Children, by nature, need to move and release energy throughout the day. They aren't conditioned to sit for long periods of time, and this can cause challenges in the classroom. To help your students refocus, consider incorporating just a few minutes of physical activity throughout the school day. These are often referred to as "body breaks," and have been associated with improved cognitive performance and classroom behavior, and an increase in student test scores.
Here are a few body breaks for kids to help your class release energy before jumping back into academic content.
1. Get Your Class Moving
When taking a quick break, your goal is to get the body moving and the heart pumping. Many teachers opt for easy body breaks that students can do right next to their desks. Jogging in place, performing jumping jacks, and doing mountain climbers or burpees are all good options to get students moving.
Further reading: Exercise and the Brain
One of my favorite energizing body breaks for kids is called "Pass It On." For this activity, you'll need a set of Uno cards. Choose four physical activities for the students to perform—think along the lines of jumping jacks, squats, star jumps, and desk push-ups—and write them on the front board next to a corresponding color. For example, blue is jumping jacks, green is squats, red is star jumps, and yellow is desk push-ups. Then hand out one Uno card to each student. When it's their turn, students have 30 seconds to perform the task that correlates to the color of their Uno card. This is a fun way to integrate some physical activity without having students leave the perimeter of their desk.
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2. Fight Fidgeting with Yoga
Yoga is another great way to get your students moving without having them move away from their desks. While yoga may not get their heart pumping to the max, it will help relax your students and give their working minds that much-needed break. Plus, it has some wonderful benefits, such as improving focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, and classroom behavior, and it can even reduce anxiety and stress in children.
Try having your students stand next to their desk, and then guide them through a short, simple sequence. Encourage students to close their eyes as you take them through the poses. I've found that dimming the lights and playing some soft music really helps set the mood.
Further reading: 6 Teacher Fitness Tips for Busy School Days
3. Have a Mini Dance Party
To help fight students' tendency to fidget and shift, many classroom teachers are encouraging them to get up and dance. Students can either follow along to an online video (GoNoodle is a great app to try and YouTube has a bunch of channels such as The Learning Station) or come up with their own moves. When I was teaching in a kindergarten classroom, I'd have my students play freeze dance between activities. I'd put on some fun music and the youngsters would get their wiggles out. Then I'd stop the music, and they'd have to freeze. Not only did they love it, but they always seemed more focused afterward!
4. Learn on the Go
Classroom fitness breaks don't necessarily have to be a break from learning. You can easily integrate physical activity into your lessons in order to reenergize and refocus your class. For instance, one fun and active way to start the day is to have your class pair up for a "walk and talk." I start this activity by writing three review questions on the front board after the morning announcement. Half the pairs walk up and down the hallway to discuss the questions, while the other half circle the classroom. After about five minutes, I write three more questions, and the students switch partners and their walking path.
Some of the most effective ways to get your students moving are also the simplest. Whether you integrate the aforementioned ideas, or simply have students change seats for different subjects, dance between lessons, or stretch regularly, movement can help keep your class focused. How do you keep your students moving throughout the day? Leave a comment!