School 'games' have grown-up purposes

Adults toss balls, beanbags to help students improve
2013-07-17T00:00:00Z School 'games' have grown-up purposesJamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

A group of about 20 teachers, occupational therapists and a few parents spent two days this week at a workshop learning how to bounce rubber balls off the ground and toss beanbags to one another.

The professionals and parents stood in circles, in lines across from one another and, sometimes, individually, ricocheting the ball off the floor while switching hands or tossing the sand-filled beanbags with rhythmic precision.

Although these sound like child games, the group will take these concepts back to their classrooms, offices and homes with hopes of improving reading skills, focus and concentration.

The group learned Bal-A-Vis-X techniques, which are a series of rhythmic exercises designed to assist students with learning disabilities, behavior and attention-deficit disorders.

The program can also help regular students and adults improve their concentration.

Bal-A-Vis-X stands for Balance/Auditory/Vision/eXercises. The exercises also include balance boards, in addition to the rubber balls and beanbags.

"It helps with focus and attention to detail," said Foster Hepler, principal at Mesa Verde Elementary School in the Amphitheater School District.

The program was founded by Bill Hubert, a former first-grade and middle-school teacher and martial arts instructor based in Wichita, Kan.

The two educators who taught the workshop Monday and Tuesday at Green Fields Country Day School were among the first to bring the program to Tucson.

Anne Wheaton and Terry Tinney, have been teaching Bal-A-Vis-X for about 10 years. They received help this week from assistant Connor Wiese, 16.

Wheaton is a physical education teacher at Mesa Verde. Tinney is a recently retired teacher from the Amphitheater district.

Wiese will be a sophomore at Canyon del Oro High School this fall. He's used the program since he was in first grade at Mesa Verde, where he struggled with reading before using Bal-A-Vis-X to improve, he said.

The two teachers learned of Bal-A-Vis-X during a conference in 2003 and, after attending a subsequent training session, began working with some of Tinney's students during the lunch period at Mesa Verde, Wheaton said.

"We felt that the program would benefit them. Also during that time, we were going to one or two training (sessions) a year where Bill was the presenter," she said.

The pair eventually was authorized by Hubert to charge for private sessions in 2011, after completing all levels of training.

On Monday, Wheaton and Tinney guided the group through various stages, demonstrating the exact movements of the exercises before allowing them to practice on their own and with partners.

The group started with repetitions of basic movements before moving to more advanced motions, such as putting the ball behind their backs before bouncing it or switching hands before tossing the beanbag.

Hepler, who spoke to the group during the workshop, has integrated Bal-A-Vis-X into a reading-intervention program at Mesa Verde.

The children who attend the program usually have trouble following sentences while reading, he said.

Some of the attendees at the workshop said they've seen the program help children improve in other areas.

Chris Caldwell leads a morning Bal-A-Vis-X session at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, where she is athletic director and a physical education teacher.

The group caters to children with various disabilities, as well as students who learn the techniques so they can train others.

Caldwell doesn't teach the program in her gym class, but she's still seen some results with some of her own students, she said.

"It helps with coordination and self-esteem," she said. "You can see the little things in my class."

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4242. On Twitter: @JamarYounger

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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