Children should move in class because movement can promote focus and learning. Several studies have shown that physical activity enhances brain functioning. Yet, most of the school day requires sitting still. A recent New York Times article summarizes why children should move during their classes. Teachers can encourage movement at the beginning, during instruction, and at the end of a lesson. Parents can also help children take movement breaks during homework. I list a few ideas that can encourage movement during academic tasks.
Begin with Movement
At the beginning of instruction or homework, teachers and parents can help students engage in “warm up” exercises such as stretches, jumping jacks, jogging in place, or arm movements. Stretching, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation before tests can also help decrease anxiety and tension. Videos can help teachers and children learn how to use progressive muscle relaxation to reduce tension. Parents can facilitate physical activity before homework by encouraging outside play or indoor movement such as dancing. MUVE multi-generational dance videos are a perfect resource if teachers or parents run out of creative movement ideas.
Move During Instruction
Children should move in class during instruction. Response cards and choral responding are two teaching strategies that increase engagement in the lesson, as well as encourage movement. Active engagement has been shown to reduce behavior problems in the classroom. Children are less likely to act out if they are actively participating in the lesson.
End With Movement
End sedentary activities with a movement break. GoNoodle is an online resource and app that facilitates short, education-based movement breaks, ranging from 1 to 20 minutes. Educators, parents, and children can sign up for a free subscription at GoNoodle.com.
Students may also need to “cool down” to prepare for learning after invigorating activities such as recess, lunch, assemblies, and school-wide drills. The Stop, Breathe, and Think website provides a number of free, relaxing activities and explains how mindful meditation can help students calm down after intense movement. Teachers and parents can encourage youth to participate in a few minutes of mindful breathing following intense activity to help them regain focus.
Years of research has shown that children should move in class. Help facilitate attention and learning through movement!