Maximize Learning for Energetic Learners

Do you have students who just can't seem to stay still? Embrace their movement and use it to help them learn!

We all have them. Those students that just can't sit still no matter what. It can be incredibly frustrating when you are trying to get something done, but why not embrace their energy and use it to your benefit?

If you have read many posts around here you probably already know that I am not a keep students in their seat quietly working kind of teacher. In fact, I am quite the opposite. Our classroom on an average day was pretty noisy, and had a whole lot of movement. This is because I am not a sit still and quiet kind of person. I am much more likely to be the person being shushed than the one doing the shushing.

I am also a big believer that students need to talk out their learning. We don't live in a just listen and digest society, so why in the world would our classrooms be that way either? Instead, a classroom should be built around movement and conversations, at least in my mind.

The following are just a few strategies that I have successfully used to embrace the energy that our students bring into the classroom, instead of trying to squash it.

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Brain Breaks

Oh brain breaks. They are my favorite. I need them, so I can guarantee that my students need them too. In my opinion, the best brain breaks get students up and moving. This serves two purposes. The first is to get a few wiggles out. The second is to get more oxygen to their brains. 
Win-win. 

There are about a million and one brain breaks out there, and you can find tons of books full of them. Some of my favorites include:

Some of my favorite brain breaks though come from just silly classroom traditions. My class and I loved to sing camps style songs like The Princess Pat or I Wish I Were a Little Juicy Orange. These song have movements that go along with them, so they are perfect for getting our sillies out. 

There are also a TON of really great brain breaks to be found on YouTube, but as always I would recommend previewing the video  before watching it with your class. 

Stretching

When I say stretching this can mean a variety of things. I like to start each day with some morning stretches right after announcements. You can read about those here

Stretching can also be done at any time during the day. The most important thing to remember about stretching is trying to get students to cross the midline of their body. Even just reaching across the body with their legs or arms sends blood flow and oxygen throughout and can make a huge impact. 

Another thing I would recommend is trying out some yoga for kids. There are great YouTube videos, but my personal favorites are on GoNoodle, a free online resource. The yoga on GoNoodle is great to work on mindfullness and relaxation. There are several activities for students to work on breathing, and I have seen it work wonders within the classroom. 

Encourage Active Play At Recess

How many times have you seen the student that practically vibrates across the room during math not running around during recess? I am willing to bet more than once. We can help our students to concentrate in the classroom by encouraging their movement during recess. 

I have never taught at a school that has completely structured recess, but I did practice a partially structured recess myself. Our recess was 30 minutes once a day. (As an aside, if your recess is not at least thirty minutes I encourage you to push for it. It was amazing the difference from twenty to thirty minutes made!) For the first ten or so minutes of recess we would all play a class game together. I got most of these games out of the Silly Sports and Goofy Games book I mentioned earlier. A lot of the games we played were tag style, because it allowed for free movement within the area. After the ten minutes were up students got the option to continue playing or play on their own, my one rule was no sitting. 

This meant that everyone had to be moving. I had plenty of girls who would protest and say that it was their only chance to talk to their friends, and that's fine, but they had to be moving. I told them they could walk and talk, but not just talk. I modeled this behavior by continuing to move throughout recess myself. 

On this note. I am a strong advocate of not taking away recess from students for non-recess offenses. 

Calming Music

I understand that movement is not always possible, so when you have a time that students need to be calm and work independently encourage this with music that is 60 beats per minute. Why 60? 60 beats per minute is the pace of a resting heart beat, so it can have a calming effect. 

Looking for music? There is a ton out there, but personally I just put music 60 bpm into YouTube, and this is what I get
Yup, you are reading that right. 173,000 results, so you should have no problem finding something that fits your needs. When you do, save that bad boy to your list and have it ready to go for the rest of the year. 

What's that you say? Your district blocks YouTube? I know, it happens and is crazy annoying, but we just have to deal with it right? My number one way of getting around this is to use my phone and a bluetooth speaker, but if not this CD has a good selection. They have different sets for the various subjects, but I find that the relaxed alertness one is my favorite. 

Are fidgety students stressing you out? Check out these strategies for using their movement to your advantage in the classroom!Control Stimulation

Sometimes outside stimuli is out of our control, but sometimes it is entirely within our control. My classroom had large window that faced the visitor parking lot, so there was a lot of noise and movement all day long. It was a distraction to me, let alone my students.  I placed bookshelves in front of the windows that went above my students heads but still let in plenty of light and I used a white noise app on my phone played over a bluetooth speaker throughout the day. This cut down on distractions quite a bit. 

Take a look at your environment, and see what you have some influence over. 

Kinesthetic Learning

Basically if you can make a learning experience include movement do it. Whether this comes as "body spelling" your sight words (reach the ground for any letter below the line, your waist for on the line, and above your head for any letter above the midline) each day. Or maybe you create movements to help you with content vocabulary.

Any way you look at it, the more movement we have in our classrooms the better!


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