The other day in our New Teacher meeting, we used one of my favorite “tricks:” we asked them to move about the room once or twice within the session. Movement is often the antipathy of teachers within cramped classrooms, and having traveled to buildings within my district and others, I can see that schools are becoming increasingly full of “things” and “stuff.” It’s time to clear a path and let the students move about the room.
One of the teachers who was present at the meetings on Monday forwarded me this article from today’s New York Times by Tara Parker-Pope: “The 3 R’s? A Fourth Is Crucial, Too: Recess”. Parker-Pope points to several studies conducted within the last year about the overall effect that play, specifically scheduled recess time, has on academic performance and on behavior. While she may be preaching to the choir in my case, I still appreciated the fact that one of the teachers in the session found this and thought back to what we did. Someone pulled something from the day, thank goodness!
I have spent many sessions at this keyboard pouring my energy into writing about the shifting of our pedagogy to include the connective capabilities of social technology, and not for naught; it is essential that we engage our students with meaningful and actionable content, and there are myriad ways to do that now. However, when we think of dynamic and lasting educational experiences and the types of classrooms we will need to do achieve these new learning goals, I think of rooms that are open, and able to encourage movement. I think of teachers free to station themselves in several points in the classroom, not chained to one area where the laptop plugs in. I think of students with seating areas able to be joined and separated into many configurations. Our spaces need to be opened up, and our students need to be moved around in them. My wife tells the story of sitting in district meetings for eight hours at a clip, in a room with no windows, and never getting up to move for the duration. I would be angry, or void of emotion. But I certainly would not retain half of what you asked me to.
So the next time you are with your students, incorporate some form of physical movement to “change their state.” Have them at some point perform a function that you need them to do anyway, but add something physical to it. We want them to discuss the theme in the novel. Have them do it as they walk around the building on a nice day. Bring them back to the room and ask for a pair share, then whole group discussion. Or use some body voting to lead to discussion of a current events issue (Do you agree that bailing out major banking institutions is the right thing to do?) See what you get.