Improving student engagement and comprehension is vital for overall academic success. In addition to traditional methods for keeping students focused and maintaining engagement, educators are learning alternate methods to stimulate students and encourage active engagement. summer, a group of about 20 teachers, occupational therapists and a few parents spent two days at a workshop learning how to bounce rubber balls off the ground and toss beanbags to one another.

Standing in circles and in lines across from one another or ricocheting a ball off the floor by themselves, the workshop participants were learning how to accomplish a physical task 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.

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