“Mrs. Foxwell, I love coming into your classroom, because I never know what I’m going to find!” one of my classroom aides said to me as she walked in on my students and I exercising during math class. We were in the middle of our place value unit and were counting out numbers, by doing high jumps for tens and squats for ones. I laughed at her comment as my thighs screamed with the burn of doing nine jumps and nine squats for the number 99 after having already done quite a few numbers beforehand.
I guess not every teacher turns their classroom into an exercise class during math practice, but trust me, it works and it is intentional. I purposely design our instruction so that my students are engaged in our learning. One of the ways I do this is by intentionally incorporating movement into our daily schedule. Does this mean the classroom gets loud sometimes? Yes! (and that is ok!) Do we have fun? Lots of fun! Are my kids learning? Absolutely! Are some of the activities we do little unconventional? Maybe, but I’m willing to be the outside-of-the-box kind of teacher so that my students are actively involved in the learning process. Here are three of my favorite ways to get my students up and moving on a regular basis:
- Gestures—Kinesthetic learning is an important tool in any classroom. Using movement, like gestures, is like having the key that opens the lock to an important treasure. When you use gestures in the classroom you’re helping to unlock your students’ minds and allow them to make important connections and memory aides as they associate a concept to a hand motion or movement. We use it all of the time in every subject. Some gestures I make up, but I also like having the kids help me create the gesture so that it has more meaning. For example, we have a motion for every letter sound and sight word, so that when my kids are reading with me at the back table and forget what sound the letter spells or forget a sight word all I need to do is the motion and it helps them remember.
- Movement—I have found that my students have about one minute of attention for every year they are old, so my first graders have around a six-minute attention span. It is imperative that I get them up and moving throughout the day. Having kids act out skills and concepts (like our tens and ones exercise in math,) using read-and-write-the-room activities, or using cooperative learning strategies, like Quiz-Quiz-Trade are some great ways to get kids moving. (Read more about Quiz-Quiz-Trade here)
- Brain Breaks—If you haven’t tried using brain breaks in your classroom, I highly recommend them for all ages! Using brain breaks during the school day helps students get wiggles out, energizes or calms them (depending on the brain break used), and helps them maintain focus. We use brain breaks for transitions, before and after tests, during indoor recess, when students are wiggly and need to focus, and when students are dragging and need a pick me up. Taking a minute or two to do a brain break can give you many more minutes of concentrated learning afterward.