Students DO NOT need to be sitting in a desk to learn in the classroom. They can learn on the go!
Heading into my twelfth year in Physical Education, I always look for something new I can add to my teaching arsenal. Things are different for me this year however. This is the first year I will not be teaching in the classroom. Instead, I will be the full-time coordinator for Health and Physical Education in my school district. I still consider myself a teacher, I just now educate teachers instead of students. Although I have a different role in the educational system, I still have the mindset of a classroom teacher. I am starting another school year and I want to add something new that will impact a large group of students in my district.
In my district, students in grades K-6 attend Physical Education twice per week for 75-90 minutes. This is not enough time in the week for students to move! You may be thinking, “Elementary students have recess every day. They can move around then.” Yes, recess is an opportunity students have for physical activity, but it’s still not enough! Students need even more time to move their body. Science proves when an adolescent is sitting down for just 20 minutes, blood flow to the brain significantly decreases resulting in the inability to focus.
Last year, I began the movement for increased movement in the classroom within my district. Serving as a part-time Physical Education coordinator, I was able to get all classroom teachers an account with WELNET, a software that provides Brain and Body Boost videos that allow students to take short physical activity breaks in the classroom. This was a start.
My goal this year is to incorporate even more opportunity for physical movement in the classroom, primarily in grades K-2. I am dedicated to helping my district meet its strategic goal that “At least 19 out of 20 will meet or exceed standards in all core subjects by the end of Grade 3.” To provide more opportunity during the school day for physical movement AND help my district accomplish this strategic goal, I adopted the Early Learner Fitness (ELF) curriculum as a resource physical educators and classroom teachers could use to increase academics through movement-based learning. The ELF curriculum was developed to address the instructional needs of emerging learners and deliver essential content in motor skills, literacy, and mathematics. The best thing about using this curriculum…students don’t have to park themselves at a desk to learn the content.
The ELF curriculum allows content to be taught in the gym by the Physical Educator, or the classroom by the teacher. Lessons within this curriculum are designed to engage both the body and the mind. “When the brain and the body are asked to do two separate skills (learn while moving), the brain is challenged!” says Karen Cowan, CEO of Focused Fitness and one of the curriculum authors. “By doing two tasks at once, students learn both tasks quicker and skills become automatic. Students simultaneously grow physically and academically and their brains begin to function at a higher level.”
My district is piloting the ELF curriculum this year. I am excited to see the impact it will make in all elementary schools within my district. I am and will continue to be a strong advocate for students having more opportunity during the day to move, but I also believe the importance of being academically successful. I believe adopting the ELF curriculum as a resource for Physical Educators and K-2 classroom teachers in my district will do both of these.
Looking at your instructional strategies in the classroom, how do you provide opportunity for physical movement for your students? Are your students active learners? If you have effective methods to ensure your students are learning and moving, share them with your colleagues. Spread the word and let’s get our students learning on the go!