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Learning on the Move

Posted by on in Movement and Play
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I stood at the front of the class of second graders and I felt it. That shift when I knew that the interest was slipping away. We had been working on hearing a particular vowel sound in words. We were spelling words that included the sound. While I didn't see any particular behavior issues, I could feel the room changing.

"What do they need?" I wondered to myself.

We stood and stretched. We moved to to give our brains a break. We sat and began our work again. Still, I could feel it.

"Stand, grab your paper and pencil," I announced. They stood, wondering. "Move to a desk or table. Anywhere." They quickly shifted around the room. I called out a word and they experimented with writing it. "Stand and move somewhere else." They did. We wrote another word. We did this for about 5 words. Then they moved back to their desks. The day went on with whatever was next.

I'm often struck with the differing expectations from students at different levels. When I work with kindergartners, I do not expect us to sit for very long. I don't expect us to do a lot of things as a group. I allow them to move and follow their interests or at least bounce and interrupt and wiggle. With second graders, just a couple of years older, expectations are often radically different.

All children need movement--kindergartners, second graders, fourth graders (and, I'm convinced, even older). If a class seems a little distracted or restless, maybe they need to move. Here are some ways to incorporate a little movement in the classroom.

  • Brain Breaks - At scheduled times of the day or whenever things seem a little out of sorts, stop and take a brain break. Stretch right and left. (Move arms or legs from one side of the body to the other; crossing the "midline" will wake up the brain.) Jump. Jog in place. Add a little movement before getting back to work.
  • Dance Party - This is a longer and more energetic brain break. Play upbeat music and move. Use some of the Just Dance videos. Or use GoNoodle for more movement videos.
  • Clap It Out - Add clapping (or patting the desk, snapping fingers, stomping feet) to your instruction. Clap as you spell words or count syllables. Clap the answer to a simple addition or subtraction question. Instead of raising hands or other signal, tell kids to clap to give a response to questions or add to discussion.
  • Partner Up - Often I would ask kids to stand at their desks. On a signal, they would need to find a partner. Sometimes they would choose anyone and sometime there was criterion. (Find a partner wearing a shirt the same color as you.) Then I would ask a question or pose a problem. Partners would discuss for a minute. Some or all would tell the class. Then we would find new partners for another question.
  • Centers or Groups - Create small groups or center activities. Kids can move to them as they choose or in a particular rotation. Movement among activities and movement within the activities keeps them engaged.

There are lots of ways to add movement into the classroom. But, too often, this important part of the learning environment is neglected, especially for older students.

What ways have you incorporated movement into your classroom?

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Scott has been an early childhood educator for 30 years. He has been a preschool center director and preschool ministry leader in a church. He has taught elementary school. He developed and edited curriculum for a religious publisher for 15 years. Currently, Scott is a freelance curriculum writer and editor, a workshop leader, and a school volunteer. In addition to his blog, Brick by Brick, he writes for the collaborative blog Pre-K and K Sharing (http://prekandksharing.blogspot.com) and works as editor for Pre-K Pages (pre-kpages.com).

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Guest Thursday, 27 October 2016