Former public school teacher, 5 years
Alvin was learning his addition facts slowly. When it seemed he’d memorized a few, he forgot others. He wasn’t enthusiastic about committing equations to memory. He fidgeted in his seat. He didn’t enjoy the material, so learning was drudgery for him.
Our students’ bodies are full of energy. Rather than sitting at desks, they long to stretch and exercise their muscles. While it may be difficult to incorporate physical movement into lesson plans, you’d be surprised how dramatically it can help elementary schoolers succeed academically.
What I did with Alvin was let him play a game. I showed him a card with a math fact on it and told him that if he got the correct answer, he could hop through three hoops and skip back to me for another turn. His legs moved, his heart pumped, his brain woke up, and he focused. He told me the next answer and came back for more.
Since then, I’ve developed games for other students, including my own kids at home. I’m convinced that, with physical activity, learning becomes more productive and meaningful. Students’ attitudes toward education brighten and, thus, their grades go up.
Here are tips for getting more physical activity into the classroom:
• Go out for recess early and spend the first 20 minutes on active-learning games.
• Twist, hop, stretch, and bend in class and, if you can, move your games to the gym, cafeteria, or playground.
• Have the students take turns flashing cards and asking questions.
• Convert any game (hopscotch, dodge ball, tag, Twister, jump rope) into an energizing learning experience.
• Incorporate extra activities (such as one-legged hops, squats, and jumping jacks) into your games for high-energy students.