The Wonder of Some Exercise

I have used movement in my classroom a lot over the years, getting the students up to work in small groups or to participate in simulations and role-playing. Today was the first time that I incorporated an actual walk into the work of the class. It was an 80 minute period, first thing in the morning. The purpose of the class was to discuss study strategies and to allow the students time to practice them. I wanted for them to experiment with new ways of learning, so that they could begin to identify what works the best for them.

I started the class by going over the topics that were going to be covered on their upcoming test. It is first test of the year, as I tend to do many other kinds of assessment. I only give tests every now and then, mostly for the students to see how much material they have control over. I believe that mastering control over a body of information is an important skill, even in the Age of Google. It is far harder to think and write about a topic when you don’t have the facts in your mind. I work on helping them find the best ways to practice and learn facts and main ideas.

The students shared the ways that they like to learn information which ranged from making flashcards to recording it in Garageband to retyping their notes. We discussed some other strategies and tools that they could use, from paper and markers to Smart Ideas and Word. Because this isn’t the first time they have thought about this, they had a good idea of what tools they wanted to start with for their studying.

Then it was time for a brisk 5 minute walk. I suggested that they use the time to review in their minds what they knew and what they wanted to learn, but I didn’t enforce silence. The point was simply to get their blood circulating. We headed out of school and across the playing fields. They loved it. They chatted with each other and then broke out into a run when they got to the field. They laughed and joked with each other, spinning around and acting like the children that they are, rather than the students they must be in the building.

When we got back inside, I told them to find a comfortable space, in the room or in the hall, to do their work. They quickly spread out and got started with what they had planned on doing. There was none of the fidgeting and distraction that can so often accompany a Work Time. They had developed a plan and knew just what they wanted to learn and how they were going to do it. AND the blood was flowing to their brains. It was their task, and they owned it. There was a total focus on the task at hand. I wandered around among them, quietly recording what tool they were using to help them learn, fascinated by the variety of their choices.

After 25 minutes, I told them to stop and come together. They left everything where it was and gathered together. I told them that while they walked, I wanted them to share with a partner at least 2-3 facts or ideas that they had focused on while they were working. We set out on the same walk, with them moving in front to take the lead, talking and laughing over what they had learned. The whole exercise seemed like a lark to them.

What was amazing was that when we returned, they settled right back into the task at hand. They immediately picked up on where they had been and clearly shifted their focus from the walking time to a learning time. This is definitely a strategy to play around with. I had read about it but never tried it. I saw one of our PE teachers, and she responded, “That’s what it’s all about!” I have to agree!

3 responses to “The Wonder of Some Exercise

  1. I love that you incorporated physical activity and moving into the learning process. There is a book all about this titled “Spark” by John Ratey. Getting the blood moving does indeed make a difference!

  2. HI,
    I am a student of Dr.stanges’ EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I will be following you blog for the rest of this semester. I think that incorporating physical activity can do nothing but help! Most children can not sit for long periods of time, and if they do their little minds and hand begin to wander aimless. Bring activity into your lesson plan is a great idea for several reason and I honesty believe that more teachers should do it. I intend to do this with certain lesson plans. I will be writing a post referring to this particular post and if you would like to check it out, here it is
    My Blog

  3. Hi, I’m Sarah, a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College taking Ed255. I think using exercise during class is a great idea! I’m in a scholarship program that had pre-collegiate training. We met once a week for two hours, but it was always after a long day of school. Every meeting we began with a warm up that involved physical activity (for example, the human knot activity). Not only did we have warm ups, but throughout the meeting our learning constantly involved moving, whether it was a human barometer or having to get up to tape images and words to the walls. The use of physical activity kept me engaged and it was much more fun than just sitting behind a desk.

    You mention that your students settled right back into the task at hand, which is great! I was wondering if you have continued to use exercise and whether or not the students always get back to work so quickly?

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