A few weeks ago a high school English teacher shared with me that he was struggling with one of his classes.
“They want to learn,” he said, “but they seem to have too much energy to sit while they do it.”
This influx of energy was causing behavioral problems and productivity issues on the students’ part, and frustration and angst on his part. So, we brainstormed a few strategies (each of which are shared below).
It’s no secret that movement in the classroom is essential, and not just for behavioral and productivity purposes. In short, movement helps to “increase the baseline of new neuron growth” and this neurogenesis leads to “increased cognition, better memory, and reduced likelihood of depression” (Jensen). In fact, “the average learner, regardless of age, needs to briefly move their bodies every 20–30 minutes” because “this enables learners to maintain focus, integrate learning across both of the brain’s hemispheres, enter information into memory, and avoid feeling overwhelmed” (Lamprecht).
Of course, that may seem easier said than done, but know that weaving more movement into the classroom doesn’t need to be complicated. Here are three simple strategies for adding (more) movement into the classroom:
Classroom discussions commonly occur with students sitting down talking to each other. “Inside/Outside Circle” gets students standing and talking with various different classmates: it’s an opportunity for both movement and for ensuring partner variety.
How it works:
It’s fairly common to see activities where the items being used are passed around to students who are sitting. This might been seen while doing peer editing or while analyzing exemplar essays: students sit while the papers/exemplars rotate through the various groups. This might be seen while studying various different maps: students sit while the different maps rotate through the various groups. This might be seen while exploring different fabric structures: students sit while the fabric swatches rotate through the various groups. But why not flip that around and have the students rotate while the items stay stationary?
How it works:
Text-on-Text / Text-on-Pic in Stations
Whether your analyzing poetry, works of art, satirical cartoons, architectural structures, or an already worked-through math problem—sitting and doing it can be a challenge for students. Instead of having them complete such analysis at their desks, have them work in small groups—analyzing together while moving on occasion.
An added bonus of this activity: it is done without talking—a great way to ensure that our introverted students are comfortable in the learning environment, too.
How it works:
In addition to the above strategies, there are many other little things that teachers do in their classrooms every day that help get students moving. Are you having students take notes or do an in-class writing task? Consider suggesting that when they start to disengage or get a little bit of fanny-fatigue that they stand at the back of the room for a bit as they write in their notebooks (some teachers even have a few clipboards available for students to grab just for this reason). Are you collecting some sample problems or homework examples from students? Try having students write these on the board rather than you personally doing it. Are you playing a video and need the lights off or do you need to close the door because of hallway noise? Ask a student to do that for you. These small changes provide opportunities for small movements, which is a step (pun intended) in the right direction.
Finally, consider when movement in the classroom is critical, and plan for it. Students are especially antsy the Friday of Homecoming week, during the high-sugar holidays of Halloween and Valentine’s Day, and any school day right before a long break—these are the times where classroom movement is especially welcomed by students.
As you work toward adding more movement into your classroom, please reach out to me or others on the C&I team. We would love to help you explore even more ways to get your students moving while they learn.
This post brought to you by Heather Lyke, Secondary Implementation Associate
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