movement and learning

The Connection Between Movement and Learning

Movement and learning go hand in hand. Get the wiggles out and help students learn better by incorporating movement into your lesson plans.

Sitting still in a classroom all day can be hard for students. Even your brightest students might tend to daydream instead of taking notes. Not only is sitting literally hurting them, but also limiting their potential to learn effectively. Understand the link between movement and learning and discover ways to bring meaningful movement into your classroom.

How Sitting Hurts Our Students

movement and learningSedentary habits lead to a variety of health issues. Google “the danger of sitting” and articles upon articles pop up detailing the horrors of a non-active lifestyle. While the damage can be combated by inserting activity throughout the day, it is important to know the risks of sitting for extended periods of time. The Washington Post put together a guide to sitting-related health concerns, outlining five main categories: organ damage, muscle degeneration, slower brain function, leg disorders, and back damage. From an increased risk of disease (heart disease, colon cancer) to a sore body, sitting has a major impact on health.

Sitting for too long can also hinder learning. Physically, movement increases oxygen to the brain, allowing it to function properly and well. Mentally, movement helps connect what the body is doing to what the brain is learning, helping students cement lessons. Aleta Marigolds, the founder and executive director for nonprofit Center for Inspired Teaching writes, “Movement isn’t a break from learning; movement is learning, and the opportunities for thoughtful exploration in the classroom are endless.”

Remember Learning Styles

movement and learningSome students are visual learners while others are auditory learners. One possibly overlooked category is the kinesthetic learner. Susan Griss, creator of Minds in Motion, a movement to encourage movement and learning, helps teachers and schools develop kinesthetic learners. She has found four prominent benefits of movement in the classroom: engagement, clarity, feedback, and brain-based learning. In her experience at schools around the world and across grades, she has witnessed students who can focus better and stay engaged with their peers when they are learning through physical activities. Students also can visualize lessons better when they see concepts unfold before their eyes, offering greater clarity than a PowerPoint presentation might provide. Feedback can be given immediately, both to teachers and to peers. Teachers can easily see if students are understanding by their participation and progress in an activity. Finally, an active environment can help stimulate the brain, deliver more oxygen to the brain, and help students remember better.

Ways to Integrate Movement and Learning

While not all students are kinesthetic learners, movement does benefit all students and can be incorporated into daily lessons regardless of grade or subject. Try these five tips for combining movement and learning.

1. Take stretch breaks.

Break up long lessons with pauses for movement. One easy way to incorporate movement that can translate across ages is stretching. For younger students, GoNoodle offers fun videos to get kids moving in the class and at home. For older students, traditional stretching is enough to get them out of their seats. Build time into the day to include these brief breaks, especially during testing.

2. Use creative lesson plans.

movement and learningIf your current lesson plans don’t include movement, get creative in finding plans that do support movement and learning. No need to ditch your go-to ideas, but complement them with creative activities. On her Minds in Motion website, Susan Griss offers several STEM-focused lesson plans that promote movement. In one plan, she offers ideas on how to clarify an abstract concept – like multiplication – with group activities.

3. Go outside.

Don’t be afraid to leave the classroom to encourage movement and learning. Whether you have students do a science activity in the hallway or go outside to observe something in nature, leaving the classroom promotes movement and reinforces the idea that what students learn in the classroom applies to the real world.

4. Experiment with furniture.

movement and learningYou might be limited in your ability to experiment with furniture depending on the structure of your school, but changing up your classroom can be an easy step to promoting movement and learning. Try moving desks around to let students sit or stand in the middle of the room. If possible, introduce standing desks in your classroom or replace chairs with exercise balls for healthier sitting habits.

5. Create learning stations.

Create different stations around the room so students can walk around by themselves or in groups. This strategy can work with a variety of lessons. Whether it’s test review or an experiment, different areas of the room can split up a long session of sitting and focusing on one topic.

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For more innovative resources for the classroom, check out our project-based learning guide!

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Courtney Runn

Courtney is a senior at the University of Texas where she studies journalism and Italian. An Austin native, she loves living in the capital of Texas but also has a soft spot for Italia where she spent middle school and high school. A few of her favorite things include chai tea lattes, spending time with her golden retriever puppy, and good food shared with even better friends.

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