Friday, August 16, 2013

Bouncy Bands Help Students Stay on Task

 Guest blog post by Scott Ertl

As an elementary school counselor, I work with teachers and parents to help students most effectively learn, behave and cope with problems. There are many different products available to help students stay on task in school, from yoga balls to wiggle cushions. They are all helpful, but they are often expensive when trying to accommodate a whole class.

Bouncy Bands are a perfect DIY project that can cost under $20 for a class of 26 students. They are recycled bicycle inner tubes tied across the front legs of a student’s desk for them to rest and bounce their feet while they work. Bungee cords, rope, and garden hose can also be used. Initially, the inner tubes kept sliding down to the floor, so I added 9” pieces of PVC pipe to keep the Bouncy Band at the optimum height.

Even though much research shows the importance of kinesthetic learning and incorporating movement for students to better learn, most teachers after first grade continue to spend the overwhelming majority of time expecting students to stay in their seat throughout the day while learning. And since many students struggle to sit still for so long, they do not learn to their best ability. Instead, they rush through their work, give up, or make careless errors. I found that Bouncy Bands help many students when they have a way to release their extra energy when they work. Students with learning disabilities and/or hyperactivity need appropriate ways for them to release their anxiety and energy without overwhelming them, where they shut down or simply tune out. One student describes Bouncy Bands as a way for his feet to play while he works. Here are a few benefits I've found to using Bouncy Bands:
  • Students can stay on task longer.
  • Students can release their anxiety and extra energy.
  • The bands are quiet and don’t make any noise.
  • They recycle used bicycle inner tubes and last all year!

Classroom Management Ideas for Bouncy Bands
However, like most things, there can be problems using Bouncy Bands in class. The biggest complaint is, “It’s not fair that so-and-so gets a Bouncy Band. I want one.” Giving students a way to earn their own can be a great incentive. I had a classroom last year and I added Bouncy Bands to all of the desks. When teachers would bring their classes to my room for Guidance, I expected only 5 or 6 students to actively use the Bouncy Bands during my lessons. However, every single student would use their Bouncy Band at one point or another during the lesson. They quickly became the ultimate reward for students to earn at my school. By the end of the year, many students had earned their own Bouncy Bands for good behavior, completing their work, or achieving other goals.

Students in two different classes got in trouble using their Bouncy Bands as sling shots. It was interesting how the teachers decided to handle the situations. One teacher immediately removed the student’s Bouncy Band and he had silent lunch for the day. The other teacher decided to seize the moment to teach how it could be dangerous and the class even had fun taking turns measuring the different distances when launching paper balls versus tennis balls. (He was given a warning, but he didn’t lose his Bouncy Band.)

Tips for Making and Using Your Own Bouncy Bands:
  • Ask your local bike shop owner to donate their used bicycle inner tubes. Most I approached were extremely happy and willing to assist with this project. Most shop owners wished that they had Bouncy Bands when they were in school, since they struggled to sit still for such extended periods of time.
  • Students enjoy being able to customize the PVC pipes with markers, stickers, contact paper, colored tape and ribbon. They like personalizing their desk station without marking up the desk.
  • You can use regular scissors to cut the bicycle inner tubes; however, be sure to check for holes and use a 34-36” piece that is free of any holes, rips or tears. Also, be sure to cut off the nozzle.
  • Be cautious when cutting the inner tubes to make sure there isn’t any gooey substance inside the inner tube. Some cyclists inject a “fix-a-flat” substance when they are on the road to help them finish their trip and you don’t want to have to clean that from your carpet or clothes.
  • When getting the PVC pipe, first contact your local plumbing supply store to ask if they would be willing to donate four ten-foot long (1.5” diameter) pieces of PVC pipe. Each ten-foot piece can produce thirteen nine-inch pieces of PVC. Give the manager a written request on your school letterhead and they will likely oblige your request. You might decide to start by simply asking for 2 pieces of scrap pipe to see how your students respond to the Bouncy Bands before equipping your whole class. If you are unable to get your plumbing supply store to donate the pipes, it will only cost you about $20 for four pipes (26 sets) when you purchase the PVC pipe from your local Lowe’s or Home Depot. Perhaps your school PTA or parents would contribute towards making and/or collecting resources for this project.
Bouncy Bands are a great DIY project that can help students in your class stay on task and learn more effectively. They are an inexpensive way to help students get their wiggles out!

Scott Ertl is a school counselor at Ward Elementary School in Winston-Salem, NC. For more information, videos, and tips about making and using Bouncy Bands, feel free to visit his website, Scott will be presenting a session at the Elementary School Conference called "Fun Ways To Use Data To Help Students Track Their Progress With Specific Goals." 


  1. I love this idea. I have 4 boys who I think would greatly benefit to using bouncy bands. Thanks!
    I'm Not Your Grandpa, I'm Your Teacher

  2. this looks like a great idea - i have quite a few 'movers and shakers' in my 2nd grade class. I am wondering, do they become a distraction?

  3. Hi Jennifer, Since the Bouncy Bands are out of sight for most kids, they really aren't a distraction to others. They don't make any noise and they don't move the desks either. The worst thing that I have heard is that students have used them as sling shots. One teacher just removed them for a day to teach her student a lesson on safety and consequence and he stopped doing it. Another teacher decided to have fun with the concept and seized the moment by measuring the dstance between shooting paper balls compared to tennis balls across the room. The bottom lne answer to your question: No, they are designed to prevent distractions instead of create them. However, I'm sure you know that anything CAN be a distraction--from a pencil to a chair! It's all about clear expectations, following through on consequences, and teaching students. -Scott Ertl :)

  4. What an excellent idea! Thank you for sharing :)

  5. How do you attach the tubing to the chair?

  6. I am also wondering how you attach the tubing?

  7. I did it! thanks for the plan! My kiddos love them!

  8. I just tied mine around the table with a knot. Worked a treat.