.

Grant request:

Desk Cycles: Last fall I read in the News & Observer about a Martin Middle School teacher who was using desk cycles to support student learning. Desk cycles allow students’ brains to be stimulated to increase learning while providing acceptable opportunities to express energy in the classroom setting. Thanks to some guidance from the teacher at Martin, we were able to learn from her experience to shorten our learning curve.


Fidget Tool: After hearing from Ms. Hutchinson about Tangle, the fidget tool that she keeps in her office, I requested a similar Tangle set for my classroom. We keep a Tangle at each of the five tables in our classroom to allow students developmentally appropriate opportunities to assist with focus and concentration.


How this project enhances the curriculum:

As the gateway to upper elementary school, third grade includes a lot of changes and adjustments that can cause stress to students, including multiple standardized tests (BOG, COGAT, EOG) along with meeting Read to Achieve Standards. Students are required to build reading and writing stamina and memorize multiplication facts. The desk cycle and Tangle tools combat stress and increase focus in my classroom. In order to meet high standards of achievement, I am eager to provide high levels of support for my students.

How students responded so far:

  • Overall student response has been very favorable.
  • I allowed students time to notice and examine the new resources, as well to provide input about how and when they could be used.
  • Students are now choosing to bring in their own fidgets from home and asking to use them in our classroom. This tells me that they are understanding their own needs as learners and taking responsibility for themselves.
  • It is easy to think (and I worried about this) that students would use these tools to play instead of to help with concentration. We talked and modeled the difference between playing and using the tools to help with focus and the students understand this. As a result, my students are learning to be more responsible and intentional about their learning.
  • I knew that the desk cycle would be helpful for students with high energy, who need an opportunity to unwind, or blow off some steam. I now also realize that it is equally helpful to students with low energy, or who might be tired when they get to school or at the end of the day. After several minutes on the desk cycle these students are recharged and reenergized — I’ve even used it myself right after dismissal for 5-10 minutes to help recharge before jumping back into planning and grading at the end of the student day.

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