Movement in the Classroom: A Blessing, Not a Curse

Jul 3, 2019 by

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It’s no secret that a child’s attention span is extremely short. How many times have you said, “I wish I could bottle their energy”? Children seem to have endless supplies of enthusiasm — which is part of what makes teaching so rewarding (and challenging). Does the thought of playing music and allowing your students to run around the room strike fear in your heart? Don’t let it! Think of it more as controlled chaos and less like a free-for-all. Instead of trying to stymie their natural desire to move around and “get the sillies out”, why not embrace it? Make it part of your curriculum? The truth is, incorporating movement into your classroom might actually reduce the number of disciplinary issues you have, not increase them. Intrigued? Read on to discover the benefits of incorporating movement into the classroom and how it’s done!

Benefits of Movement for Children

Movement, in general, is an important part of human development and function. It’s recommended that children get at least 60 minutes of exercise each day. While recess and gym class account for most of this in a traditional school setting, you can certainly add to this number using classroom activities. What are the benefits of doing so? Let’s take a look.

Improves Concentration and Productivity

Believe it or not, a child’s attention span may be longer than previously suspected. Research shows that a child’s attention span should be between 3 and 5 minutes per the child’s age. That means that a child at the Kindergarten level should be able to concentrate on a particular subject for approximately 15 minutes. Much younger children will lose interest in less than 6 minutes. The reality is that most classroom lessons and even arts and craft projects last much longer than that. Another sad reality is that most children who refuse to focus, lose interest, or become bored with the task at hand are handled in a disciplinary fashion, when in fact, their brain simply isn’t developed enough to concentrate much longer.

The answer? Allowing the child to get up, move around, focus on something else, and take a “brain break” will actually improve concentration when they return to the task at hand. Do you see a student getting frustrated? Are their eyes wandering? Are they clearly bored? Instead of forcing them to continue or pay attention, let them get up and stretch. Do a little dance with the entire class — the sillier, the better! March around the room for a few minutes using different steps (giant, baby, bunny hops, etc). All of these things not only take the child’s mind off of work, allowing them to relax and refocus, but it also offers a change of scenery, which we all need once in a while! Learn more here about how beneficial dance can be for young learners. 

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

It’s a sad reality that today’s youth has more stress and anxiety than in years past. Perhaps it’s the pressure to perform and succeed, the increased standardized testing, or advanced curriculum requirements. Whatever the reason, kids are stressed! Some exhibit their anxiety in obvious ways such as nail biting, fidgeting, or chewing on random items. Others act out aggressively while some students hold it in. The truth is, regardless of the student’s stress level, they’ll all benefit from some type of movement in the classroom. Exercise alone releases endorphins which trigger the chemicals in the brain (serotonin and dopamine) that control happiness and relaxation. Having students perform light exercise or even yoga periodically throughout the day can help calm the nerves, reducing both stress and outside distractions. 

Fosters Creativity

Have you ever heard of getting the creative juices flowing? Some people do it by meditating, others listen to music, and others enjoy yoga, exercise, and dancing. All of these forms of movement in the classroom give students a chance to be creative. Let them pick and plan the movement activities. They can each choose an exercise or dance move to create a choreographed routine. Incorporate scarves, instruments, or costumes for a more thematic or dramatic interpretation. You can even use songs like those found at GoNoodle.com where the lyrics coincide with the lessons being taught. Now, you’re killing two birds with one stone!  

Types of Movement in the Classroom

Now that we’ve covered exactly what role movement can play in the classroom and student productivity, let’s discuss options. Here are a few ways to get your students up and moving without compromising the learning process.

Scavenger Hunt

Kids love scavenger hunts! Provide them with a list of items found throughout the classroom (or school) and send them on their way. Have them document when they find each one using a clipboard or checklist. Not only does this get them out of their chairs but it also promotes teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Relay Race

With enough room, relay races make great activities to help break up the monotony of the school day. Move the desks or tables and create a safe space in the center of the room. Keep the race and rules as simple as possible. Try a rolled up sock on a large wooden spoon or bean bags that students can collect and place in a bucket or container. If you want to get really creative, add words or numbers into the mix and create a matching game along with the relay race.

Yoga

Millions of people around the world can’t be wrong — yoga is good for the body and mind. Kids can benefit from yoga in several ways including controlled breathing, flexibility, balance, and even following directions. Try using poses that don’t require a lot of room. If you can, dim the lights and play soft music. Cosmic Kids Yoga does an amazing job of creating stories with the movements so that students are completely engrossed in the activity and may not even realize they’re exercising!

It’s time to put your fears of student chaos aside and encourage your class to get up and get moving! In fact, by doing so, you’ll have a much happier, calmer, and more focused group of learners. Don’t be afraid to try new things and ask for student input. If it’s something they suggest, chances are, they’ll love participating.

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