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Learning Environment

The Moving Classroom – Capturing Attention and Encouraging Fitness

While change can be difficult, see how students perk up when introducing one or two of these ideas.

As teachers, we sit through our fair share of lectures and presentations, and sometimes it can be hard to stay focused. There should be some buy-in from the get-go for learning about a topic related to our professions, but it can still be hard to make it through without a team-building or movement activity thrown into the mix. If we do end up glued to a chair for any extended length of time, there’s likely to be a foot tapping, a doodle evolving, or a blind stare emanating. Any presenter knows to keep an audience of educators engaged; you’ve got to get them moving to break the monotony.

Shift to our students who do this 7-8 hours a day for an entire school year. There’s also that slight chance that a course or subject area may not fall under the category of favorite or future profession (I apologize to my high school physics teacher on this one.). The viral articles from the Washington Post about adults sitting in as students for the day gave us a glimpse of classroom life from the student perspective. Is it really so hard to believe that our heterogeneous classes of sometimes 30+ students aren’t able to remain sedentary yet be mindfully engaged from bell to bell? The answer to keeping disengaged behaviors at bay- get them moving!

Not only will adding movement to your classroom divert poor behavior, it can also boost fitness levels at a time when our current generation of youth spends more time looking at a screen than opening one to enter the backyard. This doesn’t mean that every class needs to start with an exercise circuit, but finding ways to add movement to your curriculum can be easier than you think. This can be accomplished by adding actual movement activities or simply rethinking our classroom design and layout.

Design for Movement

Standing Desks

One way to offer students some variety in their learning environment is to incorporate standing desks. Mindshift has a great article purporting the positive effects on engagement and increased fitness levels when standing desks are utilized. While a complete overhaul of the seating in your classroom may not be in the budget, a high-top table and some stools for small learning groups could be a feasible option to start.

Balance Balls

Yoga/balance balls would be another great option for increasing fitness levels and building core strength. As with any new design, guidelines need to be put in place for scope of movement, but once the initial wow factor wanes, engagement should increase. Again, this could be a seating option for a particular area in the classroom or a whole class/student choice initiative.

Positional Options

Low budget or no budget doesn’t mean students don’t have options. Teachers just need to provide them. Always seated does not mean always attentive. Desks can be arranged so students have the option to stand without blocking another’s view, sit, or take to the floor during individual work time. No money needed — just a little muscle for rearranging. This ability to shift position without being reprimanded can make all the difference in student behavior.

Activities for Movement

Learning on the Move

A great way to break up some monotony and get kids moving is to put some “travel time” in your activities. This can be moving from station to station individually or within groups. You can also do activities like Four Corners by posting 4 differing opinions on a single subject around the room, having students choose a stance, and then during group discussion/debate, students have the fluidity to move amongst the groups as opinions are challenged and changed. If your setting allows, The Washington Post shared that a nature walk can be a time of quiet reflection over a thought-provoking question followed by a group discussion or written response.

Index Order

Place words, problems, events, etc. onto index cards and have students arrange themselves in a predetermined order. In math class, cards can contain problems to be solved, and students line up in ascending or descending order of the numerical responses. In language arts, single word cards can be alphabetized or story/novel events can be placed in chronological order. In history class, cards with events, presidents, time periods, etc. can be put into chronological order. Science students can order elements of the periodic table, eras, or steps in a process or experiment (This could be whole class if there are numerous steps or a race between small groups.).

Fitness Activity Study

Some students may not be aware of what certain activities entail, so they hold back from getting involved in programs after school. The CDC has a great activity card database that offers quick informational synopses of a wide range of options. From ballet to white water rafting, there’s sure to be something to peak everyone’s interest. Building an interest in fitness pursuits is never time wasted, and researching activities is great exposure to informational text. A game of charades could be the culminating activity in a fitness research unit.

Activity Generator

Not sure how to incorporate fitness into your curriculum? Let Active Academics lend you a hand. It’s free to join, and you’re just a few selections away from lessons that meet the required standards. Inputting grade level and subject area will generate a list of ways to implement fitness in an already overloaded curriculum. Try Rock, Paper, Scissors, Multiply with 3rd grade math students or Parts of Speech Go Round with 7th grade ELA.

Warmup/Cool down

In those crucial beginning and ending minutes of class, do some review pop-ups. Ask yes/no or true/false questions about material covered the preceding day for warmups or on that day for cool downs. Students stand for yes or true responses and remain seated for no or false responses. This could be done as a rapid review session to get the heart and mind pumping, and/or students can rotate the responsibility of compiling questions for review warmups. This could also be adapted to a whole class Red Light, Green Light game with individual dry erase boards to record and display responses with math problems or one-word response questions.

The opportunities for incorporating fitness into the classroom are plentiful. Taking the time to adjust the layout and develop/adapt activities that encourage movement won’t go to waste. A classroom that focuses on the whole child is one that supports a healthy mind/body balance. Adding fitness to the mix will increase student engagement and encourage healthy living.

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