Littler Teacher Mini Grant Increases Classroom Focus for Second Graders

A child who speaks out, gets up from their chair, or loses focus in multiple other ways makes it difficult for the entire class to learn.  Jenn Orona, a teacher from Ann K. Heiman Elementary School in Evans, struggled with this daily. She wanted the best for her students and asked for 100% of their best effort 100% of the time. The result: burnout for the students and herself.

Defiant behaviors began to escalate as children refused to work. When one of her students asked, “Why do you always have to be right? Why does it always have to be your way?” she considered that her students might be seeking some control into their own classroom environment. She wondered if providing such control might help them to focus.

As a first step, Orona began to allow students to choose the location of their seats. In addition, she speculated that offering them the choice of a type of chair would make an additional difference.

With school-based funds limited, she applied for and received a 2016 Littler Youth Fund Teacher Mini-Grant to pay for the cost of more seating options.The grant funded alternative seating choices into her second grade classroom. She chose outdoor benches, wobble chairs and an option for floor seating to give her students more choices that encouraged their learning style and helped them to develop autonomy.

By the end of the year, the seating changes became an important part of improving the classroom environment. According to Orona, “Negative behavior in students substantially decreased in comparison to previous years. One particular student that struggled with socializing made the transition to only sitting by himself to participating in a group.”

The mini-grant helped Orona to transform, energize, and focus her classroom. Students are more productive and other teachers are now looking into ways to use this approach in their own work.


Grant that funded the program: Littler Youth Fund Teacher Mini Grant. Click here to learn more or apply for a 2017 Grant (Deadline June 15th)

Amount of grant funds given to the program: $727.93

Funding dates: 2016-2017 academic year

Impact summary: Overall, student happiness increased and students have become more connected to the day’s lesson and to each other. Picking seats and changing them has become fluid and natural. It has created a sense of autonomy within students.