As educators, we know that engaging students in learning can be a challenging task. One way to promote active learning is by incorporating physical activity into the classroom routine.
Did you know that studies have shown that regular physical activity improves not only physical health but also enhances academic performance?
In this blog, we’ll explore some ways to add more physical activity to your classroom routine and help your students stay active and engaged.
It’s important for educators to understand the benefits of physical activity for students and prioritize opportunities for students to engage in it.
But why is movement in the classroom so important?
For starters, engaging in regular physical activity can improve cognitive function and academic achievement in students. When children engage in physical activity, they increase blood flow and oxygen to their brains, leading to enhanced memory, attention, and decision-making skills.
Activities like running, jumping, and playing games can also help build connections in the brain that are essential for learning.
Plus, physical activity is a great way to promote positive mental health in students. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals that help regulate mood, reduce stress, and promote a general feeling of well-being. By incorporating daily opportunities for physical activity, educators can help students manage anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.
And when students engage in physical activity, they have the opportunity to socialize and connect with their peers. Playing games and participating in sports helps children learn teamwork, communication, and conflict-resolution skills. Students who participate in sports or other physical activities may also develop a sense of belonging and connection to their school and community.
Finally, participating in physical activity can help students develop self-confidence and self-esteem. When children engage in physical activity, they can improve their physical abilities and achieve goals they set for themselves. This sense of accomplishment can lead to increased self-confidence, which can translate to success in other areas of life.
Movement isn’t just for physical education but rather, it should be included as an important part of an entire academic day. But how often should they be moving?
As a general rule of thumb, younger children have shorter attention spans than older students, and therefore require more frequent movement breaks. It’s suggested that children aged 5-11 should have a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity per day, and these breaks could include active learning, exercise games, movement storybooks, and a quick exercise session in class.
For students aged 12-18, it’s recommended that they have at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. While this may sound unrealistic for classroom settings, incorporating moves like jumping jacks, stretching exercises, or dance breaks in between classes can provide energy, a boost for metabolism, and, most importantly, mental refreshment.
When your students are able to move their bodies regularly, they’ll get better at focusing and working hard in class. Not only that, but providing students with opportunities for regular physical activity can improve the classroom mood and, of course, the health of your students.
Here are some tips to incorporate physical activity into any kind of classroom. Whether you’re a high school teacher, elementary educator, or even a paraeducator, these tips are sure to help.
One of the easiest ways to add physical activity to your classroom is by scheduling it. For example, you can start your day with a morning exercise routine, or you can take short breaks every hour to stretch and rejuvenate.
This not only promotes physical activity but also helps students to focus better on the lessons. You can even make it fun by turning it into a game such as “Simon Says” or “Red Light, Green Light.”
Recess may seem like an unnecessary break in the middle of the day, but it’s essential for students to be active and let off some energy. Many studies have shown that children who have regular recess perform better academically and exhibit more social skills.
So, try not to skip recess, but rather encourage students to play active games or sports during their free time. And whatever you do, don’t use recess (or rather, taking recess away) as a punishment!
One of the best ways to incorporate physical activity into your classroom is by taking regular “brain breaks.” These are quick two to five minute intervals of physical activity that give your students a chance to move and engage their minds in new ways.
For example, you can have your students stand up and do a series of simple stretches, or have them walk around the room while counting to ten in different languages. These breaks are an easy and effective way to add physical activity to your class without taking away too much instructional time.
During these breaks, encourage students to stand up, stretch, move around, or follow along with a physical activity routine.
Another way to turn up the energy and include some physical activity is by introducing an impromptu “dance party” or dance break. You can play an upbeat song and have your students stand up and dance for 2 minutes. This can be a fun way to break the monotony of long lessons or exams and keep the students engaged and focused.
Clapping drills are a great way to add physicality to your classroom. You can mix up the clapping patterns to encompass different subjects or patterns such as syllables, sounds, or clapping on a particular beat.
You can also change up the pattern so that each group will need to adjust accordingly. This ensures the students pay attention to the activity while keeping it exciting for them.
Jumping jacks is a quick and easy way to add physical activity to your class.
