Movement is for Adolescents Too!
It’s important not to leave out the population who may need activity the most—adolescents. While movement breaks in elementary school have been embraced, they are not quite a “staple” at the secondary level. If you are a secondary teacher, you may cringe at the thought of leading a group of unmotivated, tired 10th graders through an activity break. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Secondary movement breaks/opportunities don’t have to be teacher-led, for one thing. They also don’t have to be structured or high intensity. Active seating may be one simple way to decrease the amount of sedentary learning time in your classroom. There are a wide range of seating options, including stability ball chairs, wobble stools, and standing desks that can be tested in a small space.
Read how standing desks can increase productivity.
Teaching strategies are another way to integrate movement for students. Several educators use the idea of Carousels to introduce or review a concept or content. For instance, five large Post-its can be hung around the room with a topic or a prompt. Students move in groups to each Post-it to brainstorm ideas or add information. On the signal, they rotate to the next post-it with the intent of adding content that has not already been listed. This could also be done at different desks. Perhaps each student starts with one concept, and then they all essentially play musical chairs to get to the next desk to add information there. These are simple, yet efficient ways to integrate movement into the learning experience. And students don’t even notice they are being asked to move!
You can also entice students with technology. They love their phones. They love apps. They love social media. How about a Walkie Talkie partner activity in which they walk the halls (or other appropriate space) while interviewing one another about an academic concept from class? They record one another and post the responses to a hashtag you create. This could serve as a review for the students when they are studying for an exam.
Stairwell Speeches can be an active assignment in which students gather their data/content, organize their thoughts, and speak during a 30-second stairwell walk, all while attempting to persuade the audience/listener to adopt their project or idea. Partners can record one another on their phones and yet again, post the videos to a google classroom site or hashtag.
Advocating for Recess
Finally, why do we take the activity out of the school day once students enter middle school/junior high? Advocate for recess time at your school. Perhaps students could go outside after they finish lunch instead of remaining at their tables being loud and annoying the cafeteria personnel. Host field days once a quarter that involve cooperative class activities and get students outside or in the gymnasium laughing and working together.
My daughter’s 7th grade team recently held a field day. Their homeroom classes did the Hula Hoop pass (class holds hands in a line and tried to pass the Hula Hoop down and back as quickly as possible), a water jug relay (class stands in a line and passes a milk jug with water with a hole cut in top over and under until it reaches the end; team with the most water remaining won), and class tug-o-war to name a few. She loved it and talked about all the funny things that different kids in her class did. She shared similar stories about teachers and their interactions with students. I envision the students loved the change of pace, and again, this was an activity that provided physical activity, whether the students were thinking about it or not.
Add Active Seating to Your Secondary-Level Classroom
Heather is a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion at the University of Kentucky. She is a former physical education teacher, and co-author of Dynamic Physical Education for Secondary School Children, 8ed. Heather was also the recipient of the NASPE Curriculum and Instruction Young Scholar Award and a AAHPERD Research Consortium Fellow.