When did the term “active learner” develop a negative connotation? A zest for learning, whether it be focused or energetic, is what matters.
Somewhere in our nation’s educational history, learning equated to sitting still for hours on end in perfect desk formation. The reality is that whenever we learn something in life it is because we are DOING something. We don’t learn to ride a bike by watching a video and holding a controlled discussion. Instead, we hop on the bike and build muscle memory as we navigate the new tool and gain a new skill.
The same should be true with students learning content in the classroom. They shouldn’t be expected to sit still for 6+ hours a day to become experts. Besides, what child can sit still at length? Instead of fighting against the biology in front of us, why not use it to our advantage?
As a mom of a little one, nothing is more true than the requirement of movement in learning. My toddler is all over the place and I cannot contain her. She is curious, excited and LOVES to learn. But never once does she want to sit still while doing it. Her learning style is characterized by trial and error, repetitive practice, and lots of movement. (And in my opinion, those are characteristics of proper brain development!) Once I stopped fighting the urge to keep her contained, we both became much happier people.
Just recently, I took my daughter to a gymnastics establishment for babies and not only did the movement peak her curiosity and satiate her desire to learn new skills, but it zonked her out. She slept better than ever because her brain and body had been exercised properly. The stimulation that she had been seeking but couldn’t verbalize to me was suddenly available and she went all out. In that one hour, my child matured in front of me. She learned to balance, follow directions, use music to gain vocabulary, and socialize with new friends. These developmental milestones are so important that I felt guilty I waited so long to expose her to the learning that her brain desired. But, as any mom and/or educator know, kids are resilient and it’s never too late to start over. I turned a new leaf and won’t look back.
For a brief moment, the educator in me felt horrible as I reflected back on my time in the classroom. I realized just how much our kids need to move while they learn and how much our current classroom set-up and educational theory are churning out failing students instead of successful ones. I wonder how much further along we would be as a nation if we just got rid of desks and allowed kids to move? And I don’t just mean for a quick brain break throughout the day, but during the entire learning experience.
5 Ways for Students to Move (or Wiggle) as they Learn:
- Sit Still to Concentrate– When rolling out a new concept, allow students to remain still so that all of their energy is going towards comprehension. Use a mini lesson format so students are only sitting still for a short amount of time before being allowed to move while applying the new knowledge.
- Face to Listen– When listening to others, allow students to physically turn their bodies towards the speaker to show respect and encourage the brain to take in physical cues to aid in understanding. This teaches proper social skills as well as builds self-esteem in the speaker.
- Move Around to Talk– When expressing oneself, allow students to move about the room as well as move their arms and hands so that all ideas flow freely. When students are focused on moving, their brains are free of roadblocks to churn out ideas at a rapid rate.
- Move in Place to Reflect– When ruminating over a concept, allow students to stay in one place and move their bodies (walk in place or hop) to help the brain process the information.
- Move Quickly to Solidify Learning– When committing knowledge or skill to memory, allow students to rapidly move (in one place or around the room) as they say the concept or do the skill repeatedly. The quicker they move with each repetition, the greater the likelihood the information sinks in and becomes easy for the brain to retrieve later on.
A healthy mix of stillness to concentrate and movement to process will ensure the needs of students’ brains and bodies are met. Plus, it breaks up the monotony of the day and add some spark to your lessons. Use the ideas above to increase academic productivity in your classroom!
What learning movements do you incorporate into your classroom?