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Teaching Strategies: Learning Through Movement

Janelle Cox

Do you have a student that doesn’t seem to still for even a second? What if I told you that instead of telling this student to sit still, you should actually encourage him via alternative teaching strategies to keep moving?

Studies are now showing that when students use their body during the learning process it can have a huge effect, even if it is physical movement that isn’t connected to what they are learning. One study found that when students would use their bodies during word problems in math class, it changed the way they thought about math. Students were able to understand the problems better, and were able to connect the math problems to their actions. By matching the words, with their actions they were able to enhance their learning.

Teaching Strategies: Squirming to Learn

How many times have you looked into your classroom and seen a sea of wiggly students squirming and making gestures? It’s actually very natural to move around in your seat, even though many teachers try to hinder their students from doing it. So much so that the University of Chicago has conducted extensive research on the correlation between students making gestures and how well they understand math. The study found that oftentimes students’ gestures indicate how well they understand how to solve a problem. Many students move about in their seats in ways that show that they can understand a math problem, even though they are getting the problem wrong. The study found this to be extremely helpful to teachers. When students say one thing but gesture something different they are showing that they are primed to learn. This can help teachers to employ different teaching strategies.

Embodied Learning

The term “embodied learning” is new to a lot of educators, but has actually been around for quite some time now. This method of learning involves using the whole body to learn. Think of students doing math while throwing bean bags at one another. The key to embodied learning is that children are using physical movement to enhance their intellectual growth. Montessori schools have been using this method for a while now, and recent research has even backed up their method. A strong predictor of academic achievement was how early a child would move about in the world. Studies have found that the ability to use our bodies effects the structure of our brains and how they function. As children begin to crawl and explore the new world around them, they are learning through touch. Embodied learning (making learning physical) makes teaching more effective, as well as fun.

Movement and the Brain

As new research comes out daily, teachers are now learning that they need to implement movement into their classroom. While recess and physical education classes are great, teachers are finding that movement throughout the day not only helps get the jitters out, but helps students academically as well. Short “brain breaks” are being uses in many classrooms to give students’ brains and bodies a quick break and make their minds more sharp.

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Overall, research has shown that physical activity stimulates the mind. By working some kind of movement into your classroom, you will find students will have less anxiety. Too often are students cooped up in their classrooms, for most of the school day. By allowing children to get up and learn through movement you are giving them a powerful tool to use in the classroom.

Do you practice embodied learning in your classroom? What do you think of allowing students to learn through the use of their bodies? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, we would love to hear them.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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