Learning on the Move | Kinaesthetic Classroom
For the past seventeen years, I have worked through the education system as an assistant teacher, and resource room teacher and administrator. During this time, I’ve been through my share of educational points of focus and essential priorities. I have been through phonics, sight words, expected school-wide learning results (or whatever your school called them), online educational platforms, standardized test scores (zeroing in on areas of “concern”), and many more. All these are important, and the cyclical nature of trends in educational emphasis is evidence that we are continually trying to improve as educators.
We are always looking for better ways to teach our students. I feel like there has been a very crucial element of integration overlooked in education – movement.
Combining what we know about learning and fitness
If we combine what we know about learning with what we know about fitness, there is a natural alignment. Science shows us that the brain is an organ that we need to keep oxygen-rich blood pumping through to function properly. The brains purpose is to be an intricate control panel for complex foundations of development, both physical and psychological. By integrating movement into the learning process, we can keep our brain in peak physical condition while helping to build and maintain fundamental movements. These foundational movements assist in brain development and improve complex brain functioning.
As far as Pedagogy is concerned, the optimal amount of information each individual can have modeled, learn, practice, and eventually master, will increase if the student is maintaining a healthy functioning brain. The integration of movement at key intervals within the pedagogical process will only strengthen the connection a student has to the concept being learned.
Best practices in education
Best practices in education make up an all-encompassing spectrum; however, for me, differentiation will always be at the very top. Each student learns best in their unique way. The more a teacher can carefully construct a lesson, allowing each individual to each learn in their own best way, the better. Of course, this is an artful craft that takes time to master, and an understanding that learning methods, preferences, and styles need to be offered at different times and in a flexible fashion. It is essential to find a balance between a student’s learning preferences and methods that will not be successful.
Teachers need to know the techniques, materials, equipment, and furniture that can help facilitate the integration of movement into the learning process. The first important teaching technique is to have students make basic movements that require the brain to cross the midline while they are learning basic building block concepts of a lesson. For example, have the students stand up and touch their right elbow to their left knee while reciting the alphabet, spelling words, times tables, vocabulary, formulas, theories, scientific process, or theorems. This method works for all levels. When you begin, be sure the movement is not challenging for most of the students. Adding the movements will make it more difficult, and the concepts will become solidified.
Be metacognitive about movement, letting students know why and how these it will help them. Mix up the movements, and get creative with how, where, and how often they are to be done. Try not the get into a pattern as the more you mix up the types of movements and the concepts being practiced the better effect it will have. There are many ways to integrate movement into education. As a teacher, get creative and make it work with what works best for you and your style of teaching.
Tools to facilitate movement in the classroom
In some cases, materials such as posters that are at the students’ eye level can be used for tracing items with a finger. Lines, squares, ladders, balance beams, and other equipment can help teachers come up with a good variety of movements to utilize while practicing concepts.
Consider other tools help facilitate movement and optimal learning movement. Student’s desks that move up and down pneumatically with the squeeze of a lever (now commonly called Sit-Stand Desks) and desks with pedals or other types of movement built right in. Active seating solutions like wobble chairs or stools can help students strengthen their core muscles while moving. These are the types of classroom furniture and equipment solutions that I now specialize in and are sold by Fitneff.
As a parent, a teacher and an administrator, my ideal classroom would include Sit-Stand Desks on lockable, rolling, rubber castors and Wobble Chairs or Boomer Boards for each student. With posters for tracing on the wall, lines drawn on the floor, and a ladder ready for use. Include flexible grouping as much as possible, but also have students get into readiness groups, and learning style groups, at regularly scheduled times. The importance of movement, rest, healthy eating, and drinking plenty of water would be routinely emphasized.
I believe the benefits of integrating movement in learning will become the top priority in education soon and will stand the test of time. If you agree and would like to get more information about how you, as a teacher or administrator, can integrate movement into your classrooms, please contact me.
Matt Bolthouse is Fitneff's Educational Solutions Representative. Matt is an experienced educator, having worked as a Paraprofessional, Special Education Teacher, Department Head, and Administrator. Matt can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-888-632-3220 ext. 8