Saturday, January 21, 2017

Movement in the Classroom – Necessary and FUN

Let me start off by saying that my belief in nontraditional approaches in education did not come over night.  It was a slow process, but an amazing one.   A couple of years ago, I had a group of student that needed extra support.  In order to explore some different options, I reached out to the occupational therapist on our campus for ideas.  She had been talking to me about something called primitive reflexes and she wanted to do some exercises with my class.  She began to explain to me that releasing of primitive reflexes was foundational to student success.  I was skeptical, to say the least, never mind the fact that she kept saying things like, “supine” “symmetrical tonic reflex”, “asymmetrical tonic reflex” and I had no idea what any of that meant!

Anyway, fast forward a couple of days later and our fabulous OT shows up in my classroom and does four simple exercises with my class.  As she was walking around and talking me through the exercises, wouldn’t you know it…she pointed out all of my students that were at-risk!  I AM NOT EVEN JOKING!!!  Every single one!  You better believe, that I began researching and studying right away!!!

The first thing I learned was that primitive reflexes are things that everyone is born with.  The different developmental milestones that infants go through allow our bodies to let go of those reflexes.  Now, given that I am NOT an expert on these things, I will try to explain them any further, but I highly recommend you do your own research. Ready Bodies, Learning Minds, is a great resource.

What I can tell you, is that integrating exercises and movement in my classroom made a HUGE difference, not only in behavior, but in academic performance.  This is how I first implemented movement in my classroom…

It begins with A LOT of training. I used this during my Guided Reading Block.  Before moving to a new task, students were trained to check our schedule and do the exercise on the chart.  It took awhile, but it was sooooooo worth it and it was a beautiful thing to see!  Students moving independently around the room exercising and as a bonus, the chatter decreased, as they were busy during transitions. (Bonus – I was able to have a quiet classroom for Guided Reading) This is the chart I created. Most of the exercises are the warm-up exercises from Ready Bodies, Learning Minds.  Please know, everything is borrowed from people way smarter than me!

Exercise 1 – Super Squats – Cross arms across body,
          squeeze earlobes.  Count to 7
Exercise 2 – Rocking Horse – Crawl position, turn head to one side and rock, 10 times each side.  Working hard to keep both elbows straight.
Exercise 3 – Giraffee – Crawl position, chin up, pretend you are giraffee trying to reach eat the leaves off the high trees.  Make sure kness and hands stay stationary.
Exercise 4 – Popcorn – lay on back, curl up in a ball, count to 20 and then POP out. Make sure that head is off the ground
Exercise 5 – Superman – lay on stomach, arms and legs stretched out, lift both off ground and count to 20.
Exercise 6 – Dot to Dot – Stand away from wall, hands out and side, follow fingers to touch dots on either side of wall, while keeping back straight. 

You can see most of these exercises here.  There are so many other youtube videos out there. Well worth some research!

The impact these had on my students was so amazing! I began looking for more ways to intergrate movement.  Thanks to a grant from Toyota of Rockwall, I was able to add a mini trampoline, balance board and ball chairs to my classroom.  I know, I know, some of you might me shaking your head right now and saying, “NO WAY!”.  But I promise you, it was GREAT!!! The trampoline and balance board did double duty, as I placed a hundreds chart by the trampoline and they had to count and jump and Word Wall Words by the balance board, where they had to read and balance at the same time J.

Now some of you may be asking, “How do you use this in counseling?”  And the answer is simple.  I can share my experience, when looking at academic concerns and I utilize the exercises during individual sessions, for stress/anxiety release.  I am looking forward to the day that I am called upon to help a teacher to set up exercise stations in his/her classroom!  And I will continue to be an advocate for a dedicated station motor lab for ALL students!  It certainly served my students well and I am certain that it can benefit yours!

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