6 No-sweat ways to add Physical Activity to your Classroom

Today’s teachers are increasingly tasked with educating the whole child. While much of this challenge can be daunting and laden with complexities (Self esteem! Empathy! Grit! Citizenship! Critical thinking! Emotional intelligence!) there is one component of whole-child education that can be fairly easily achieved: physical activity.

It’s not just the job of PE classes and recess to give students the opportunity to move—especially now that students are getting less of each. Physical activity during school should be cross-curricular. The benefit is two-fold; not only does physical activity promote students’ health, it can also be good for student learning and emotional regulation (and it’s pretty fun, too!) You can read the research here.

Here are some simple ways you can help your students by increasing their daily dose of physical activity. What’s more, depending on what you chose, the content-specific learning doesn’t even have to stop!

To review concepts:

1. Have students stand next to their desks. Instead of raising their hands to answer a questions have, students do a jumping jack or jump up in the air.

2. While standing, toss a ball from one person to another and have students give one fact they’ve learned

3. Use your SMART board to get students out of their seat and stretching as they move elements around the board.

a. You can also have students throw a soft ball to advance a Power Point slide (they’ll probably have to get out of their seat to do this!)

Develop a movement routine using one or more of the following strategies:

1. Enhance daily school tasks with complimentary movement. For example, have students do arm circles while walking to the restroom, walk on their tippy toes each time they go to sharpen their pencils, or hop to your desk to turn in a paper.

2. Use a Standing Desk as a Reward. Get a standing desk or two and reward students with the opportunity to use them during a lesson. Rotate which students use the standing desks, and by the end of the day, every student will have stood at least once.

3. Take brain breaks. A Brain Break is a kinesthetic activity used to refocus students attention after a transition in class. They are fun, fast and need limited equipment. Before switching subjects or every hour on the hour, take a 2-5 minute break to do something active.

4. Keep a Bag of Tricks: Write a variety of movement-based activities—frog jumps, jumping jacks, and yoga stretching—onto small pieces of paper or popsicle sticks. When it’s time for a brain break, have a student draw a “trick” out of the bag and lead the entire class in that exercise.

5. Play Fitness Dice: Every hour on the hour, pull out your fitness dice and have a student roll them. Then, have the class do whatever comes up—whether it’s 8 push-ups or 12 jumping jacks. (And yes, even short bursts of movement like this make a big difference without taking up much class time at all.)

6. Other ways to take a brain break include: “Hokey Pokey”, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”, freeze dance, active alphabet, or choreographed songs (see links to kid-friendly dance-instruction videos here.

If you’re interested in this topic, check out Classrooms in Motion, a resource dedicated to encouraging teachers to use physical activity in the classroom. You can also sign up to receive access to free brain break videos here. (But before you do, feel free to take a brain break yourself!)

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