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May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.

As the remains of an especially cold, harsh winter across much of the country finally melt away, your student may have come down with a bad case of spring fever. More than likely they've been holed up inside for weeks and now have extra energy to burn.

We all know that physical activity can fend off obesity, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve cognitive functioning but a growing body of research and many educators have embraced the idea that incorporating physical activity throughout the day--not just on the playground or in Physical Education (PE) class--can also improve learning.

In honor of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, Curriculum Review has compiled some tips to help you reap the benefits of adding more movement to the school day.

Making Classrooms More Active

According to Allison Oliver, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, a London-based organization dedicated to changing students' lives through sport and activity, brain function decreases after 17 minutes of sitting.

Some educators have suggested that PE be given the same status as core subjects to tackle obesity. In Finland, a new government initiative called "Schools on the Move" was started to combat the country's growing obesity problem by infusing physical activity into the everyday classroom routine. What started as a pilot program is now being used in over 800 schools.

Tim Walker, an American teacher, spent time teaching in Finland and wrote about the experience for The Atlantic. Before teaching abroad, he'd caught onto the idea of the negative impact of sitting too much. He noted the restlessness of his Massachusetts first graders when he had them sit passively on a rug for too long.

Inspired by what he observed in Finland, Walker experimented with less sit-down time in his classes back in America. Armed with a stopwatch, he kept his lessons under 15 minutes and tried other methods, too. Here, some of his favorite ways to get students moving:

1. Appoint recess activators.

Recess activators are older students that initiate and organize group physical activity. They meet with younger kids and decide as a group the game they will play. No one is left standing idle.

2. Allow older students--grades 7 and up--to devise their own diversions to keep themselves active during the school day.

Too old for tag, tweens and teens still need to get their heart rates up. Yogalates, floor hockey, or kickboxing can all work. Whatever they come up with it has to be something vigorous. Have students run and direct these activities.

3. Offer "energizers"--short breaks from sitting for students during lessons.

Allow kids to complete work while standing, and replace conventional chairs with exercise balls so that students can bounce and learn simultaneously, for example.

4. Make student presentations less passive by taking a gallery walk.

Instead of politely--and passively--sitting in the classroom as one student after another presents his work, fasten the presentations to the walls of the classroom or hallway as if they were on display in an art gallery. Walker calls this a gallery walk. Number each display and have students provide written feedback as they stop at each display. Before the gallery walk, have students affix sticky notes in two different colors to the displays. On one color, have the visitors write questions about the work for the author/presenter to consider. On the other, have them jot down positive observations.

Sources:, 1/9/2015;, 2/25/15
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Title Annotation:Planning Ahead
Publication:Curriculum Review
Date:Apr 1, 2015
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