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.