Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kids Get Off Their Butts,
Join the “Movement”

The research abounds. But most educators don’t even need to see the research. They know that physical activity helps improve a kid’s ability to focus and learn. So why do we insist on having kids sit still for an hour or more at a time? And why on Earth are some schools eliminating recess? Those things defy logic. We ought to be getting our “couch potato” kids up and moving.

 The connection between movement and learning has been getting a lot of press lately. Earlier this month, a study out of the University of Illinois confirmed that physical activity has a positive impact on student attention and academic achievement.

 According to a New York Times article, standing desks “help give children the flexibility they need to expend energy and, at the same time, focus better on their work rather than focusing on how to keep still.” (Read Students Stand When Called Upon, and When Not.)

 Claire Henderson, a fifth-grade teacher outside Chicago, gets her kids up and out of their seats and “circling” the classroom at least a few times a day. “It might be for less than two minutes, but it helps them redirect their focus and gives them more energy,” she told the Chicago Tribune. (See School Programs Keep Students on the Move.)

 In Pflugerville, Texas, second graders are releasing energy and focusing more because their teacher, Jennifer Drum, has replaced their chairs with bright yellow stability balls. While the balls have not been scientifically proven to improve learning, Drum says, “It helps with sensory motor issues and kids with ADHD.” (See a KVUE-TV video report.)

 Heck, it might not be true physical activity, but some schools are even beginning to see the academic benefits of gum chewing. A recent study conducted by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine indicates that kids who chew gum in school perform better on tests and get higher grades. Teachers involved in the study say kids who chew gum require fewer breaks, pay better attention, and stay quiet longer. “Chewing gum is an easy tool students can use for potential academic edge,” one of the researchers said. (Read Chew On This: Gum May Be Good for Body, Mind.)

So what gives? Why aren’t more classroom teachers doing more to encourage kids to expend energy in simple ways that can improve classroom discipline and academic performance?


Bring this up at your next school-wide staff meeting. Share some of the stories and studies in the news. Encourage teachers to try a few different ways to work movement into their classroom lessons, routines, and transitions. Then have them bring the ideas that worked best to the next staff meeting. Pull together the teachers’ “ideas that work” into a booklet and put a copy of this useful resource in every staff member’s mailbox.


Movement Activities for Elementary Classrooms
Many teachers wisely initiate movement activities intermittently throughout the day, especially during classroom transitions. Included: More than ten activities.

Classroom Movement Activity Ideas
This teacher-created page includes some short ideas to get the blood flowing during classroom transitions.

Brain Gains
This powerful video shows how exercise can bring about improved academic performance.


In your school, how are you using the research that abounds about the relationship between movement and student performance? What, if any, results have you seen? Click the pencil below to share a comment so others might benefit from your experience.

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