Children who frequently take breaks from sedentary time could have lower levels of cardiometabolic risk, a new study suggests.
Ok, ok, before you roll your eyes and say, “Really?! Young people are healthier when they MOVE?! Never woulda guessed!” (which, incidentally, was my response when I saw this headline), just hear me out. I post this article not as breaking news but as a reminder…because even though I already knew this basic truth, I often forget to implement this knowledge in the classroom. I post this as a challenge to myself, and maybe to you if you are an educator, to find some way to to get your young people moving every 10-15 minutes in the weeks ahead. It doesn’t have to be a big deal - a 30-second activity still counts! I will start a list of of a few things I’ve tried to get bodies moving in a classroom, and I hope you’ll add to it…
1. Teach students a Call and Response that involves simple seated and standing movements, and initiate it for fun from time to time. Once the students know it, let them lead it from time to time. If you need ideas, there are plenty online or talk to your local Teaching Artist. Or make it an activity for the students to create their own!
2. Two-minute stretch break. Students can stand and stretch any way they like, or students can lead stretches that others follow.
3. Next time you are tempted to tell a student to “sit down and pay attention”, question how important the “sit down” part of that direction really is. Maybe the standing HELPS her pay attention. Incorporate individual, voluntary standing up or moving around a bit into your classroom guidelines or rules as an acceptable behavior, as long as they can do so without being distracting or pulling focus from other students. Ask the students themselves to discuss and agree upon the parameters of this rule. Some students do a much better job of listening and focusing if they are not constantly confined to their seats. I know I do.
4. Make hand-raising fun by inviting students to raise other things, like feet, legs or elbows! Forewarning that this can get a little goofy at times so perhaps you may choose to only activate the rule for certain discussions, but it also makes participating more fun, engages students kinesthetically, and gets blood flowing more than a subtle hand-raise. On a feminist side note, girls tend to become much more contained and self-limiting verbally and physically around 5th/6th grade and onwards, so it’s important to encourage girls to flex the muscle of taking up space. Silly activities like this are one way to do so.
5. Dance break! Seriously, this is so fun. Let students start a “DJ” list so they can take turns choosing the music, have a pre-conversation about “classroom-appropriate” music, and do this every day after lunch…or towards the end of the day…or even in the morning! We did this before class in grad school one time just as the Dean decided to pay us a visit…and to his credit, he loved it. (Unfortunately he didn’t join in, but maybe next time…)
If you read these ideas and you’re thinking, “No freakin’ way, I’d lose all control of my classroom!”, I also encourage you to consider the ways that movement will improve the attention, engagement, enthusiasm level, and yes, physical health, of the young people you work with. It could also make YOUR day a lot more fun.
Please add your ideas for how to make classrooms less sedentary!