It doesn’t take many weeks into the school year before you start noticing a change in your students. Gone is the excitement generated at the beginning of the school year when learning is fresh. Now, students are struggling to stay on task. To boost engagement, give your learners ways to stay active throughout the day.
According to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, being more physically active offers many benefits to classroom children. Not only does it increase physical activity levels, but it also has the potential to improve on-task behavior and academic performance. Adding more active times to your classroom will help your students succeed in all areas of life.
- Take brain breaks
Every 30 minutes or so, aim for movement in your classroom. If you aren’t already moving, such as lining up to go to music class, take a “brain break.” A brain break is a simple period of time when you stop academic work and do something active. Stretching, doing a few jumping jacks, or jogging in place can help re-engage the brain and make the remainder of class time far more productive.
- Ditch the chair
The traditional classroom chair may be doing more harm than good for your students. Consider ditching the chair in favor of an exercise ball. If that is too disruptive, have your students sit on balance discs, disc cushions or other adaptive seats that allow for a little bit of movement. These items can benefit all children in your class, not just those with individualized education programs (IEPs).
- Incorporate music and storytelling
Add music to your classroom, and give kids permission to take “dance breaks” when certain songs play. For younger students, you can purchase music that gives dance cues. Allow the students to stop working and follow the cues when the song plays.
Storytelling is another way to get kids moving. Whenever the opportunity presents, have the kids act out a story or historic moment. They will be out of their chairs and actively engrossed in the material.
- Active review games
Are you reviewing concepts or math facts with your kids regularly? Turn review time into active time and accomplish two tasks at once.
Consider “Pop Goes the Answer.” This simple way to review concepts or facts asks students to pop out of their desk when they know the answer, rather than raising their hands. “Pop Goes the Answer” makes it easier for you to see which student is ready to respond, and it also introduces physical activity. To ensure that everyone participates, even those that are not at the top of the class, consider dividing the class into groups and asking questions from each group.
The opportunities to get active while reviewing are only limited by your creativity. Have students do relay races to “tag” correct answers to math facts. Give students balls to pass around the class, answering a question with each pass. You are going to be reviewing, so make it a time to get lively.
- Send them outside
If all else fails, and you can’t get the students back on track with indoor play, take your learning outside. Use the playground to discuss scientific concepts, like physics and simple machines. Take a walk to discover nature items for a nature study. Use the outdoors to expand on indoor learning concepts, while also exerting some energy. When the kids return back to the classroom, you will have material for further discussion, as well as a class that is better focused and ready to learn.
Another option is to plan one day each quarter where learning happens outdoors. Edutopia recommends one day outdoors each semester as a good place to start. Take a little bit of time to plan activities that correspond with classroom instruction, and make a day of it.
Remember, getting the wiggles out is more than just an opportunity to use energy. It will improve academic outcomes. While scheduling your day, remember to incorporate physical activity, and your students are sure to reap the rewards of a fun and engaging classroom.
About the author:
David Reeves is Marketing Manager of Superior Playgrounds. The company is a total solutions manufacturer and supplier to many industries, with its roots deep in the park and playground markets including churches, schools, and daycare centers. The company offers customizable, safe equipment sets with components including swings, bridges, and balancing structures.