Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Movement and Education

In my book reviews years ago, I discussed the scientific studies on movement and the brain. The idea that kids need to move to stimulate the brain has become so accepted in medical and educational circles that it lacks any significant punch these days. It is a common household understanding. I love to see educational environments that are child-centered, where the children work together to research and discover, to question and debate, and mostly, to move their bodies. In my weekly math class, I rely heavily on direction from IXL and SPECTRUM, but in the implementation of these programs, I get the kids to move. For example, after using the pizza pieces from a fractions game to demonstrate fractions, we all pretended to eat the pizza, pass the pizza fractions around, laugh and be silly. They didn't need to sit to do this, they didn't need to be quiet. Simple, I know. But the kids loved it. They wanted more. So, okay, more fractions. We did work in our SPECTRUM workbook, coloring in fractions with bright colors and relating the numbers to our daily lives. And then it was on to the kitchen fraction lesson. You don't need a kitchen to teach fractions, by the way, you just need food. Apples, oranges, bananas, tortillas, sticks of butter to name a few. Cut them up into fractions, eat or use a few, then design what you did on paper. A mini lab. The kids love this kind of hands on stuff, plus they get why we now say things like, Want a half an apple in your lunch today? In my writing class, we have started studying the infamous book report. We are doing this to help them read with purpose. I designed a fun book report questionnaire, which asks the kids to write down the title and author, the setting, plot and what the book means to them. There is space for them to write down important quotes as well. I gave them a large bubble in which to draw their setting. When the kids begin to understand what they are looking for in a book, they then read the book looking for these clues and important details. In our lesson yesterday, we used a simple story from Little Mermaid. The setting was so much fun to talk about, we decided to act it out, swimming all over the house, taking on different roles and using voices of our favorite characters. The kids loved it. Then they returned to add more details to their setting. Next week, when I ask them for the setting of their books, I know they will jump right in with details. They moved to understand the meaning and importance of setting. That movement is so intensely connected to the brain, it is hard to imagine teaching it in a static, seated environment. Seat work, a term I learned recently from an Atlantic article on preschool education, should play a very minor role in an elementary school education. So, get your kids moving. If they have homework, let them move before they sit down to tackle it. If you are introducing a new concept, figure out ways to allow your kids to act it out. Get those amazing brains moving-moving is crucial to learning.

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