Get Your Child Moving to Improve Learning!

During my first year of teaching elementary school, my colleagues forewarned me that the day after Halloween would be the most active school day for students and the most difficult day to teach. Arriving to work that November 1st, I learned that my fellow teachers were absolutely correct. I even wanted to check the class's ant farm to see if there were any escapees!

That day, I realized that I could use this excess energy for learning rather than letting it work against me. I quickly thought of several ways that we could incorporate movement into learning. While other teachers were battling the sugar wars, my students and I were learning and loving it. It turned out to be one of the most effective days of our entire school year.

Thanks to advances in research on how the brain works, we now know that most of the brain is activated during physical activity. From some of this research, I learned that too much sitting is detrimental to learning. Eric Jensen, author of a number of books on brain-based learning, and Rae Pica, author of More Movement, Smarter Kids say it best, "Sitting for more than 10 minutes at a stretch reduces our awareness of physical and emotional sensations and increases fatigue resulting in reduced concentration. Movement, on the other hand, increases blood vessels that allow for the delivery of oxygen, water, and glucose to the brain. This can't help but optimize the brain's performance!"

I grew up as the eldest of four girls, and now I am the mother of three boys. From my family experiences and my years as a school teacher, I can attest to the fact that boys and girls learn differently. The research clearly shows that boys require more movement while learning. Unfortunately, boys are often penalized in school settings when unreleased energy becomes fidgeting and fidgeting becomes disruptive behavior. In their book, The Minds of Boys, Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens state that eighty percent of classroom discipline problems are caused by boys, and over three-fourths of schoolchildren on Ritalin or similar drugs are boys.

If you have a son, please take time to visit "Gender Differences" to learn about resources that provide valuable information for parents of boys.

Whenever your child has "ants in his pants" or just needs a break from sitting when completing schoolwork and homework, try the "Get Moving Approach" and implement one of the following activities:

  • Take a break and do jumping jacks, toe touches, or sit-ups.
  • Snap and clap letters to spelling words.
  • Jump on a mini-trampoline while practicing math facts and spelling words.
  • Ride a stationary bike, rock in a rocking chair, or swing in a porch swing while reading aloud.
  • Dance, sing, or act out letters for spelling words.
  • Roll a ball back and forth to each other or have your child bounce a ball as he spells words or practices math facts.
  • Assign a simple task to keep your child focused when you read aloud. Have him raise his hand or touch his nose when he hears a certain word.
  • Stand up to complete work. He can even take turns standing on one leg. This is helpful if your child has been sitting for long periods of time, especially after a school day.

Tamara Chilver is an elementary teacher, home educator, speaker, author of Homeschooling with TLC in the Elementary Grades and Tutoring Your Elementary Child with TLC, and creator of the television program Flip Your Family. Tamara’s approach gives parents teaching tools to enhance their children's education and empowers them with confidence. For more teaching tips, visit TeachingWithTLC.com.

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3 Responses to “Get Your Child Moving to Improve Learning!”

  1. Karen Newell says:

    Excellent article, and very important strategy for many learners. I would also add some other “moving” tips:
    Draw or color while listening to a story being read
    Physically walk to a number card, rather than “announce” the answer to a math flash card
    Stand and sit for “yes” and “no” when answering review questions
    Take a hop, skip, and jump break after completing three activities on their academic schedules.’
    Complete different activities in different locations for variety in their environment AND in their posture. For instance, read on the couch, sprawl on the floor to do art, stand at the table to do science, sit at their desk to do writing, etc. etc.

    Depending on the gender, maturity, and learning styles of the student; these modifications can make or break their ability to learn.

    Thanks for the great information, Tamara.

  2. I’m a mom of 2 boys! This was very useful; as a homeschooler, I love that I can alter our learning environment to suit the needs of each of my boys’ individual needs and learning styles.
    .-= Scientific-Homeschooler´s last blog ..Chronological History of the World Unit-Studies for Homeschoolers updated Tue Oct 27 2009 12:58 … =-.

  3. Rae Pica says:

    Wonderful post, Tamara! Thanks for calling attention to the connection between moving and learning. Too many people are still unaware of the interrelatedness of the mind and body and believe that the best learning takes place while seated. Not even remotely true!

    Thank goodness homeschoolers have the right to make movement part of the curriculum. Too many public school teachers are currently being forced to teach in ways that they KNOW are developmentally inappropriate. But they’re not being given a choice.

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