A Case for Moving in Language Arts

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Adding daily physical activity to a classroom is beneficial for students and teachers.  When teachers use physical activity toward the beginning of a class, a tone is set that creates a sense of eagerness and anticipation for the upcoming lesson.  This urgency awakens the mind allowing a stimulation to occur helping to aid students with recall as well as putting new learning into motion.  When students return to their seats, they are better equipped to be focused, which also leads to a situation where new learning can occur.  When teachers use physical activity in the middle of a class, students are able to take a break from difficult material, are able to refocus, or are able to reenergize their minds for practice, recall, or more new material.

I am an English teacher, so I am particularly interested in what this means for an English classroom.  There is exciting research that points to a correlation between physical movement and academic performance on English related assessments.  In one study students completed 20 minutes of exercise on a treadmill prior to completing a reading assessment.  Students taking the assessment showed an increase in accuracy following the exercise (Hillman et al., 2009).  In another study, students participated in 10-15 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity during core instruction.  A correlation was found between participation in physical activity and academic achievement in reading and spelling (Donnelly et al., 2009; Donnelly & Lambourne, 2011).  In another study, students participating in physical activity breaks during a school day prior to reading instruction scored higher on reading assessment than those who did not participate (Erwin et al., 2012).

While the summation of these studies is brief, the results are intriguing.  In my seventh and eighth grade classes, I am not able to spend a full 10-20 minutes of physical activity.  I can, however, spend 5-10 minutes of a lesson getting my students to move in the classroom.  My goal is to get the blood pumping as many studies indicate physical activity at the moderate-to-vigorous level is what is needed to produce an increase in academic performance levels.  My goal becomes more detailed as I attempt to add a content connection to form a link between the activity and what is being learned.  However, if the movement is not at the moderate-to-vigorous intensity level, I am still able to help anxious, stressed, ADHD, and movement needy students in the classroom.

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