I objected at first and my insistence on working at the desk resulted in many homework battles. Then I finally realized they’ve been sitting at a desk all day! Of course they want to stretch out and be in control of how to position their bodies for a change. Homework gets done around here much more smoothly now. You just have to watch where you step.
Not sitting is good for you. Educators and scientists have noted the benefits of movement for years. When you sit still for long periods, the blood and oxygen flow to your brain significantly slows down. This slows down learning too. Do you remember your teacher reading aloud to your class after recess? There was a reason she picked that time of day to read. Your blood was moving and you were ready to listen and learn.
There lots of ways you can marry movement with reading and learning experiences. Remember, the best experience with a book is interactive and fun! Lessen expectations of quiet, rapt focus and:
Energize! An energizer activity can wake up drowsy kids and reduce restlessness among others. Energizers are like warm ups and stretches in exercise. You might start a Read-Aloud session with a movement activity to get everyone focused and ready, you might need it during reading should listeners become restless or you simply might want to add movement to help reinforce or emphasize an idea or concept.
Your energizing movement activity could be something as simple as marching in place or freezing dancing or singing an action song. You can also connect it to themes or concepts in books you are reading, like having everyone pretend to swim when reading about the ocean.
If you need a demonstration of how quick movement activities work, Responsive Classroom has a great energizers video playlist.
Move! Shift around to keep things interesting. Enhance spatial learning just by moving to a different spot in the room or having kids switch places to give kids a new spatial reference. This repositioning can be subtle—Let’s move to the window so we can have better light—or deliberate—Everyone switch places with the person sitting across from you—and is useful for transitioning from title to title or to other activities.
Read! You can take nearly any book and make it move. Kids can act out parts of the story as you read or do an action to imitate a character or repeated event. There are also tons of predictive and repetitive text titles that have things for kids to do built right in:
Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kaplan. Kids jump like a frog every time you read “Jump, frog, jump!”
The Bridge Is Up! by Babs Bell. Whenever you repeat the refrain of "the bridge...is...UP!" kids throw their arms up in the air.
Tyson the Terrible by Diane and Christyan Fox. Have kids stomp their feet to mimic the sound of Tyson’s booming footsteps.
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Kids chug their arms like train wheels and join the refrain "I think I can! I think I can!"
Croaky Pokey! by Ethan Long. Everyone can sing and dance along!
Some movements are best saved for after you finish the book. It is great fun to zoom around the room like an airplane or pretend to inch along like a caterpillar, form a cocoon then burst forward as a beautiful butterfly. Or, after a first reading of a book, read it again and ask kids to come up with actions for words and characters for a second reading. For example, in Candace Fleming’s Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! kids might pretend to eat carrots and rub their satisfied tummies every time the rabbits enjoy the farmer’s veggies.
If the idea of having kids acts out words, dance along with the rhythm of a poem or imitate an animal sounds like it could get a little chaotic, well, it might! But making a child sit perfectly still will take more of your time and energy and create unwanted behavior problems. And if a child equates reading with something uncomfortable, like being forced to sit still, he’s not going to fall in love with books anytime soon.
So let’s get moving and reading!
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