More About Movement, Exercise, and Learning

By Ruth Manna on October 6, 2010
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5


Your comments last week made me think more about movement, exercise, and learning. This week I’ve added additional movement strategies I've tried with my students. Activities designed for students who have a high need for movement also benefit their more typical peers, so the whole class participated in these activities.


Two Pound Weights
Since students frequently spend more time indoors on computers than outdoors on swings, it’s not surprising that some have low muscle tone and poor upper body strength. I bought six sets of two pound weights at a discount store and introduced them to students as a way to strengthen their arms and shoulders and improve their handwriting. We rotated the weights around the room each day. Students kept the weights on their desktops and used them throughout the day.


Move 'n' Sit Cushion
It may seem counterintuitive, but a little wiggling helps students concentrate. A Move 'n' Sit cushion is a slightly inflated vinyl cushion that allows students to wiggle in their seats. I had six to eight cushions in my classroom, some assigned to high-need students and others to share among classmates. Ask your occupational therapist about Move 'n' Sit cushions.

Relaxation CD
I brought in a free relaxation CD I'd received at a hotel and played it to calm down an especially challenging, rambunctious class. The track, which involved tensing and relaxing muscle groups from toe to head, took just 12 minutes. Relaxation time quickly became a favorite activity.

The Iditarod is a nine-day, 1,100 mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome. During the Iditarod we’d start every day by improvising dance steps to a country/rock DVD, Idita-Rock n' Roll. Whether it’s a crazy exercise like the “Chicken Dance” or “YMCA” or more serious creative movement, dance lets students relax and unwind.

Creative Movement to Poetry
"Swift Things Are Beautiful" by Elizabeth Coatsworth
This poem, among many others, lends itself to interpretive movement. Divide the class into small groups and send them into different corners of the room. Ask them to plan a circle dance in which they have both swift movements (first verse) and slow movements (second verse). After about ten minutes, call them together, and as they take turns sharing, the other groups read the poem aloud.

Class Cheer
We developed a class cheer from a rhyme we found in Building Fluency Through Practice and Performance edited by Tim Rasinski. We made up movements to accompany the cheer.

“Al veevo! Al vivo!
Al veevo-vivo, boom! 
Boom, get a cat trap
Bigger than a rat trap!
Boom! Get another one
Bigger than the other one!
Cannonball! Cannonball!
Siss — Boom-Bah!
______________, ______________, rah! Rah! Rah!”

Fill in the blanks with the name of your class or group. We used the names of our houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each student cheered loudly for his house.

Brain Based Learning
Check out this book from Scholastic!

Learning and the Brain

Learning and the Brain Conference
By the way, Learning and the Brain, a fabulous conference, will take place in Cambridge, MA, From November 19–21, 2010. Learning and the Brain is about the intersection between neuroscience and education, and guest presenters are all experts in one or both fields of study. The theme of this fall’s conference is "No Brain Left Behind: Improving Teaching, Testing, and Treatment." I’ve attended this conference twice and will return again this year to learn more.


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