Move and Learn

By Nancy Mikhail

Casey Middle School in Boulder, CO has an interesting teaching model called Fit Lit, in which students combine physical activity with language arts. Students take a 45 minute fitness class followed by a 45 minute language arts class. Val Wheeler and Sarah Friend are both fitness and language arts teachers who lead this program. Wheeler states, “Aerobic exercise definitely boosts our capacity to retain information, boost our memory and speed, we can take in and then rework information.”

Students whom are involved in this program seem to really enjoy this model of learning. Haley, a student at Casey Middle School states,”I can concentrate better after I do a workout, like doing a 5K or running for ten minutes. And it helps me with my next classes in the day.”

It makes sense that students feel refreshed after a workout and ready to learn. I attended a training on Tuesday and halfway through the training the speakers had us do about 2 minutes of yoga to show us an example of an activity we can do in the classroom. Surprisingly, after literally just 2 minutes of doing a strength training move and then closing our eyes for relaxation, the group felt a little better. The conversation proceeded amongst the teachers about how much their students love yoga and how it calms them down.

Allowing your students to have more time for physical activity can really boost their spirits, encourage them to be focused, and calm them down. Eric Jensen writes in his book, The Brain in Mind, “Amazingly, the part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain that processes learning.” Why should we have the students sit and learn the whole day? Movement is part of their natural being, therefore we should celebrate that and foster it, rather than fight it.

Make it a point this year to move more with your students (hey, it’s good for you too!). Find time in your lesson planning to allow your students to take stretch breaks, create activities in which they can move around the classroom, go outside to teach a lesson, or try to combine physical activity with science, math, history, or language arts. Use your teaching powers to make students excited for learning.  A few more ideas from the FitLit model are:

-Go for a jog wile discussing a book they are reading.

-Read while exercising on stationary bikes and elliptical machines or while stretching on a yoga mat.

-Exchange ideas and reflections with partners while walking around the outdoor track.

-Walk on their own while memorizing a poem.

Do you integrate physical activity with learning in the classroom? If so, what sorts of activities do you do? If not, what would you like to do more of or what are your challenges?