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Moving, Routines, and Management

Posted by on in Classroom Management
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Movement and Routine

The start of the school year is one of the most exciting times of the year for teachers, students, and parents.  While some may argue that point, as a teacher I am filled with elation, nervous energy, and satisfaction in my chosen profession.  

The start of the school year is filled with preparation, and teacher after teacher will tell you how important it is to set-up the classroom in such a way, to greet students, to establish relationships, to build a positive learning climate, and to establish routines and rules. How individual teachers and classrooms go through this process varies.  

Utilizing movement in the classroom is essential, and starting the year off by frequently using movement helps teachers and students get acclimated to the process and helps establish a practice that becomes ingrained in the daily/weekly activity of the classroom procedures.

Movement Mindset

When thinking about using movement in the classroom, teachers need to define the purpose behind using movement.  If the purpose of adding movement is to add fun to the classroom or to do it because other classes are doing it, the success may dwindle.  When teachers and students understand the benefits of movement, the benefits kick in and the needs of the whole child are addressed more adequately. One of the reasons I started to use movement in my classroom was to create opportunities of students to refocus on a task or topic at hand. Research has indicated the connection between the use of movement and improved focus or on-task behavior (Grieco, Jowers, & Bartholomew, 2009; Jensen, 1998; Maher et al., 2009). As I gave instructions on how to perform movement activities, I informed students of the benefits of focusing on the task at hand.  Furthermore, I planned activities with the idea that I wanted students to focus on learning a specific task that was either addressed during the activity or immediately after the activity.  If content was specifically challenging, I had students perform the activity prior to engaging in learning difficult content.  Using movement to focus students became my purpose.  Since it was my purpose, I was very intentional in its use, which improved the success and understanding regarding movement activities selected and used throughout the school year.

Focusing on a clear purpose helps teachers with consistency.  A clear purpose also helps communicate reasons for using it to students, other teachers, and administrators. Plus, it helps direct evidence towards meeting the needs of diverse learners.

Movement Initial Routine

Once a purpose has been established (or contemplated), teachers can move into the initial routine process. Establishing a movement routine should to be addressed each time a new movement activity is introduced.  However, the initial routine introduction is more elaborate.

Intentionally practicing how to perform a movement activity takes time initially, but the payoff will save time in the future.

Movement Sustained Routine

Using movement multiple times per week keeps students engaged with the content and helps students and teachers expect and understand why it is being used.  As movement activities are introduced, students may need to be reminded of the routines in place.  Also, as the year progresses, teachers may wish to add novelty to a previous activity with simple modifications.  The brain feeds off of novelty, and adding new elements to an activity increases student awareness aiding to effective classroom management.

Adding movement also helps teachers determine when to involve kids.  A lesson that seems to be teacher-directed can be shifted to more of a student-directed lesson with the addition of individual and collaborative movement activities. Being intentionally with movements helps teachers sustain its use in the classroom and support the routines they established at the beginning of the school year. This is true for content-specific movement activities and brain-break activities.

If teachers are worried about classroom management, it is important to establish routines and start with short and simple activities.  For example, having students stand by their desks and form a statue with their bodies representing something they have read is a simple movement.  Students do not have to move away from their desks, and it can be done in seconds. The routine may include telling students to stand to the right of their desks and push their chairs in.  on the count of three, freeze into a position.  Hold the position for 10 seconds and then return to their seats. Another simple activity is to post key questions from a unit of study around the room.  Students stand and move from question to question to complete their answers.  The routine may include informing students to remain silent, walk to a sheet to read a question, make sure no more than three people are at the question, move to another question, and return to their seats when finished. These are simple activities that require small efforts from the teacher and the students. These are also activities that can be elaborated on easily as the year progresses.

Using frequent movement activities in the classroom will transform the teaching experience for teachers and the learning experiences for students.


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John Helgeson is a Secondary ELA Curriculum Specialist in the Northshore School District in Bothell, Washington. John has been in education for 18 years teaching middle school and junior high students English, Social Studies, and Drama. He has experience teaching in low-income settings, co-teaching with special education colleagues, and teaching pre-AP/IB honors classes. He has enjoyed teaching in Minnesota, Washington, and Japan. 

John has presented at several local and national conferences including WERA/OSPI Annual Conference, AMLE Annual Conference for Middle Level Educators, ASCD Annual Conference, and the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education Biennial Convocation. Topics have included using physical movement in the classroom; effective reading, vocabulary, and writing instruction strategies; flipping the ELA classroom; and exploring literature circles in a mixed-grade/mixed-ability setting. In addition to presenting these topics, John has written several articles on literacy instruction and physical movement in the classroom. John currently sits on the Executive Council for Kappa Delta Pi. 

In his free time, John enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, reading a good book, running and participating in triathlons. 

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