Active Learning OpportunitiesPrint Page
Study after study shows that kids who get regular physical activity experience improvements not just in their fitness levels but in brain function, too. Beginning the day with a walk or bike to school or moving before starting schoolwork at home can prime the brain for learning. It makes sense – kids need to move more. When they do, they are better positioned to succeed in the classroom and at home.
Creating active learning opportunities can be as simple or grand as you make them. Whether in the classroom or while studying or spending time as a family at home, active learning is just as important. Try these activities for different subjects or come up with your own.
- Social Studies: Take a deeper diver into the sports, games, and dances of other cultures around the world or during different time periods being studied. See if you can find a free online class or video to try your hand in the classroom or at home.
- Math and Science: Integrate simple movement tasks such as jumping jacks, squats, and running in place into various math concepts (counting, equations, and graphs). Monitor heart rates before and after a short burst of exercise and predict heart rate responses for other forms of exercise. Create relay races that include math and science problems.
- Reading: Ask kids to spell words using their bodies to mimic the shape of each letter. Read books that include physical action verbs such as wave, wiggle, jump, skip, shake and slither, and invite students to demonstrate the movements. Ask kids to act out a story after it’s been read out loud. This not only promotes physical activity, it helps children summarize and demonstrate understanding. Or, assign children characters and re-read a story. Every time their character is mentioned in the story, ask children to perform a movement that is associated with the character.
- Spelling: Write each letter of the alphabet on multiple sets of bean bags and spread the bean bags throughout the classroom or home. Give each child a word to spell by finding the correct lettered bean bags to spell out the word.
- Gardens: Gardening can provide opportunities for physical activity while learning about nutrition and agriculture education. Gardening requires children to carry items, bend and stretch, dig, rake, and weed. Create a child-led garden plan, incorporating skills on soil and water safety, safe food practices, record keeping of seeds and harvest items, and storage of garden equipment.
- Songs & Music: Add motions to songs you already sing at home and in the classroom. Alternatively, find songs that children know and rewrite the words to incorporate physical activity. Stick to simple movements and minor changes for younger kids and let older kids impress you with their creativity!
- See what they come up with!
All children need regular physical activity! It is particularly important for children with special needs to be included in activities that improve physical fitness. Variations and modifications of movements and activities should be offered to children to create a learning environment that is welcoming and respectful of all abilities. Adapted physical activities will ensure that children learn and achieve success at their own pace regardless of physical limitations or fitness level.
- Empower children to suggest and choose which activities, games and movements they find enjoyable and accessible. Encourage them to be a part of the learning and planning process.
- Demonstrate modifications of simple movement skills such as jumping jacks, squats, and push-ups, and allow children to choose what’s best. For example, show them a wall push-up, a kneeling push-up, and a full push-up.
- Adapt the game or activity rules by reducing the number of players on a team, modifying the activity area, eliminating time limits, or lowering or enlarging targets or goals.
- Try creative or team-building games where success is only possible when the whole group works together.
- Integrate various types and sizes of equipment such as tactile balls, juggling scarves, numbered spot markers, and foam noodles.
Build support and coordination of daily, school-wide physical activity opportunities by providing professional development and resources to help teachers get started in the classroom. Make it the new norm together! Share this information with families, or if a parent or caregiver, share how you create active learning opportunities at home or volunteer in the classroom.
Consider cross-curricular teaching and learning with your physical education teacher by aligning content themes and collaborating on lesson plans and projects. Ask the PE teacher to suggest a few safe, age-appropriate activities that connect to skills taught in physical education class.
Develop a plan with your school health team and seek feedback from the principal and teachers. Share simple ideas and lesson plans to introduce physical activity into the school day.
Participate in physical activities with your kids. Kids will be more likely to participate if they see you embracing the activity.
Partner with school health team members or parent/caregiver volunteers to gather resources on adding movement to the classroom