Equity Tips #6

Strategies that make a difference...

The Importance of Movement and Practical Problem-Solving

Last month, our school psychologist, Shira Levy, sent us excellent tips on boy-friendly learning strategies in the classroom. She underscored research that shows boys are 60% more likely to be suspended than girls, which is why we should consider boy-friendly approaches to learning. Two strategies that Shira noted are near and dear to my heart as a teacher: movement and practical problem-solving. This was brought home to me years ago, when I worked as a special educator at a non-public, level 5 school for children with emotional and learning disabilities. Most of my students were boys, and there were many behavioral and learning issues that had to be dealt with on a daily basis. Sitting at a desk all day didn't cut it for these students, as you might imagine! So one of the ideas I came up with was to create a theme for my classroom environment (horse ranch) that enabled me to create comfortable learning and reading centers with the help of donated realia. I also began to bring my class to a local horse farm, twice a month, to learn about compassion for animals and to do physical, real-life work. The first time our class social worker, teaching assistant, and I brought our students to the farm, it was almost a disaster. Almost all of the students engaged in negative behavior at the thought of going to the farm, including shouting and using foul language. I thought we were going to have to turn around and go back to school. But something happened when we got to the farm. All of the hostilities turned to calm and peacefulness. The kids with the most bravado melted on the spot as they petted little kitties, picked special grass for the bunny rabbits, and learned about the temperament of horses. At this farm, the children were introduced to meaningful work, and it made a difference in their attitudes. They mucked stalls, groomed horses, made up mathematical designs for irrigation ditches, and hauled all sorts of things in wheel barrows. It showed me that kids need movement, and they also need meaningful work (or projects) to do.


In public school we can't bring our kids to a horse farm twice a month, but we can incorporate movement and real-life problem solving to our learning environments. With the growing emphasis on project-based learning, any class could actually pick an issue that needs solving or inquiry on a school campus and turn that into a project that requires skills development in reading and math, i.e., how to efficiently clean up during lunch time, how to fix a drainage problem in one of the fields, how to incorporate more recycling, etc. If you use PBL, then you know that it incorporates movement, collaboration, and hands-on learning. Aren't your kids more engaged when they're doing this?


And movement in general can be incorporated into all kinds of learning activities. In fact movement should be considered whenever you are about to teach a new concept or standard because it will help students recall this new information more efficiently. This does not mean simply getting students on their feet for some stretch exercises, moving them into learning groups, or going to the board to write something. What you want to do is apply movement in a deeper way. Here are some examples of what other teachers have done:


1. Students walk while the teacher reads an unedited sentence and pause to physically represent each type of punctuation needed.


2. Students stand up and represent a number sequence or place value by using their bodies.


3. Students represent fast moving or slow moving molecules, depending on the selected substance.


4. Students form human letters to represent the alphabet and perform actions associated with each letter.


5. Students create a human number line from shortest to tallest to demonstrate positive and negative integers.


Think about what you want to teach, and then create a movement activity that will help the students learn to concept. You can also use movement for formative assessments and immediate feedback to students. It works great! Movement makes for happier classrooms, more engagement, and less stress. We teachers know how it feels to sit in one spot for a long meeting. All we have to do is imagine how our students feel at the end of a long day of sitting in uncomfortable chairs. Isn't it worth incorporating movement into your classroom and allowing students to get out of their seats?


Resources:

Letting Kids Move in Class Isn't a Break from Learning: It IS Learning

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/01/19/letting-kids-move-in-class-isnt-a-break-from-learning-it-is-learning/


Using yoga balls in the classroom:

http://life.gaiam.com/article/how-sitting-ball-helps-kids-focus-and-do-better-school


The benefits of movement in schools: http://www.creativitypost.com/education/the_benefits_of_movement_in_schools


Project-Based Learning:

http://www.hightechhigh.org/

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Reminder of Boy-Friendly Strategies from Shira

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Written and compiled by Kate Collins, NBCT

Equity Liaison, Arts Integrationist

Seven Oaks Elementary School