Movement in Learning

Movement in learning is a teaching method based on the concept that students learn better through movement in the classroom. Students should have the opportunity throughout a class period to move around to take "brain breaks" to refocus their attention so they can learn new material. Brain research suggests that physical activity prior to class (in PE for example) and during class, increases students' ability to process and retain new material. This is a new and controversial development in education, and, to date, has little research and empirical data to support this trend. However, anecdotal evidence regarding the benefits of incorporating movement in the classroom is promising.

Applications in the classroom
Ideally students should be getting physical activity before they try to learn new material. This activity helps grow brain cells and increases alertness. However, if it is not possible for students to have physical activity before you class, there are many ways to get students out of their seats and moving during a class period. Students can get out of their seats to turn an assignment in or to pick up a handout. You could have students stand up to share their answers to questions posed by the teacher. After they have shared their answers with each other they may sit down. If students are acting tired and drowsy a teacher could give students a quick break to stand up and stretch. Once they get out of their seats and move around for a bit they will act more alert.

Younger students can benefit from a variety of activities that get them moving and also reinforce what they are learning. Elizabeth Cook believes these types of breaks energize and renew her students. Her breaks last from two to ten minutes and vary in number from day to day. She believes her special needs students, ESL and ADD/ADHD students especially benefit. The Michigan Department of Education has an extensive list of "Brain Break" ideas. Brain based learning supports the use of movement in learning. According to the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, a core principal of brain-based learning states, "Learning engages the whole body. All learning is mind-body: movement, foods, attention cycles, and chemicals modulate learning." Another core principal states, "Complex learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by stress." One of the twelve design principles states, "Link indoor and outdoor spaces so students can move about using their motor cortex for more brain oxygenation." Another states,"Enrichment: The brain can grow new connections at any age. Challenging, complex experiences with appropriate feedback are best. Cognitive skills develop better with music and motor skills. (Dï Arcangelo)" The U.S. National Institute of Health as well as the Mayo Clinic list exercise and movement as a way to decrease stress levels. Elementary aged children can only absorb 15 to 20 minutes worth of material at a time. Taking brain breaks is a win-win situation. Students can learn during these brain breaks plus return to a task renewed and energized.