It is well known that children need to move far more than adults do. There is also strong evidence to suggest that incorporating physical activity and movement into classroom learning can improve concentration, student engagement and enjoyment of lessons, and improve interpersonal relationships with both peers and teachers.
In an Australian study into the impact of integrated movement-based activity on primary-aged children, one teacher remarked, “Adults need coffee to have the energy to continue with their busy lives. I give my students ‘coffee’ through movement.”
In some cases, there are physiological reasons as to why some children simply cannot sit still. These include postural muscles being unable to stay ‘on’ for extended periods of time and a child’s inability to turn down the volume of some sensations.
However, if your child is not able to sit still … don’t panic. Apart from the obvious health benefits, there are five key reasons why boys shouldn’t sit still in the classroom. Physical activity and movement can:
1. Prepare the brain to learn
Physical activity can help reset the brain in preparation to learn. Short activity breaks throughout the day are known to be highly effective in optimising productivity and academic performance in the classroom. John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, explains, “Movement activates all the brain cells kids are using to learn, it wakes up the brain.”
2. Improve academic results
A study by Lund University in Sweden concluded that students, especially boys, who participated in daily physical activity performed better at school. Students are able to practise critical thinking, enquiry and problem-solving skills, allowing for deep learning experiences.
3. Help children learn and become more attentive
A report by the Institute of Medicine in the United States found that children who are more active “show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed and perform better on standardised academic tests than children who are less active.”
4. Help boys to deal with emotions
According to author Ian Lillico, boys convert their feelings to movement. It is natural for them to need space and use movement to express and deal with their emotions. So, if you’re trying to get your son to open up, giving him physical space and room to move might just be the right catalyst.
5. Enhance personal and social development
Physical activities such as dance and sport teach children to communicate, improve gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination and help with balance. They can also help children to remain calm and self-regulate their emotions.
Incorporating movement into the classroom isn’t a new initiative. Many of us will recall starting each school day with the hand game, ‘open, shut them’! However, it is gaining momentum. We have seen a significant push toward agile learning spaces that promote movement and flexibility in the classroom - Trinity’s own Arthur Holt Library has successfully put this into practice.
Australian educators have also had success incorporating movement into classroom learning through programmes such as Jiggle Jam – short activity breaks that focus the mind and promote healthy living.
Physical movement can influence cognitive learning, physical and emotional wellbeing and social skills. This is particularly relevant to boys. At Trinity Grammar School primary boys have regular PE and FAST (Fundamental and Active Skills at Trinity) lessons timetabled, Years 3-6 do regular Sport, and there are optional Swimming squads, Rugby, Football/Futsal, EAP and TAP (Athletics) as co-curricular options. Aside from formal movement sessions, class teachers take their boys out for fun sport activities at various times.
For over a hundred years Trinity has educated boys in mind, body and spirit, and we are constantly evolving our teaching methods to ensure our boys receive the best education possible. Fuelled by a pastorally aware culture with exceptionally high levels of individual student attention, we aim to know, understand and nurture every student to help them realise their potential, passions and purpose in life.
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