Thursday, July 31, 2014

Incorporate Movement Into Learning

Any educator will tell you that movement with intention anchors learning and prepares the brain for learning. And, neuroscience supports the link of exercise, physical activity and movement to improved academic performance.

Research has shown that movement is key to learning.
According to Anne Green Gilbert, author of Teaching the Three Rs through Movement and Creative Dance for All Ages and former third grade teacher, there is a direct relationship between the amount of movement a classroom teacher uses and the percentage increase in students’ test scores.  She writes, “Five years after my own experience as a third-grade teacher in Illinois, I was training teachers at the University of Washington and received a federally funded grant to conduct research in the Seattle Public Schools. During the 1977 school year, 250 students from four elementary schools studied language arts concepts through movement and dance activities for 20 weeks. The third grade students involved in the study increased their MAT scores by 13 percent from fall to spring, while the district-wide average showed a decrease of 2 percent! The primary grade project students also showed a great improvement in test scores.”   That is an amazing increase in such a short timeframe.

Additionally, a 2011 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that intentional movement and exercise can improve test scores. The study adds to growing evidence that exercise is good not only for the body but also for the mind. In the study, first- and second-graders moved through stations in an action-based learning lab, learning developmentally-appropriate movement skills while basic academic skills were reinforced. The study states, “Children traced shapes on the ground while sitting on scooters and walked on ladders while naming colors on each rung or reciting sight words.”
In the same study, third- through sixth-graders had access to exercise equipment utilizing TV monitors playing math problems for review.  Another treadmill had a monitor that played geography lessons as a student ran through the scene, and a rock-climbing wall was outfitted with numbers that changed as the students climbed so they could work on math skills. The results of the study showed that the “time spent outside of a traditional classroom in order to increase physical education did not hurt students’ academic achievement. In fact, students’ test scores improved. Specifically, the number of students reaching their goals on the state tests increased from 55 percent before the program was initiated to 68.5 percent after program participation.”

These studies reinforce that students cannot sit still for very long before the blood and oxygen flow to their brains significantly slows down, thereby, slowing down the learning process.
As back-to-school season approaches, I wholeheartedly believe that movement is the key to learning. For more than 25 years, at my gym, I’ve combined fitness and basic math facts to help maintain the physical fitness and cognitive abilities of my clients aged 3 - 100, and every day I see “miracles” and achievements occur.

Bringing movement into classrooms will not only increase learning, but will make classrooms healthier and happier places to learn while showcasing the importance of physical activity and leading healthy, active lifestyles.
Fitness for Health is proud to offer “Learning On the Move” - a one-on-one, hands-on academic program where kids are encouraged to learn and develop through movement and gross and fine motor activities. To learn more about this program for ages preschool through second grade, contact Eve Margol, M.Ed., Education & Movement Specialist, at or call 301-231-7138.

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