Getting Physical All Around the Classroom
BLOCK AREA A set of hollow blocks and accompanying boards will give children appropriately heavy objects to move around to create buildings, roads, horse pens, bridges, and other playable spaces. These materials are enduring, give children hands-on geometry and measuring experiences, as well as emotional satisfaction and an opportunity for cooperative play. Set up a balance beam near this area or encourage children to make walkways with the long boards and 2"x 6" unit blocks.
ART AREA An easel with fresh paint and clean brushes should be a permanent part of the classroom as it allows large arm movements as well as creative expression. Two easels side-by-side encourage conversation and the sharing of art ideas, in addition to sharing observations about what happens when colors mix. clay and play dough are great materials for pounding and pushing.
MUSIC AREA Tapes and CDs of music that foster movement can be provided for children to use individually or in small groups. Rhythm instruments should be available as well. Books of some favorite songs help children make the connection between what they are hearing and the written text, as do song charts posted nearby.
DRAMATIC PLAY AREA Enormous amounts of physical energy will be expended by rearranging furniture and other props to make new play places in this area. By taking the basic "home" pieces and making stores, businesses, restaurants, doctor's offices, etc., children learn spatial relations, verbalize and dramatize their experiences, and collaborate in mini-dramas. Children can construct and deconstruct, taking responsibility for the arrangements and experiencing pride in their accomplishments. Teachers can provide extra props as the need arises. Cardboard boxes and lengths of cloth are helpful extras.
LIBRARY AREA Books about bodies, athletes, and recreational activities such as skiing, skating, and hiking contribute to an atmosphere where bodies are valued and taken care of, as do stories about occupations that require physical strength, such as fire fighting. Books about nutrition and good health will also promote an atmosphere where bodies are taken care of and valued.
MATH AREA Almost every physical exertion can be measured. For example, how far can you jump? Do you jump with one foot or two? Tape markings on the floor so children can measure their efforts. Invite children to measure their physical feats with the materials available in the math area (wooden cubes, rulers, or Cuisenaire rods).
CLASSROOM CHORES Physical tasks, such as wiping off tables and chalkboards, sweeping up after snack, emptying the trash, putting up chairs, and other housekeeping chores, all give children a sense of social accomplishment and pride in their physical prowess. An important part of being "big" is being competent. Children know that they are only at the outset of mastering reading and other academic subjects, but they can take satisfaction in knowing they are fully functioning members of the classroom community. There is emotional power in being responsible, and it is a power strong enough to support them as they work to gain skills in other cognitive areas.