What is Classroom Physical Activity? (repost)

We are experiencing some technical difficulty that makes older posts, such as this one, inaccessible. With the start of the new school year, this information is important to disseminate to teachers who may wish to try incorporating movement into their classrooms! 

While it can be assumed that classroom physical activity is physical activity in the classroom, it is important to make the distinction between this and physical education. Classroom physical activity is movement in the general education classroom facilitated by the classroom teacher. It can be categorized into three general areas:

  • Procedural activity: This is task oriented.  For example, allowing students to get up and sharpen pencils, or walk to turn in an assignment at a designated turn in basket.
  • Structured activity: This is whole-class engagement in physical activity unrelated to academic instruction.
  • Content-based activity: This is when physical activity is integrated into the academic lesson.

When incorporating physical activity into your classroom, consider how each type of activity may best suit your classroom, your students, and your teaching methods.

Note: Classroom physical activity should not be used as either reward or punishment! Rather, it is simply part of the learning process.

Starting a New Year with GoNoodle: Get Kids Moving!

GoNoodle, a site referenced in our Materials page, is a great way for teachers to add movement to their classrooms with minimal planning and effort. By creating a free account, teachers can access a wide variety of videos to support classroom physical activity. If you previously used GoNoodle, simply create a new class to get this new academic year off with a running start! This year, GoNoodle is also offering free downloadable postcards, name tags, and other paraphernalia to “GoNoodle” your classroom.

For more information or to set up/access your GoNoodle account: https://www.gonoodle.com

Educating Students on the Why of Classroom Physical Activity

I had the opportunity this week to conduct a professional development for classroom teachers about classroom physical activity. At the conclusion of the session, one teacher came up to ask a question:

“How can I get kids active in the classroom when the principal may come in at any moment and ask them what they’re doing and why?”

This is a common principal strategy to assess and evaluate – can students communicate the learning objective in the midst of completion? In classroom physical activity, as with any lesson, it is important that students are aware of purpose. While physical activity in the classroom should be fun and most students will enjoy it, the class culture should be one where physical activity is simply another component of the academic curriculum.

Setting the foundation for classroom physical activities is critical for management during and after movement. This foundation should include providing clear expectations for student behavior as well as the support for activity as a mechanism to improve learning preparedness. The age of the student will dictate the depth of this discussion, as younger students are not developmentally ready to learn about the physiology of the association. Instead, the idea that physical activity can help you think and can get the wiggles out may be appropriate. But even upper elementary students can be shown the image of the brain scans from the study conducted by Dr. Hillman and colleagues in 2009 that shows the impact of physical activity versus seated time (the color version better demonstrates differences).

Having the “why” conversation with students prepares them, not only to manage their physical activity behavior, but to articulate the purpose of classroom movement to aid in learning and achievement…garnering principal support for implementation.

Promising University of Michigan Research on Classroom Physical Activity

Dr. Rebecca Hasson of University of Michigan is conducting a study called Active Classroom where she simulates a classroom environment but offers students various short-duration light, moderate, and vigorous intensity activities incorporated into sedentary periods.  Dr. Hasson hopes to provide information on the health and cognitive benefits of engaging students in quick activity breaks throughout the school day.  An exciting feature of this project is the collaboration with the architecture department in the design of active classrooms.  View a short video and read more about this exciting study here.

Webinars to Increase Knowledge

Action for Healthy Kids is offering several upcoming webinars of interest. See their site for these virtual learning opportunities, including one next Wednesday, Sept. 9 about classroom physical activity!

Link to AHK Webinar page

Update (Jan. 2017): The Action for Health Kids webinar series is on-going, so continue to check the site for upcoming topics. Past webinars are available via archive.

Summer: Time to prepare for classroom physical activity?!

School’s out for the summer!  If you’re like me, you’re ready for some time where you don’t even THINK about lesson plans or curriculum or teaching methods.  But, inevitably, my mind always returned to those thoughts as the summer progressed.  Summer, when you have oodles of free time (at least compared to the school year), may be an excellent opportunity to learn more about classroom physical activity.  In preparation for the 2015-2016 academic year, take some time to discover how classroom physical activity can impact your students, your teaching, and your classroom environment.  And then take some time to think about how you can make physical activity in the classroom work for you!

Read some background information.  Check out our research page and look into some of the readings!

Free online training module: PBS Learning Media offers “Increasing Physical Activity in Schools: PD for Elementary Teachers” – a professional development module designed to offer tools to increase school-based physical activity.

Use our implementation page to get tips and tricks on adding or increasing physical activity in your own classroom. This page offers an action plan template and sample to get you started!

New Activity Ideas!

Health Powered Kids™, created by Allina Health, is a “free online resource designed to empower children and teens to make good choices about being active, eating well and balancing their lives.” One component of this website, which requires teachers to register for a free account to access materials, is Power Chargers. “Power Chargers are a collection of short exercises designed to give kids a quick activity break throughout the day. Choose from two, five or 10+ minute Power Chargers, depending on the time and space available.”

See our Materials page for links and more ideas on how to incorporate physical activity into your classroom!

New Research!

Norris et al. (2015) recently conducted a systematic review of classroom physical activity.  Findings indicate that classroom physical activity increases student physical activity levels and significantly improves or does not hinder educational outcomes with all results either positive or neutral.  This review calls for further research to gain a more complete understanding of the impact of classroom physical activity impact.

Naylor et al. (2015) systematically reviewed implementation of school-based physical activity interventions.  While studies varied in their assessment of implementation strategies and outcomes, the most influential factor to implementation success was time.

Burrows et al. (2014) determined that scheduled physical activity is associated with better academic performance.  In this sample, about 80% of students exercised for less than two hours per week.  Students who reported more than four hours per week of exercise were significantly more likely to perform about the 50th percentile in standardized academic achievement tests.

Katz, Mulder, and Pronk (2014) used worksite wellness Sit-Stand results as a method of improving student behavior and learning.

Chaput, Carson, Gray, and Tremblay (2014) proposed the importance of all movement behaviors in a 24 hour period for overall health of children.

See our Research Page for full abstracts.