Strategy

Standing Desks

Standing Desks are tables that are raised to waist height when standing and are used in both school and work settings. Teachers can have students stand for part or all of an assignment, individually or in groups. Standing improves task persistence by allowing students an opportunity to move around and generate the necessary amount of body sensation needed in order to focus. It can also help students who experience fatigue in their core muscles when sitting upright in chairs for long periods of time. Providing an alternative work station for students who need a significant position change can help keep them on track for a variety of activities including reading, writing, and using technology.

Implementation Tips

Determine the Appropriate Height
Position standing desks at a height so that the forearms can rest comfortably on the surface when the elbows are slightly forward from the shoulders. This is usually right around or slightly above the belly button. This height puts the forearm, wrist, and hand in the best mechanical position for writing; for typing, the desk can be slightly lower. Since students come in all different heights, having a variety of standing (and sitting) desk height options is optimal.
Make Your Own Standing Desks
Adjust current desks or use everyday classroom materials to create standing desks rather than purchasing one. For example, if adjustable height desks are available, raise them to the highest setting. Alternatively, teachers can place a cardboard box or an upside down laundry basket with a clipboard on top of a traditional desk create a more elevate workspace.
Student Choice
Monitor students for fatigue while using Standing Desks (e.g., slouching, leaning forward, asking to sit). Additionally, Standing Desks are most beneficial when students want to use them. Standing Desks are a physical adaptation used to increase student engagement. Students should independently opt in and out of using a standing desk, and should never be used as a consequence.

Examples

Self-Regulation
A student who moves around frequently during seated activities may be doing so because of under or over-stimulation. The body sensations generated during movement achieve a physical state that is optimal for paying attention. This is the same principle as splashing cold water on one’s face when sleepy. This type of student may benefit from opportunities to stand for part or all of an assignment or learning block. For example, have the student work at a standing desk during small group instruction or during station activities, have standing desks available in addition to traditional desks.
Resting Core Muscles
Sitting in chairs for extended periods of time requires core muscle (abdominal and back muscle) strength. Students who slide down in their chairs, rest their heads on tables, or contort themselves to try and create a point of stability (e.g., putting feet inside storage space under desktops, hooking legs tightly around chair legs) may be doing so because of core muscle fatigue. Breaking up sitting with periods of standing gives core muscles a rest, enabling students to focus their energy into academic tasks. Have students make a standing/sitting schedule for themselves. For example, a student might choose to sit for small group instruction and stand during independent reading activities and while completing written work. Teachers can have students self-assess their schedules and adjust as necessary throughout the school year.
Standing for Everyone
Even students without postural or sensory needs can enjoy and benefit from opportunities to use standing desks. Teachers can build standing time into their daily schedules. For example, during times when students typically experience a lull in energy (e.g., beginning of the day, after lunch, the last period of the day), provide students the option to use standing desks instead of seated ones. Teachers can also have students use standing desks for activities that require students to be more alert and focused such as silent reading, independent practice, test taking, etc. Standing Desks can make a low energy activity or time of day more productive for students.

Related Strategies