The first session that I went to last weekend at Educon was run by a colleague of mine, Betty Ann Fish, @bafish10. She is the head of Physical Education at my school and is deeply committed to including PE in our thinking about 21st century learning. She works mainly with elementary students but has lots of ideas for how movement and activity can enhance curriculum. I got so excited as I listened to her. While I have already been using movement, having my students take short, brisk walks, to get the blood circulating and revive their energy, I had not made the connection to how activities like relay races and scavenger hunts could support the learning goals in my class.
One activity that Betty Ann talked about was a relay race where the students ran down and turned over one of 8 cards. The cards each had one of the stages of butterfly development, which was the topic their class had been studying in homeroom. If the card that they chose was the next one in order, the student got to bring the card with her as she ran back. If it was not the right one, the card was left. The movement and the learning were combined. What struck me, especially for a middle school classroom, is that this sort of task would support one of my primary goals which is to teach collaboration. The entire team is working together to remember the sequence of events as well as the placement of the cards. As they run back and forth, shouting encouragement and advice, they have to work together to reach their goal.
Another activity that Betty Ann discussed was for learning US state names and locations. The first step was to place cards with the states all over a playing field. The students have to run around and pick up a card. They then need to find the people who have cards with states that adjoin their state. There are all sorts of ways that this could be adapted. All of the states along the Mississippi need to run and touch the goal post. The Thirteen Colonies need to stand together. The list is almost endless, but with each activity, the students are interacting with the curriculum while also running and sharing together. Again, full of collaboration and while reinforcing the learning.
These kinds of activities also support a variety of learners. We all know that most of us are kinesthetic learners to one degree or another. We learn well while using our bodies as we do it. It is not just the “smart” ones who can help their partners. It is the fast ones; it is the ones who have good visual memory; it is the ones who already learned the sequence of events; it is the ones who encourage their classmates. Together they all master the challenge, review the material and learn the curriculum, and most importantly have a sense of achievement. .
One aspect of this that stuck me is that it calls for careful preparation. This is not, like most effective teaching, simply grabbing last year’s worksheet off the shelf. It needs thoughtful consideration about what you want them to learn. This sort of work for the students is going to make an impression; they are going to remember what they learned while running around. It will take time to organize and build it successfully, making cards or setting up scavenger hunts that don’t disturb the rest of the school, but it so clearly can and should be done. The students will love it, for the exercise and the total shift from what they expect to happen in “class.”
So I am off to do some dreaming! It will be interesting to see where these ideas take me!
Thank you to Educon and to Betty Ann!