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- The Role of Physical Activity in the School Day - March 11, 2013
- Classroom Activity Breaks – Reap the Benefits! - February 26, 2013
Research continues to show that activity breaks in the classroom can lead to improved focus and performance by our students. As a Physical Educator, I get tickled when a classroom teacher drops off their students and says, “Run them! They are WILD today!” This happens more frequently during the winter months when recess time and the weather don’t always cooperate. Fortunately, there are many tools and resources that Physical Educators can promote and classroom teachers can utilize to refocus their students during the school day. Let’s examine some ways to give students some activity in a small space, but be able to redirect them back to their classwork.
What can I do?
The simplest and most obvious activity is to come up with a list of body movements that can be done standing at a desk. Routine exercises like jumping jacks and jogging in place can get the blood pumping. Incorporating movements which cross the midline of the body also stimulate the brain. Your school’s Physical Education teacher can help you design a list to prevent overuse of the same exercises every day. If you are looking for more ideas, consider activities from the Brain Gym. They have many exercises that target specific learning areas (reading, math, and spelling) that your students may be transitioning to next. This option does take a little work on the front end by the classroom teacher, but it is an easy and inexpensive way to start.
Adventure to Fitness
A free, online service that is available is Adventure to Fitness. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of their “Brain Trust” team that gives feedback on Adventure to Fitness (AtF) ideas and services. That being said, I was a fan of AtF before working with them. They produce 30 minute videos that feature Mr. Marc on an adventure. The teacher is provided a pre- and post-episode guide, classroom activities that can build on the adventure, and a standards guide broken down by state and Core Curriculum to show what standards that episode covers. All the activities can be done in a small space behind a desk and the students are MOVING the whole time! Teachers at my school sometimes break up the episode into segments during the day to spread out the activity time. Did I mention it is FREE? They do ask you to register, but you can view samples of episodes on YouTube. This is one of the best ideas for incorporating movement into a classroom, but still keeping focus on academics.
Another online resource is Intelleboost. This service provides episodes of movement that are less than 5 minutes long. An episode will take a student through a series of movements that are usually sports related that can be done behind their desks. It is not as high tech or high energy as AtF, but kids still enjoy the movement. Our school system has provided this system to our schools and I have received positive feedback from teachers and students. Intelleboost will allow you a free two week trial period, but a yearly subscription costs $99.
“Do It Yourself”
If you know a little about technology and have some time, you can create your own activity breaks like Meriwether Lewis Elementary in Charlottesville, VA. Their Physical Education teachers, Scott Williams and Andrew Wymer, create activity breaks utilizing movements and dances that their students learn in PE classes. They are short breaks that teachers can access through their computer network. Many of their breaks feature students and classes at their school leading the activities so it really captures your attention. They have presented these activities at conferences and can even produce a short activity break video with music in less than an hour! You can view some of their materials and activities here.
In closing, classroom activity breaks are a fabulous opportunity to get students moving in a positive way. As the students move, their brains develop and become more engrossed on the task at hand. The breaks are a great way to get students refocused during cold or rainy weather when recess is not an option. Additionally, it can help you wake up little brains on those early standardized test days! School Physical Education teachers should take the lead in promoting these programs to classroom teachers. Being the cheerleader for promoting any additional activity that benefits students is certainly within our job description. There are plenty of viable options available to assist educators in making movement work for their classrooms. With a little work, research, or money, you can take advantage of classroom activity breaks and make a difference in your students’ performance.