You probably remember being told to “sit still” in class as a child, but human development professor Katie Headrick Taylor explains in The Conversation that perhaps we should encourage children to incorporate movement into learning. Here’s why.
Learning and the body
Research indicates that movement might actually help us remember information more efficiently. This is why students working with a variety of materials and tools are better able to grasp concepts and retain information. Our bodies evolved to work simultaneously with our minds to tackle challenges, so getting moving could actually help us better process what we see and learn.
The role of our environment
As humans, we are constantly learning from our surroundings. New experiences, people, and settings contribute to our understanding of the world, and, oftentimes, we rely on movement to cement these ideas. Think about crossing the street. As children, we are taught to look both ways before crossing the street. Every time we come to a road, we practice looking both ways and then walk across. Pairing the act of checking for safety with approaching a crosswalk ingrains this process in our minds. As adults, we now look both ways subconsciously.
Our mind works similarly with learning other concepts. Pairing learning with movement can help us remember critical information. This is why many spelling bee champions use games to learn words and employ small ticks like foot taps or tracing letters on their hands to memorize vast amounts of information.
Applying movement in the classroom
Movement in the classroom can be incredibly beneficial, especially for students still learning remotely. Just in time for back-to-school season, here are a few ways Taylor recommends getting more movement in the classroom for enhanced learning.
- Normalize movement. Encourage children to take part in regular movement, as long as it’s not disrupting the class, and engage in class movement like observational walks around the school or textile science experiments.
- Offer a variety of learning materials. Assemble different materials like paper, blocks, Playdough, and drawing instruments and encourage students to go beyond pencil and paper to learn new concepts. For example, when teaching about shapes, have students create the different shapes you’re discussing out of clay so they can visualize the information.
- Use gestures and examples with movement. Show, don’t tell, and use movement yourself to communicate concepts.