Moving and Shaking in the Classrom

Action-based learning ecourages kids to move in class and helps them learn.

ByABC News via logo
April 7, 2009, 9:23 PM

April 8, 2009 — -- In the classroom, bouncing, fidgeting and movement generally have been discouraged, but now some educators are encouraging the restlessness in hopes it will help students learn.

Action-based learning, which includes doing moderate exercises like running in place, helps students of all ages stay attentive and focused in class. It may even help improve learning.

New research from the University of Illinois showed even a single 20-minute bout of moderate exercise stimulates the brain and improves cognitive function in elementary school kids.

Fourth graders in Fort Collins, Calif., sit or bounce on stability balls to keep their bodies active while they learn.

And sixth graders in Missouri no longer sit through a lesson plan; they stand. Their desks even come with swinging foot rests.

Other classrooms incorporate 10-minute energizers, where kids can dance, run in place, or do jumping jacks while reciting the multiplication table.

And it's all because a growing body of research suggests that wiggling around helps kids learn.

"Movement is really connected to our brain. It stimulates the brain, to wake up," said Dr. John Ratey, author of "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Education and the Brain."

"Exercise almost immediately helps to increase the attention," he said. "[It] improves the motivation."

It optimizes the learner to be a better learner, he added.

Schools who are incorporating exercise into classes said that test scores have improved and behavioral issues declined.

But if your school isn't participating in action-based learning, there is a way to give your kids' minds and bodies a jumpstart.

In a time when gym class is being cut in high school and middle schools, and recess is being scaled back in elementary schools, you can advocate to make sure your child gets some kind of exercise in school.

You can also organize some exercise with other parents for your kids before they head off to school. A short calisthenics class in the morning can help your child stay focused throughout the day.