This is a great time of year for teachers to set goals, commitments, or even a word of the year. Irrespective of the method that you choose, finding ways in which to improve your teaching can only be a good thing. I’ve blogged, and even podcasted about how I set professional goals at the start of each school year. Incorporating student movement opportunities within my #healthed classroom was my goal for last year.
Inspired initially by Mike Kuczala and his book The Kinesthetic Classroom and then by people such as LaVonna Roth, Alex O’Brien and Jorge Rodriguez I was able to achieve my goal to such an extent that I will be sharing my experience at WHPE with Andy Horne in October. Here are my Top 5 tips to incorporating more movement opportunities in your classroom.
- Change your mindset – Once you get into the right mindset, finding movement opportunities becomes much easier than perhaps you initially thought. First you have to understand what the kinesthetic classroom is not. It is not a chance for schools to replace physical education class and say that students are moving in other classes and therefore specialized physical education is no longer needed. Also it is not the ‘forced’ adoption of brain boosts at a set time into the lesson. “OK kids, that’s 10 minutes into class, lets all stand up and do our crossing the mid-line exercise”. Although brain boosts are obviously beneficial it is important that incorporating kinesthetic opportunities become a part of your natural teaching flow. It should never be forced. Finally, this is not the same as the neuromyth of multiple intelligences. We aren’t teaching to a preferred learning style, we are making the learning experience novel, fun and engaging. We are increasing student focus and making the classroom more social, more memorable and more interactive.
- Turn passive into active – If your students are sitting passively, waiting for you to feed them with the information needed for the next assessment then you are in need of a re-focus. This blog post explains how I changed my traditional ‘Sexually Transmitted Infections Word Web’ into a kinesthetic activity that improved student engagement and recall.
The image to the left was taken in a snorkeling lesson. Traditionally I would ask students to swim to the poolside and as they shivered I would tell them different hand signals used to communicate under water. This passive activity was replaced with a more kinesthetic one. I xeroxed images of the hand signals and placed them in small plastic water bottles. In small groups students snorkeled to each bottle, read the image and repeated it to each other under water. After they had visited all of the images we re-gathered poolside, recapped the information and had underwater conversations.
I also taught the same STI word web activity in a different way. I posted all of the information around our climbing wall and had students traverse their way around gathering the STI facts and statistics. Recall after this activity was impressively high and the buzz about all of the lessons mentioned above was more noticeable than about most of my lessons.
3. Listen to your students – If you are only just starting to incorporate movement into your classroom you may be nervous or unsure of your progress. Your students will be your best progress gage. I guarantee that for some, the novelty of being allowed out of their seats within a classroom will be enough for them to speak highly of your teaching. As students report back to you that your teaching is more engaging than others you will be inspired to try new ideas. Additionally, listen out for students when they mention other teachers in the school that also do something similar. It’s possible that there are other ‘kinesthetic islands’ in your your building, and you maybe able to collaborate and share ideas. At my school we have a cohort of teachers that meet frequently to discuss engaging ways in which to improve their kinesthetic teaching methods.
4. Have a couple of go-to activities – I worked with a rugby coach who would transition between activities by having the athletes run over to the water tap to hydrate. By the time they returned, the coach was ready to move onto something new. This opportunity to clear the space proved to be very effective. In the classroom, my go-to activity is the walk and talk. I’ll pose a question or problem to students and ask them to pair up, walk a designated route and discuss the question at hand. This allows me to clear the room, make changes to the seating, load up some music or put notes on the whiteboard. This changing of state is almost like hitting the reset button and is also a great activity to use when students have lost focus and need to regroup and attend to something important.
5 Check out the resources – If you are a connected educator your PLN will be a great source of support and information. Books/blogs to check out include:
Videos to check out include:
TED talk from Mike Kuczala
Podcasts to check out include:
After a year of making an effort to incorporate movement into my classroom I now feel confident enough that it feels totally natural and I don’t have to actively think about finding ways to get students moving. Check out the resources and links to those outstanding educators listed above and feel free to ask them questions. You can also check out the kinesthetic classroom Voxer chat to take the conversation a little deeper.
Read more in the extremely popular follow up blog More Movement in the Classroom