Reasons why moving in a classroom helps learning

Even though we know a lot more these days about how the brain develops and how it functions, many teachers lack useful knowledge about the role of movement in learning.  Movement is responsible for developing the brain in the first place (through the primary reflexive movements) and remains central to efficient learning during the early years of growth and schooling.  Without knowing how to recognise signs that a child may have signs of neurodevelopmental problems (meaning that the nervous system with all its component parts), we concentrate rather on the psychological problems of the child, or the socio-economic environment. 

 

A far better approach would be to ask the question, does the child have the equipment she needs to succeed at the educational level asked of her and the methods imposed on her?

 

The answer is related to the fact that there is often a physical basis for learning disabilities.  Not physical in the sense of body growth or health – often children’s physical development is good, yet the foundations on which learning is built and made strong are weak.  This results in them struggling to succeed at school.  Indeed, some do succeed, but they have to put so much extra effort into their learning and performing.  This can continue until adulthood. How many of you know of a colleague who is really good at what he or she does, but pays the price through extreme fatigue at the end of every workday?

 

So the approach of Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) is to evaluate a child for possible neurodevelopmental delays and other adverse conditions arising from the environment and then helping them.  The tools used are largely movement activities.

 

While this works for children with learning disabilities or learning difficulties, using movement in the course of learning can benefit all children.

 

Here are three evidence based, very sound reasons why children can thrive in a classroom where the teacher introduces regular periods for a little movement:

 

  1. Movement helps to increase learner interest, motivation (Vazou et al., 2012), and learning (Braniff, 2011).
  2. Movement improves content knowledge, skills, and test scores in core subjects such as mathematics and reading fluency (Adams-Blair & Oliver, 2011; Erwin, Fedewa, & Ahn, 2013; Browning et al., 2014).
  3. Movement may help children meet the recommendation to complete the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

 

Do consider the significance of these research results.  It is difficult to introduce movement into crowded classrooms, to avoid children becoming disruptive and finding it difficult afterwards to settle down.  The key is to have short, quick ‘movement moments’ as an integral part of the school day from the lowest grades.  This teaches the children that these are part of school and they become so used to it that they don’t see it as an opportunity to get out of hand.

 

In future posts, I’ll be including some ideas for short ‘movement moments’.  If you would like to learn more, consider enrolling for our Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) courses.  They are accredited with SACE so will earn you CPTD points while you’re enhancing your knowledge and skills.  Read more on www.ilt.co.za or write to us at info@ilt.co.za.

 

References

 

Adams-Blair H., Oliver G. (2011). Daily classroom movement: Physical activity integration into the classroom. International Journal of Health, Wellness, & Society, 1 (3), 147–154.

Braniff C. (2011). Perceptions of an active classroom: Exploration of movement and collaboration with fourth grade students. Networks: An On-line Journal for Teacher Research, 13 (1).

Browning C., Edson A.J., Kimani P., Aslan-Tutak F. (2014). Mathematical content knowledge for teaching elementary mathematics: A focus on geometry and measurement. Mathematics Enthusiast, 11 (2), 333–383.

Erwin H., Fedewa A., Ahn S. (2013). Student academic performance outcomes of a classroom physical activity intervention: A pilot study. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 5 (2), 109–124.

Vazou S., Gavrilou P., Mamalaki E., Papanastasiou A., Sioumala N. (2012). Does integrating physical activity in the elementary school classroom influence academic motivation? International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 10 (4), 251–263.

 

 

Helping children with Learning Disabilities (LD)

Over the last few years there seems to have been an enormous leap in explanations for Learning Disabilities (LD).  There is talk of genetic predisposition, drug therapy, processing times (e.g. slow auditory processing), brain imaging techniques and findings, quantified EEGs, brain biofeedback, sound therapy, light therapy, and many others. Each new avenue quickly gains a following of professionals offering help. 

 

In the midst of all this, one might wonder if the ‘old-fashioned’ belief in movement programmes is outdated.  With all the computerized programmes, new therapies and drugs that speed up processing times being more and more widespread, can we motivate the belief in the power of movement programmes?  Why does Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) still achieve such good results, even though the approach does not rely on technology or sophisticated equipment?

 

The answer lies in the simple truth that LD is not just a cognitive (intellectual) deficit.  A really close look at children identified has having LD will show that they also have significantly high deficits in several motor (movement) areas.  This was supported by research in England, which suggested that very refined, accurate tests of balance might be a quick way of screening for LD[1].

 

Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) finds that movement training is wonderfully beneficial.  It refines and speeds up kinesthetic (feeling of movement) processing as well as auditory processing, visual processing and the integration of all three to produce balanced, calmer individuals who become more proficient in reading, spelling, maths and writing.

 

ILT sees that the learning problem is in the brain of children who have difficulties – not because of lack of intelligence.  The brain ‘wiring’ is faulty or incomplete, leading to neurological disorganization.  Look at the behaviour of a child with LD.  They reflect the disorganized neural networks in their brains with their disorganized ways of trying to learn and cope with the demands of home and school.  They are struggling with information that is not getting through from skin, body, ears and eyes to the brain, or they are processing the information too slowly, or it may be scrambled along the way.  Some children may be hearing only part of a word or sentence and, to make matters worse, what they do hear may be processed slowly and is confusing.  They don’t hear full instructions from teachers and parents.  Others can’t use their eyes to learn because vision might not be supporting them – even though optometrists declare their sight to be normal.

 

To add insult to injury, their two brain hemispheres may not be working together.  You can see signs of this in school-aged children: they don’t automatically know their left from their right, they can’t do more than one thing at a time, handwriting and producing written work is tedious and really hard because they struggle to organize themselves or their work.  Not surprisingly, they become frustrated with the daily effort and may have meltdowns.  Simply put, LD children are usually working much, much harder than their more ‘learning ready’ classmates.

The good news

 

The good news is that we can speed up the rate at which information reaches the brain and is correctly processed.  Brain networks can be reinforced to be more stable – and we do this with the knowledge that the brain is plastic and in a constant state of change throughout our lifespans.

 

As is true of other countries around the world, it is unlikely that our South African government will increase resources to help those with learning difficulties in the near future.  We do, however, have resources in the form of trained people who can help introduce movement and perceptual training into school programmes.  Several schools around our country use ILT as part of the school day to help – and the amazingly successful results speak for themselves.  If you’re interested in knowing which schools these are, contact us at info@ilt.co.za.

 

ILT practitioners around the country help individual LD children but the ideal would be to have programmes in the schools.  Schools should be the place where immature children are given the chance to catch up.  Appropriate exercises can be done daily in the classrooms.  With the right attitude, schools can use these professionals and helpful parents to improve the learning of LD and other learners. 

 

This is why we offer courses to empower teachers, parents and other helping professionals to share the knowledge and acquire the skills needed to implement such programmes.  If you are a parent of an LD child or teach LD children in your classroom, then the first step towards truly helping would be to study what we know and have been successfully implementing for nearly 20 years.

 

More information can be found on the website www.ilt.co.za or write to info@ilt.co.za.

 

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[1] Angela Fawcett, in Pheloung, B. Help your class to learn. Manly: Australia.

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