Healthy teaching habits: move your students?
Updated: Jul 18
Schools, classes, sitting and learning are not conducive to healthy habits. Sitting for hours at a time and looking in the same direction constantly does not help movement and physical health. I find it hard as a teacher to make sure that my students can move a little, take a moment to shift their bodies and reset and bring back their focus to my classroom. Yet, it feels pivotal… critical that students are given moments, the option or even a moment to move themselves and release some of that pent energy.
As a science / mathematics teacher, students moving around can be counterproductive, but not always. I am a big believer in efficiency and not necessarily quantity over quality. I would suggest that students need time to stretch, do a little yoga, can chairs or do some maths / science themed movements during class.
Research has shown that mathematics has either a small positive or a non-effect on students achievements. Given that it will either be a positive or a non-effect, then it seems to me that adding physical exercise is worth including in teaching and learning wherever possible. Particularly with younger students. The link to that relevant research is here: https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-019-0866-6
While a little older, the New York Times also agree that this is a relevant and important issue to support student learning as well. Link here.
In my regular class, I try to break up the learning into blocks or chunks of learning with associated activities. A not uncommon technique, this leaves a natural space for getting students to move between those chunks of serious learning. One great way to get the exercise to be relevant is to use it to teach. Some classics and some Oliver originals i enjoy using are:
Directional quiz. Put up true / false OR A,B,C,D with stickers or taped around the room and quiz the students to physically move to the answer they believe to be correct. This is good as a formative too.
Ask students to do 3 x 2 + 3 squats. Now do 20/4 - 1 squats. Using maths practice to give instructions is a simple practice method for mental arithmetic.
The functions dance (an absolute classic!) Link here: the functions dance.
Rotating chairs so that students stand up, move and sit next to others students.
Stand up - sit down. Once students get the basics of this game. Then they can sit down when the number is above 5 for example and stand up when it is 5 or below for example. Such as giving students: (10 x 3)/5 for example.
As cliche as it sounds, dance is an excellent way to teach students. You could find some science or maths songs that students could dance to like a cellular respiration song for example.
Taking students for a field trip is always an excellent idea if possible. Even a simple biology field trip for leaves, bugs, dirt etc. could be a great and simple method to get students moving and learning about science.
Station learning is a classic for both mathematics and science learning where students can rotate in groups or they can simply move around the room when done.
Soft ball toss - get students to toss a ball around and the student who receives the ball will need to answer a relevant question on the mathematics they are learning at the moment. Once students know this technique, they can even quiz each other in small groups with several balls going around the class at once!
While I am now working in an alternative progressive online school which includes a daily exercise activity as part of our structure. These concepts are not part of the traditional school system and perhaps should be. Quality of learning should be more important than quantity of education.
I hope that the above provides some great ideas or even a small glimmer or variety in your day-to-day mathematics / science classes. Please let me know if I have missed anything or you would like to add anything further.
Thanks for reading.
Cheers and stay curious
Oliver - The Teaching Astrophysicist
(Note: This blog post was NOT generated by AI and is conceived, typed and uploaded by a real person.)