Every year, right about this time, I get stress balls for two-to-four of my students who have a lot of energy and self-control challenges. Research shows that clenching muscles can be helpful for self-control, but since I don’t feel comfortable recommending that action, I give them stress balls.

I give it to certain students after asking them to commit to never throwing it or giving it to another student. They pick it up at the beginning of class from my desk and drop it off there when class ends.

Usually, about half of the students I give them to each year use it consistently and it seems to be helpful (sometimes the balls break from the consistent pressure and I have to replace them). The other half tend to break the rules quickly and have to give them up. However, even in those circumstances, I generally still see improved behavior — I think they see I’m going to “extra mile” and they want to reciprocate a bit.

I always get ones in the form of sports balls — that seems to make having them look more “cool” instead of having a negative connotation. They come together in big bags, so I share the rest with colleagues (who generally obtain similar results).

Have you ever tried them out in your classroom?