Learning to move

Incorporating movement into the classroom

It’s no secret that kindergarteners are prone to the wiggles. Instead of confining youngsters to their chairs, Sue Brokmeier channels their energy and incorporates movement into learning activities throughout the day.

Margot Chekan, an early childhood education student, observes Caiden Velgersdyk, a kindergarten student at the SDSU lab school, on the balance board. Teacher Sue Brokmeier incorporates activity into learning.

“Movement anchors thought. It
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really does,” says the instructor in early childhood education and kindergarten teacher at the Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education, the SDSU lab school in Pugsley Hall. “Research data shows that movement increases a child’s ability to learn.” This doesn’t mean that Brokmeier’s classroom is a free-for-all. Like any other teaching tool, movement is structured to enhance the students’ ability to learn. “When movement is incorporated with intentionality, it’s a win-win situation,” Brokmeier says. “The teacher still maintains control of the classroom and children benefit because they are engaged, stimulated and using the whole extension of their brain that would otherwise not be engaged when they are just sitting still.” The College of Education and Human Sciences agrees. “Research shows that cognitive development is directly related to physical activity,” says Andrew Stremmel, head of the department of teaching, learning and leadership at SDSU. “We make a big mistake when we don’t incorporate movement into their day.” Beginning this spring, all students pursuing education degrees will take a course, which teaches them how to creatively incorporate movement into their curriculum. Changing education requirements to include a class on implementing movement was not a big stretch for the program, explains Jill Thorngren, dean of the college. “SDSU has the only education college in the state that is blended with human sciences. Within the college we have experts in teaching, human development and nutritional wellness. We’re trying to emphasize the fact that our education students can benefit from the cross disciplinary nature of our program,” Thorngren says. Patty Hacker, professor of physical education, will teach the class to education majors on how they can incorporate physical activity into their classroom and help them understand the value of movement to learning. Getting kids moving in the classroom has much more to do with knowledge retention than it does with burning energy, explains Hacker. She says that in order for the brain to work most efficiently, it needs movement. “Children learn best when they are moving — and research backs this up,” Hacker says. “Movement increases blood flow to the brain. Blood flow takes oxygen and glucose to the brain, which along with water, are the three things which make the brain work better and more efficiently. If a child is not moving, it is difficult for them to work cognitively.” Brokmeier has seen this firsthand. Since she began incorporating movement into her lesson plans, specifically teaching the alphabet, she says the students not only pick up on letter recognition and sounds quicker, but they retain the knowledge longer. When Brokmeier and Hacker discuss movement, they don’t mean calisthenics, although running and jumping can be part of an activity, simple movements done with the hands and body can also get the blood flowing. In one activity, Brokmeier has the alphabet in a long sheet of plastic. Students crawl along the path, slapping and making its sound each time they come to a letter. Other times the activity is as simple as pretending to hum on a harmonica for the letter “H.” “Kids are very kinesthetic learners. They need to feel what they are learning,” Hacker says. There are times when Brokmeier does encourage her students to move for the sake of movement. In between lessons, she implements quick brain breaks, where they do helicopter spins, crawl or engage in balancing activities. During snack time, she has

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students break into groups and rotate through a specific set of activities, which help develop the children’s fine motor and reflex systems. But for her 20 students, it’s another example of how learning can be fun.

Lura Roti

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