A simple routine of 20 jumping jacks is enough to get their blood flowing, keep their heart rate up, and improve their coordination. The students will also enjoy the activity as it is fun to do with friends.
Moving math is an innovative teaching approach that combines math activities with physical movement. With this method, students are encouraged to use their bodies to represent numbers, equations, and patterns.
For instance, you could draw a large number line on the floor and have students hop along it to solve simple arithmetic problems or use physical objects as math manipulatives. This methodology allows the students to use physical movement to solve problems.
Using movement games is another fantastic way to add physical activity to your classroom. Games like “Simon Says” or “Freeze Dance” are easy and fun to play and provide a great opportunity for students to move their bodies.
You can also create your own movement games based on academic topics you’re covering in class, like “Around the World” geography game or “Math Musical Chairs.”
One effective way to incorporate physical activity in the classroom is by taking things outdoors. Spending time outdoors helps children improve their cognitive function, memory performance, and creativity.
Take advantage of your school’s playground or create a designated outdoor learning area. You could conduct a scavenger hunt, gardening, or group games like tag or catch. Students can easily perform simple activities such as jumping, balancing, and hopping that help in developing gross and fine motor skills.
Assigning classroom tasks can also be a great way to get students moving while also teaching important life skills. Examples of classroom tasks include passing out materials, erasing boards, or collecting assignments, which can boost cardiovascular endurance.
It not only helps to keep students physically active but also develops their sense of responsibility and leadership. Not to mention, it’s a free and easy way to reduce your own stress as an educator!
Checking in on students’ physical and mental well-being can be an excellent way to support growth in their fitness, social-emotional development, and overall happiness.
Incorporate a few minutes of body check-ins in your daily routine, such as yoga, meditation, or stretching exercises. It helps students focus while also improving their overall flexibility and awareness of their bodies.
Yoga or stretching is an easy and low-intensity physical activity that can help improve focus and concentration. Adding some yoga or stretching routines to your classroom can help your students stay calm and relaxed. It is also an excellent way to promote flexibility and strength.
There are many YouTube videos and resources available that offer classroom-friendly yoga and stretching routines if you’re not sure where to start!
Fidget toys are small, tactile gadgets that allow students to move their hands while focusing on their schoolwork. These toys can help relieve anxiety, promote concentration, and reduce stress levels.
Some popular fidget toys include putty, stress balls, and spinners. If you choose to use these, establish clear expectations for the use of fidget toys in your classroom to make sure they are not causing a distraction to other students.
Traditional chairs and desks can be uncomfortable for some students, which can lead to a lack of focus and engagement. Replacing these with wobble chairs or exercise balls can provide an alternative seating option that allows students to move around while they work.
Wobble chairs and exercise balls can engage your core muscles, improve posture, and increase balance and stability.
To keep your students engaged in physical activity, it’s essential to offer a variety of options. You can incorporate movement breaks in between lessons by putting on a fun dance song and having your students dance along.
You can also ask your students to stand up, stretch, and move around the classroom after a long period of sitting and focusing. Or, you can organize classroom games that promote physical activity, such as charades or Simon Says.
When it comes to incorporating physical activity into your classroom, it’s essential to consider your students’ abilities and interests.
Some students may have physical limitations that make certain activities challenging, while others may have a strong interest in a particular type of physical activity. Creating a classroom environment that is inclusive and adaptable to different needs and interests can help promote physical activity and engagement in your classroom for each and every student.
Sitting for prolonged periods can have deleterious effects on your health. Switch up the seating arrangements in your classroom with standing desks. Not only do they encourage movement while learning, but they also improve posture and reduce monotony.
Standing desks also help to reduce fatigue and boost focus during long periods of studying.
How about engaging your students in a healthy competition? Organize fun, classroom fitness challenges that encourage physical activity. You could set challenges like walking/running a specific number of steps in a day, or organizing a bicycle race.
These challenges not only promote physical activity but also foster teamwork and healthy competition among the students.
These simple changes can have a significant impact on your students’ physical health, mental well-being, and academic success.
So why not give it a try and get your students moving and grooving today?
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.