Really Active Learning! 5 Ways to Introduce Movement in Your Classroom

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This week, we’re featuring a guest post by Pear Deck Director of Marketing Danielle Stebel.

From the moment I could sit upright on my own, I’ve been a fidgeter. In fact, my inability to keep still led to so many incidents that my mom had me walk through stores with my hands on my stomach in an attempt to avoid further “you break it, you buy it” moments. The place I found it the hardest to sit still was also one that historically required I do so — the classroom. Wedging myself into a desk/chair combo to sit for hours on end without moving felt like cruel punishment, and had me dreading going to school.

After years of admonishments for dropping items off my desk and squirming, I met a teacher who would change everything. My 5th grade teacher, let’s call her Miss Smith, was open minded and constantly trying new ideas in her classroom. She stumbled upon an article touting the benefits of movement in the classroom, and decided to give it a go by marking out a designated pacing area with masking tape. As a seasoned educator, I’m sure you can imagine what happened next. It was utter chaos, kids running over to the movement area while she was mid sentence to bounce around. Some pushing, some shoving, some arguing, lots of mayhem. However, once a system was formed and rules set into place — this area became my oasis. Every time my mind moved away from learning, I used the space to move my body instead. Here my love for movement in the classroom began — and it continues to this day, as I stand shifting and stretching while penning this very post.

Why Movement in the Classroom?

While we’re all familiar with research behind the benefits on physical activity in schools, it’s also been proven that even short bursts of activity make a difference. In a 2013 study published by the International Journal of Exercise Science, 5–15 minute physical activity breaks were shown to make a positive impact on student’s classroom behavior and alertness.

5 Ways to Introduce Movement in Your Classroom

  1. Stretch — simply lead your students through a series of simple stretches — think hands over head, cross arms, touch your toes. This doesn’t need to take long, just enough to introduce some mobility.

  2. Crossover Activities — also known as cross-lateral exercises, these consist of crossing the midline through movements such as touching a knee to the opposite elbow. These activities are particularly beneficial, as they allow motor skill development of the dominant hand.
  3. Walking in “Pears” — use Flashcard Factory to break your classroom up into pairs of students. Have them walk in their pairings as a warm up before the game begins.
  4. Assign Movements to Vocabulary Terms — Here at Pear Deck, our Chief Educator and co-founder Michal assigned us a 4 move “Values Dance” to help remind us of our 4 key values. The first few times we did the movements everyone felt ridiculous, but you better believe there isn’t a team member that can’t name our values any time.
  5. Exercise — don’t wait for PE! Start or break up your class with a few minutes of light exercise — think jumping jacks, knee raises, anything that will get your student’s heart rates up.

Tight on space? Even a short standing break can bring your students several of the same benefits as the activities listed above. Worried about bringing your students back following these activities? Use Pear Deck to start and end the movements with simple responses and screen lock countdown!

We’re always eager to hear your experiences. Share how these methods impacted your students, or other ways you’ve found to introduce movement in your classroom.

Danielle Stebel