By: Lauren Gould, 6th Grade Teacher, McFarland School District
"Ms. Gould, can we do yoga?"
It's the third day of school, and my 6th graders are already starting to look forward to our movement breaks just as much as I do. I couldn't be happier.
After sitting for hours during teacher in-services and professional development meetings the week before school started, I made a promise to myself that this year, my students would never sit as much as I did during those long days.
In keeping with that promise, I brainstormed several ways I would incorporate movement in my classroom this year.
Making Desks Optional
On the first day of school, I invited my students to stand during lessons whenever they felt like it. I let them know that they could stand around the edges of the room or anywhere in the learning space that wouldn't block another's view. Many of my students have already taken me up on this offer. I've noticed that it is the energy-filled boys who seem to take advantage of this extra space the most.
Letting Students Choose How They Sit
As an English language arts and social studies teacher, I've dedicated about a third of my room to our classroom library. This space is carpeted and open. During mini-lessons, we gather in this area of the room, no desks involved. When we gather, students have several options for how they sit. They can bring their chairs over from their desks if they would like. The also have the option of sitting on the carpet or a carpet square. In addition, I've brought in several other special chairs students can choose to sit on, including an exercise ball, a rocking chair, or even my desk swivel chair. I've found gathering together with these different options creates a cozy and comfortable community feeling.
Fitting in Movement Breaks
During our 77-minute English language arts block, I structure in at least one movement break per class. I find that movement breaks help my students transition between activities and refocus their energy so they are ready for the next task. As a practicing yogi, one of my favorite activities to do with the students is yoga. In addition to yoga, I also use movement games, calisthenics, and breathing exercises with the class. For a list of movement activities I use in my classroom, click here.
Planning Lessons with Movement
This year, whenever I'm lesson planning, my goal is to ask myself, "How can I get the students moving during this?" Last week, I changed one lesson to have a "hog call" format. Students were doing a proverb sort. Rather than sorting the pieces of paper at their desk, I gave each student half of a proverb. Their task was to get up and talk with their peers to find the other half of their proverb. During the activity, one of my students exclaimed, "This is fun! We should do this again!" I agreed. My goal this year is to make sure we do more curricular activities with movement.
Why I choose to have an active classroom
I believe an active and social classroom is a productive classroom. Movement breaks and activities take time. But I think it's worth it. I've found movement options in the classroom strengthen our classroom community, give students choice in their learning environment, and afford students the opportunity to self-regulate. Ultimately, I believe movement activities help prepare my students' minds and bodies to learn. They help my students be fully present, ready to engage with all the learning opportunities I throw their way.
Image Credit:Woodleywonderworks | CC BY 2.0 | https://flic.kr/p/bVACx8