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:
- Movement helps to increase learner interest, motivation (Vazou et al., 2012), and learning (Braniff, 2011).
- 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).
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.