If you have any experience with children, you know that they need to get up and move throughout they day. Even as an adult, I do not sit still very well. I cannot stand when I have to sit through a meeting all day. I need to move around. Research has shown that movement can increase focus and retention. Brain researcher, John Medina, stated in Brain Rules (2008), that “physical activity is cognitive candy and exercise boosts brain power.” Did you know that in Finland, it is typical for students to get a 15 minute break for every 45 minutes of instruction? With our push for longer school days and more time on task, this seems almost impossible. But, we truly have to think about if our “time on task” involves the students giving 100% of their focus and attention to what we are teaching. So, how can we incorporate more movement into our classrooms?
1. Have Students Transition Around the Classroom Throughout the Day
We are constantly moving to different areas of our classroom during the day. We do not stay in one area for too long. As soon as I notice that my students are losing focus, we change it up. I do whole group instruction at our desks or on the carpet together. I do small group instruction at my reading table, while my students transition around the classroom doing learning stations.My students also love to find a spot in the classroom to work on their Morning Tubs in the morning.
The most important thing to remember, is to be very aware of when your students are starting to lose focus. As the year progresses, students will be able to stay in one spot for longer periods of time, but definitely switch it up often.
2. Integrate Movement into Learning
The easiest way to get your students up and moving is to find ways to integrate movement into your learning. Have students act out vocabulary words or play games that get them moving around the classroom.
One of my students favorite games is 4 corners. There are a couple different ways you can play this game. One that we played recently was Vowel Sound 4 Corners. (You could definitely do 5 areas instead of 4.) I hung signs up in each corner of my room labeled short a, short e, short i, and short o. Each student stood under a sign of their choice. Then, I drew a short vowel word from a jar. For example, “cat.” All of the students under the Short a sign, went and sat down. Then, the students picked a new sign to stand under. This continued until there was one winner. This can easily be adapted to many reading and math skills.
Another favorite game that gets students out of their seats is Splat. I group the students into 4 or 5 teams. I place skill cards on the board. In the example above, we were working with soft and hard c and g. I read a word, and the first person to “Splat” the correct answer scored a point for their team. (The Splat flyswatter were purchased at Walmart.)
An easy and fun way that I integrate academics and exercise is with my Reading on the Move and Math on the Move packets. The students roll the dice after reading to see what “movement” they are going to complete before rereading the passage. (The passage above is from my Reading on the Move – Winter Edition). You can check out all of my Reading on the Move packets HERE.
We also use my Math on the Move packets to integrate math and exercise. The students love getting up and moving after each section of work that they complete.
3. Allow Flexible Seating in your Classroom
This is something that is still evolving in my classroom. I have Wobble Chairs at my reading table that the students may use at their desks if they need them. I also allow the students to stand at their desks if they work better this way. A couple of my students also prefer to use clipboards on the floor. My only absolute “no” with seating is that students may not sit dangerously in their seats. (Leaning back on two legs, turned around backwards with their feet stuck in the back, shoes tied to their chair legs. I mean…not that I’ve learned those from previous experiences or anything.)
4. Take Brain Breaks
When you notice that students are losing focus, take a Brain Break. We absolutely love using GoNoodle for our Brain Breaks. There are so many great options to choose from depending on what the students need at that time. I love all of the KooKoo Kangaroo videos when I need my students to “wake up” and recharge. However, sometimes I need the opposite effect, and I want them to settle down. The Flow and Maximo videos are perfect for this.
Another great way to add a little bit of movement to your day is to use this movement dice.
This can be used as a whole group when you notice that students are starting to get off task. It also works great for students that may need to keep it at their desk to use when they need an extra break. You can download it for free HERE.
5. Head Outside
Weather permitting, I love to take learning outside. Living in Indiana, this is not always possible, but on nice spring and fall days, we love to head outside. You can take books outside and let students read. We have also taken our white boards and dry erase markers out to a picnic table to work on math. Sidewalk chalk is a great way to practice spelling words and math facts. Another idea is to have students use their senses while outside to enhance their writing. The possibility are endless.
How do you use movement in your classroom?