In a tangle

Today I was given a little gadget that might just transform some of my lessons. It’s a tangle. Made from 18 plastic 90 degree arcs that swivel where they join, you pick it up and you can’t help but twist it, bend it and generally fiddle about with it. I’d heard of these, but today was the first time I’d actually seen one.

So what use is that? Potentially quite a lot if you have students with so called ADHD (Attention Defficit Hyperactive Disorder). I say so called, because it’s one of those labels that a lot of people seem to be in an awful rush to slap onto an increasing number of children, I don’t doubt that it’s a genuine condition, but it does seem to be “diagnosis of the month”. Frighteningly, the first line of treatment often seems to be very powerful drugs, drugs that may not even be effective in the long term. I’m not claiming to know better than the doctors that treat these children, but I do feel very, very uneasy about the upsurge in the numbers of children taking these drugs. I’m sure there are children with perfectly genuine problems, but other factors sometimes get overlooked, for example I’ve seen some children with ADHD who seem to eat a diet awash with additives, and of course parenting issues may also be a factor in some cases. Unfortunately these are factors that as a classroom teacher I can’t control, but I do have to deal with an increasing number of unsettled children that seem completely incapable of concentrating for any length of time. This means finding strategies that will work for these children.

So how does the tangle help? I gave it to four different students in different lessons, all of whom are basically nice kids but normally drive me round the twist, and let them play around with it while I was explaining work to the class. The results were astounding: no interuptions from any of them, apart from when one boy shouted out a sensible and relevant question – which hardly counts as an interuption really.

The great thing about the tangle is that unlike other things I’ve tried, it really is mindless and doesn’t distract the student using it or those around them. They fiddle about with it, but they did seem to be listening and certainly took in what I was saying; their “nervous energy” found an outlet in a non-disruptive way. A big improvment on “Sit still and listen” (they don’t), stress balls (which seem to end up flying across the room), elastic bands (which seem to end up flying across the room) and even blu-tak (which seems to end up – oh you get the idea).

Will it keep working once the novelty wears off? Will it end up flying across the room? I don’t know yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

The tangle may be a great little gadget, but I think their site is pretty terrible. Not really a classic piece of Web design. I haven’t been able to find anything that backs up their charitable claims, so don’t take this as a ringing endorsement!
Buying tangles (same site, cunningly hidden link)

3 comments to In a tangle

  • Ah, wonderful, thatnks for pointing htem out, just what I’ve always hoped would be designed! I usually recommend very small stress balls, or blu-tack or plasticine blobs for such kids to fiddle with out of sight of others (in their pockets etc), but mums get annoyed by the effects when they go through the washing machine!

    How big are they? To be effective I think that they’d need to be small enough to be kept in a pocket.

    You probably know this, but kids who fiddle are often those with partly or predominantly kinaesthetic learning styles, who are being made uncomfortable but not being able to move around or touch things as much as they need. Brain Gym type exercises for 20 seconds to break up lessons requiring lasts of listening or writing often help them too.

  • They are certainly small enough to go in a pocket, although I’ve tended to just let kids hold them in their hands. I’ve only had one failure so far (an enterprising lad decided to take one apart to see how it worked, but they don’t seem to be designed for that, I now have a snake rather than a loop!). On the whole they’ve been pretty useful – even with my most “hyper” student,who literally can’t sit still (we have a deal that he can walk up and down the back of the classroom if he can’t stand – or should that be sit – it any more!)

    I like the brain gym idea – I’ve done that at the start of lessons, but not to break things up,I’ll try that, thanks!

  • *inserts recommendation in current report* Thanks 🙂

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