Getting kids moving and engaged in learning has been a significant focus of mine for my students. This focus began several years ago when I was a special education resource teacher. I stumbled upon Kagan’s cooperative learning structures, and my eyes were opened to the possibility of students participating in content-based, cooperative learning through physical movement. Recently, I’ve incorporated Whole Brain Teaching into my (now) 4th-grade general education classroom.
Movement with Purpose
Okay, so this month, I’ve been sharing different purposes for using physical movement in your classroom. First, I shared how you can quickly use physical activity to break up a low-energy moment with kids, which I call a Fun Break. Last week our focus was on how gestures can help students rehearse information. So this week, I’m writing about how physical movement can be used to enhance the content of your curriculum. For these tasks, movement is used as a tool to promote learning. Students are required to get out of their seats and complete an action that is necessary to understand new content.
Content in the Corner
One example of this approach to movement is exemplified in the Corners cooperative learning structure. I used this effectively with my students during our Opportunity Cost lesson in an economics unit I taught last year. In Corners, students are given a situation with four choices. These choices are posted in the four corners of your classroom. After explaining the scenario to students, they move out of their seats and to the corner representing their choice. Once there, students can discuss their options and other questions posed by the teacher.
Building a Web
Another way I used physical movement to deepen students’ understanding of content was during this same lesson. We were expanding our knowledge of opportunity costs to the concept of economic interdependence. Using a variation of the “I Have…Who Has?” game, we created a web with yarn that demonstrated the connectedness of our economic choices. By creating a physical web, students were able to more fully grasp how money (like the energy in an ecosystem) works through consumers and producers to meet human needs.
Maintain the Momentum
I just finished up the first quarter of the school year and am working on my report cards that go home on Monday. Student engagement is typically at its highest in the first quarter, so my challenge (as with all teachers) will be to maintain the enthusiasm as the novelty of a new teacher/classroom wears off. Fortunately, with cooperative learning structures and gestures, I’m pretty confident in my “toolbox” of ideas to keep my kiddos learning and moving!