The cold weather and dark mornings can make it difficult for teachers to motivate pupils for a day of learning, but research has shown that physical activity can boost productivity and improve cognitive functioning in young people.
During Children’s Mental Health Week, Anthony McBride, qualified teacher and founder of edtech app myphizz, discusses the positive impact exercise can have on students’ overall wellbeing and how schools can engage children in an active curriculum.
Make maths fun
Encourage engagement in core subjects by using games to get children moving. Set up multiple choice questions with an active edge, by providing children with bean bags and asking them to throw these into a bucket labelled with the correct answer. Alternatively, mark four corners of a hall with multiple choice answers and ask pupils to run to the correct answer.
Take a nature walk
Plan a short route around the school grounds and ask children to take in their natural surroundings, listing the different trees, plants, and insects that they come across. Nature walks provide a great opportunity to be mindful and connect to ourselves and the world around us. They can be lots of fun to do with your students, can help cultivate a sense of awe and wonder, and get them moving after periods of sitting or inactivity.
Energise morning break times by setting up quick fitness challenges including star jumps, skipping, high knees and mountain climbers. Ask pupils to complete as many repetitions as they can in 20 seconds and keep a record of achievements. Pupils could use myphizz to
create leaderboards to motivate each other to take part in challenges. The friendly competition will encourage children to get active between lessons and allow them to return to class much more focussed and ready to learn.
Stand up Assemblies
Almost all primary schools in the UK hold a daily or weekly assembly. It’s customary for pupils to spend this time sitting on chairs, benches or on the ground. Why not shake things up and ask them to stand for shorter assemblies? Classes could even perform a movement of the day together!
Rise & Shine!
School based breakfast clubs are a popular way to help children start the day right. It’s easy to add movement and turn these meetings into mini activity sessions. You could host a morning yoga session, for example, or even take children on a mini run to boost their energy and alertness.
The immediate and long-term health benefits of physical activity are indisputable and there is a wealth of evidence to demonstrate that exercise reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression in children.
Studies have also shown that aerobic exercise promotes cardiovascular fitness, which, in turn, promotes the growth of new blood vessels and improves circulation in the brain. Therefore the more physically fit a child is, the larger his or her hippocampus tends to be and this has positive links to a child’s learning and memory².
Reaching young people in a safe, fun and engaging way, empowers children to take control of their own physical activity and provides them with opportunities to try new activities, develop their skills and experience whatever level of physical activity and challenge feels right for them.
For more information, please visit myphizz.com.