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New York Times says, "For Better Grades Try Gym Class"

I love it when we get confirmation from the media about what we, in the physical education and/or special needs field, have known for years. Movement helps children learn! An article in the New York Times brings attention to this belief with research that says exercise does significantly help with concentration abilities. One of the most prominent studies involved 138 children that were given a written test following different kinds of exercise. They found that test scores improved the most after an endurance class, that is, when the children were required to run, walk, skip and otherwise keep moving for the duration of the class. You can read the New York Times full article here. Let us know how your school keeps your students moving!

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Comment by Cecilia Cruse on January 25, 2012 at 10:01am

I  so agree with Martianne's suggestions. In schools this issue often shows up with difficulty calming down after recess or PE.  In addition to the helpful hints already listed, I would also suggest to be more mindful of the transition period between the activities. For the heavy work input for example, at school we had the kids stack/unstack the classroom chairs or sweep the floor using a broom with a soft weight (such as the flexible ankle/wrist weights that wrap) during the time after they get back in side from recess/PE but before they resumed work at their desks.  Think about having a visual cue to help mark the transition countdown (such as setting the Time Timer for 10-15min) and using a photos or picture symbols to indicate what comes after the recess/activity break. Musical transition compositions may also be helpful. For more ideas check out Jean Feldman's book Transition Tips and Tricks for Teachers.  Good luck!

Comment by Martianne Stanger on January 25, 2012 at 9:09am

How about a heavy blanket or lappad, doing some focused/sustained heavy work activities or stretches, playing with thinking putty (we love the stuff!), figuring out what senses she responds to/relaxes with best and then choosing some activities to try based on them (I made some calming cards that might help you brainstorm - )  Or, how about choosing some calming activities from the active Imagination book (I reviewed it here - )

Comment by Lynn Lindahl on January 25, 2012 at 2:18am

I have a 9-year old daughter who battles with her wiggles!  But, if we take a break and let her run and get active, she can't seem to settle back down afterwards.  It's as if it energizers her more!  Any ideas on how to help her calm herself after we've taken an activity break?

Comment by Martianne Stanger on December 20, 2011 at 4:56pm

I only have a few minute now Kelli, but some thoughts that come to mind:  fractions read food to me -- pretend or real.  Recipes, working with Melissa and Doug cutting foods or pizza game, etc.  The more concrete the better.    Also, having the children move to parts of the room by thirds, halves, etc or tracing their bodies and having them color, stamp, paint a certain fraction of it...  A lesson modified from this one would be wonderful for kinesthetic cause and effect -  For fact and opinion, you can easily have the students make F or O shapes with their bodies to respond to you or give them strips of F and O statements that they must sort either at their desk or,better yet, to posters on different sides of the classroom.  Or, tape a Fact sheet on one side of the room and an Opinion one on the other.  Make statements and have the children move to one side or the other based on what they think.  This can be played as an elimination game or just for fun.  For sentences, I might suggest doing a drama game for acting our adjectives first -- have the children brainstorm as many adjectives as they can and then act them out using bodies or bodies and words while the other students guess them.   Then, build silly sentences.  Offer students a sentence such as, "A girl runs."  Have them act it out and then draw an adjective card and act it out again using the card.  Alternately, use pocketcharts or a cookie sheet with magnetic cards and build sentences.  you could do something like the lesson here:  There are soooo many ways to learn and to prove learning without worksheets.  And, even with worksheets, you can add movement by cutting the worksheets up and placing them at stations around the room that the children move between.  Make an obstacle course between stations....  If youw ant more ideas, just say so.  I am full of them.

Comment by Kelli McCoy on December 20, 2011 at 3:57pm
Thanks, Martianne! I have 2 or 3 students in each class. I work with the regular curriculum as much as possible, but modify it as necessary. My 3rd graders will start fractions in the new year. In reading we do alot with learning specific skills like cause/effect, fact/opinion, etc. We are learning to write sentences, and how to incorporate adjectives into those sentences to make them more interesting. I find myself in all classes stuck in the rut of me explaining and then them doing a worksheet to show me how much they "learned," even though I know good and well that they would learn so much better by getting up and doing!
Comment by Martianne Stanger on December 19, 2011 at 4:19pm


If you let me know some of the regular classroom activities you do within your 45 minute plan, I can likely offer some movement tweaks.  I used A LOT of them over the years as an ESL teacher overseas and an ELA traditional teacher here in the States.  Row Races, Criss Cross, Blackboard Relays, Popcorn Catch Balls, Fly Swatters, etc were all among them.  With younger children, I often found that card-realted games of Slap, Go Fish, etc. on the blackboard or in circles at desks and on the floor enhanced learning and incorporated movement.  Also, simply incorporating chances to move by almost choreographing lessons helped -- pair work, small group work, individual work, standing, sitting, etc.

Comment by Kelli McCoy on December 19, 2011 at 3:08pm
As a first grade teacher I had the kids moving as much as possible. Now that I have classes for only 45 minutes, though, I've kind of gotten away from that. However, my classes are special ed, and those kids would probably benefit greatly from increased movement according to this article. I will have to figure out ways to incorporate more movement again. I'm going to continue reading comments on this blog to get my creative juices flowing!
Comment by Mary Benson on December 16, 2011 at 12:08pm

I know movement works!  My son is in a day school.  there are four children in his class and they are all in wheelchairs, the adaptive sports and adaptive physical education are scheduled before the learning stuff in the classroom, and they are more attentive and participate more because of it!  It amazes me when the media discovers therapies that my son has been getting for years, it's like they have reinvented the wheel...

Comment by Cecilia Cruse on December 15, 2011 at 12:35pm

Great suggestions! Thanks for sharing!

Comment by Martianne Stanger on December 15, 2011 at 9:53am

Fantastic!  This reminds me of the case studies in Growing an In Sync Child which i reviewed here  It is amazing how motor work can improve mental work!

When I was a classroom teacher, I often used row races and blackboard games to get the kids up on their feet and moving around, lots of pantomime, too.  Nowadays, as a homeschool mom, I add movement into much of our learning, sometimes as part of core subjects, such as read and run or story times, such as our snow-themed one and sometimes just for fun, such as pool noodle hockey or scarf play for perceptual motor development.

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