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Movement in the Classroom: Enhancing Student Engagement and Learning


Incorporating movement into the classroom is not just a way to break the monotony of traditional teaching methods; it’s a scientifically backed strategy to enhance student engagement, motivation, focus, and overall well-being. Research has consistently shown that physical activity has profound effects on the brain, including improved memory and brain function, enhanced focus and attention span, and significant relief from stress and anxiety.

Improved Memory and Brain Function: Physical activity increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain, particularly to the hippocampus, which plays a crucial role in memory and learning. This increased oxygenation stimulates the release of neurotransmitters that support cognitive functions and promotes the generation of new brain cells, thereby enhancing memory and cognitive abilities.

Enhanced Focus and Attention Span: Integrating exercise and movement into students’ routines can significantly enhance their focus and attention. After physical activity, students show an improvement in focus that can last for several hours. Incorporating short movement breaks, such as walks, stretches, or quick games, can help students excel academically, especially those who struggle to maintain attention.

Stress and Anxiety Relief: Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, hormones that promote well-being and reduce the perception of pain. These endorphins contribute to stress reduction and can alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Regular activity can improve self-esteem, enhance sleep quality, and promote clearer mental functioning, helping students reach their cognitive potential.

 The Evidence

– Numerous studies support the benefits of movement in the classroom. For instance, after implementing daily physical activity, a school in Naperville, IL, saw remarkable improvements in science test scores and state rankings in math and reading. 

– Similarly, studies conducted by Western Governors University and published in Pediatrics have demonstrated that regular exercise boosts academic performance, reduces stress and anxiety, improves sleep, and elevates self-esteem among students.

– A study published in Pediatrics showed that students with ADHD who exercised 30 minutes daily over 12 weeks demonstrated significant improvements in attention and memory.

Behavior Management in the Classroom with Movement

Classroom movement time should be a vital part of the school day, similar to math, reading, or any other subject. Many teachers are uncomfortable with the thought of students’ movement due to potential behavior management concerns. However, by using precise praise, repetition, front loading, clear expectations, and consequences, we can help students be more efficient in their learning, keep them on task, and reduce inappropriate behaviors.

The research is clear: exercise benefits students, especially neurodiverse students. It aids their learning, sharpens their focus, and mitigates stress and anxiety. As educators, incorporating movement into classroom routines can significantly improve student learning, focus, and overall well-being. This approach supports academic success and fosters a healthier, more engaging learning environment.

For More:

Ways to use movement in teaching 

Importance of movement 

Movement and Learning

Exercise and the Brain 

Regular Exercise Changes Brain

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