Teachers who dismiss gum as a noisy, sticky classroom nuisance might want to reconsider their position. A growing number of educators believe there could be some minty value in the chewing process, and a recent study suggests chewing a stick at the right time, might actually help students concentrate.
In the past, chewing gum was considered a treat, something that was given as a reward, but certainly not considered a learning tool. Now, according to a study in the British Journal of Psychology, researchers have determined that chewing gum may help students maintain their focus for longer periods of time.
These results challenge a previously published piece in the same journal from 2012 that stated chewing gum decreased short term memory.
Educators who work with children are constantly looking for ways to help them succeed. According to Bartlesville, Oklahoma teacher, Heather Davis, the first step is realizing that every child learns in a different way. “I do allow gum because learning style research indicates that some kids need intake to learn and some need movement,” she said. “I don’t formally assess my students’ learning styles anymore, but if a kid can chew gum, make at least a 75 on the assignment, and doesn’t disturb anyone else, then they can chew it.”
Over the last few years, more and more occupational therapists, teachers, and psychologists have stepped forward to tout the benefits of chewing gum in the classroom. A few of these benefits include:
- Increased short term memory
- Less fidgeting
- Heightened alertness
- Reduces/eliminates other negative social behaviors like sucking on pencils and thumbs
- Some children find the oral activity calming
- Chewing helps dull background noise by activating the Eustachian tubes
Allowing children to chew gum in school, or while doing homework may be beneficial but there should be ground rules established. To avoid trading cavities for good grades, only offer up sugar-free flavors. To ensure that gum-chewing doesn’t become a concentration tool for some, but a distraction to others, tell kids they can keep chewing as long as no one else can see or hear it.