An honest truth is that I really wish I were one of those insanely fit people who goes to the gym and does a killer workout every single day. Another honest truth is that I am not one of those people, and I know well that I most likely never will be. I can say truthfully that I am a very active person, and I make it a point to do some kind of deliberate exercise or movement each and every day. I mean, my job doesn’t really give me a choice- I’m on my feet all day long trying to keep up with a bunch of 8-year-olds. I also live in New York City and walk basically everywhere. Seriously, I don’t have a car and it’s a game-changer in terms of physical activity. My Fitbit is usually buzzing to tell me I’ve hit 10,000 steps by the time I eat lunch.
Even though my lifestyle is really active naturally, like I said, I make a conscious effort to do some kind of intentional exercise daily. For 5 of the 7 days out of the week, I spend the better part of my day in my classroom with my students. I’m all about efficiency & multitasking, so of course I’m in love with the idea of getting my exercise in while I’m doing what i love most, teaching. Why not kill 2 birds with 1 stone, right? I’m especially all about this because it benefits my students in so many ways.
Well, first of all, how in the world do I teach & exercise at the same time? Here are my top 5 favorite ways of incorporating movement while we learn in my classroom:
1. Active Transitions: I try my best to do at least 1 of these every day. The idea is to have the students (& the teacher)! do some kind of deliberate movement while transitioning between activities or subject areas. It can be as easy as something like, “Please put your reading notebooks away, do 10 jumping jacks, and then take out your writing notebooks.” It helps break things up, especially when the students are doing work that has a nature of requiring them to sit for a while.
2. 3 Moving Minutes: This is probably my favorite way that I incorporate exercise into my classroom! I don’t do this every day, but I try to do it as much as possible. The idea is to pause what we are doing and move for 3 minutes straight. Sometimes I will put a Go Noodle exercise video on the SmartBoard, and other times we will do a set of exercises that the students or I come up with for 3 minutes with a 3 minute timer. Depending on the day it could be anything from push ups to yoga poses. I’ll be honest, the students totally prefer a Go Noodle video, but I try to change it up as much as possible! This is an excellent way to regroup if the students are extra antsy or having trouble focusing.
3. An Alternative to Punishment: While it definitely depends on the situation and action, sometimes a student who does something “bad” may just need a brain break, or be having a rough day. If I feel that the situation is appropriate, I will take the student who is misbehaving into the hallway and give them directions to do a yoga pose or some kind of exercise, and to take a minute to think about what just happened in the classroom. I tell them to come back in when they are ready. Students tend to respond much better to this than to being scolded or asked to respond to “explain why what you did was wrong.” The exercise that they need to do takes their mind off of what just happened, and helps them relax for a minute. Like I said, it completely depends on the situation, and extreme times call for different ways of handling things. But, if I can deal with a situation with exercise, I do.
4. Review Sessions: If I am doing a review for a quiz or just simply trying to jog the students’ memories of something that we haven’t talked about for a while, I incorporate movement into it. I do this by asking a question, giving 2 possible answers, and then providing an exercise that corresponds with each of the 2 possible answers. For example, if the question is “What is 12 x 12?” I will tell the students to do a jumping jack if their answer is 144, or a squat if their answer is 122. I also like doing this in the form of true/false or agree/disagree. In my experience, incorporating movement with the content always results in higher engagement from the students. Plus, it just makes something boring like reviewing for a quiz way more fun!
5. Fitness Fridays: This one is pretty self-explanatory! Every Friday afternoon, the students and I do some kind of exercise that we have either studied about or learn about through classroom content. My class has been studying yoga, which I have incorporated with social studies, and the students go absolutely nuts for it! Each student made their own yoga mat with a towel & fabric markers, so they take the whole experience really seriously. Every Friday morning I have kids raising their hands asking when it will be time for yoga!
Ok, so why should you take the time to incorporate movement/exercise into your classroom? There are so many benefits for the students (& the teacher)!
1. Physical Fitness: This is the most obvious reason, but it is so important. I work in an urban area, and from what the students have told me, they don’t play outside as much as they would like, simply because of space & resources. Incorporating some playful exercise into the classroom helps get some of this energy out & gives the students an opportunity to have some fun & stay healthy.
2. Refocus opportunity: Taking a break from learning (& teaching) is so necessary sometimes in order to continue in a productive way. Doing a bit of exercise can serve as a re-energizing experience, and if you feel like the vibe in the room is losing energy, doing a bit of movement as a brain break can get you right back on track!
3. Builds community: The students look forward to our exercise breaks, and I’ve even seen them practicing yoga poses in the hallway or out at dismissal. They talk about yoga, and these times when we are exercising are when I have the least amount of discipline issues. It just creates an amazing energy that brings out the best in myself & the students.
How do you incorporate movement into your classroom?