One of the questions that often pops during workshops is…. You make it seem so easy. How can the ordinary teacher implement movement in the classroom? First of all, I’m not sure there is such a thing as an “ordinary” teacher. Each teacher has his or her own strengths, and we all approach our classrooms the way we feel is best for the students within our classes. To some, adding movement to the classroom feels intimidating or an open door to chaos. I believe that, if structured correctly, anyone can add movement.
One of my favorite movement activities is what I call the stand-sit review. The first thing I tell students is that they need to be absolutely quiet during the activity and that I am evaluating what they have to contribute to the activity. (Of course, the term “evaluate” can have multiple meanings for students and teachers). I then ask all students to stand up and face the front of the room. I proceed to ask questions. Students can either raise their hands to contribute answers, or I can choose to call on students of my choice. When students answer a question they can sit down. I continue to ask questions until the review is finished. In order to make sure all students are listening, I often will have multiple students (both standing and sitting) to repeat the answer. If students can not repeat the answer, they have to stand up (or remain standing). As a twist, sometimes I make all students stand (or sit) at different points during the activity. This keeps students active physically.
Students absolutely love this activity. I do it a little differently each time to spark their interest.
When I first started using movement in my classroom, I noticed the number of discipline problems decreased. Of course, this belief was based almost purely on my observations. Since students seemed to be more focused after participating in physical movement activities, I continued to figure out ways to use movement in my lessons. When I started to research for my dissertation, I was able to locate various studies that supported my observations.
Several studies examined the effects physical active classroom lessons on on-task behavior (Evenson, Ballard, Lee, & Ammerman, 2009; Grieco, Jowers, & Bartholomew, 2009; Mahar et al., 2006). Students participated in daily lessons. These lessons included 10-15 minutes of content-based activities consisting of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Student behavior was observed following participation in the activities, and in each study, time on task behavior increased. Increasing on-task behavior during academic instruction has the potential to decrease disruptive behavior (Grieco et al., 2009). When students are not experiencing disruptive behavior, whether they are participating in it themselves or they are witnessing it in others around them, they have the potential to learn more efficiently because they are in a more positive learning environment.
When teachers decide to use physical activity lessons in their classrooms, they become energized when they notice improved classroom behavior. The increased excitement not only inspires them, but also transfers to their students. Teachers that I have been in contact with, in my building or through workshops I have presented, have raved about the success they have had after using movement activities. The questions that they have raised include:
How do I use movement more frequently?
How do I transition in and out of movement activities?
How can I utilize movement and not take away from the content that I am teaching?
What do I do with students who don’t want to participate?
They seem to be more focused, but do the activities actually help with learning?
I hope to explore these questions in future posts.
Most teachers are excited for the end of the school year. Actually, most likely every teacher is excited about the end of the school year! While the summer is meant to be a time of relaxation and rejuvenation, it is also the time when teachers start brainstorming or refining what they plan on teaching during the new school year. The summer is often a time of reflection. What did I do well this past year? What needs to be improved for next year? A constant dialogue is present in most teachers minds as they search for ways to become even better teachers in the year to come.
At the end of each school year, I often reflect on my classroom management. In actuality, I reflect on this throughout the school year. One year, I had a particularly difficult group of students. Individually, these students were great. They were considerate of each other, they were respectful, and they had good intentions. However, as a group, they were difficult to manage. Students blurted out, called each other names, threw things in the classroom, and so on. I tried multiple strategies to engage them and to control them. I was met with failure day after day.
I did some soul-searching. I realized that my goal shouldn’t be to control them but to engage them. I remembered a course I took during master’s program. The course focused on brain development and strategies that encouraged brain-based learning to occur during the class period. I remembered a group presentation on Eric Jensen’s book, Teaching With the Brain In Mind. During the presentation, the class had to walk around the room to take notes. The idea was that the movement would spark neurons in the brain, activating learning. I decided to try this idea in my classroom. After all, if it didn’t work, at least I tried something new. I printed some basic vocabulary notes and pasted them around the room. I informed the students that they had to take notes while walking around the room; however, they had to do this without talking. This was a pretty big task to ask of this particular group of students! The result was amazing. Not only were the students actively taking notes, they were doing so silently and respectfully. Furthermore, once they had completed the task, they were more attentive and behaviorally appropriate.
I continued to refine the strategy throughout the school year and the negative classroom behaviors were replaced with positive and attentive students. Thus, the incorporation of daily movement in my classroom was developed.
I challenge teachers to start to think about ways they can get students out of their seats during the course of a class period. As I add posts, I will offer ways, research, and thoughts about how to do so.