We like to move it, move it!

by | Jun 20, 2021 | Blog

Let us Read!

We design law courts and classrooms in which physical movements and reactions are treated as disruptions, subversive of the serious work of the mind – yet some people think better when they are moving. Why do we make children sit still if intelligence benefits (as it does) from physical movements and gestures?” Prof Guy Claxton

Curiosity is the engine that drives learning, when we are curious, we look, touch, smell, investigate, explore, talk and ultimately think. One of the Habits of Mind that we use in our teaching at Knights is “gathering data through our senses”. We use our senses to stimulate our emotions. Emotions are essential for learning and movements facilitate thinking. “How do I think with my body?” is a wonderful question to ask children.

We need movement to activate our brains and therefore stimulate learning. But are we facilitating this in our classrooms or are we failing our learners in this regard?

For decades, educationalists and scientists believed that thinking was thinking, and movement was movement but today we know better as research has proved the strong connections between movement and enhanced learning. Did you know that the part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain that processes learning! This is an incredible discovery and should change the way we view our classrooms forever.

Movement in class is vital for learning and will activate the brain across a wide variety of areas. It may be the stimulation of those neural networks that helps trigger some learning. For other learners, it may be the rise in energy, the increased blood flow, and the endorphins that put them in a better mood to think and recall. Some routines that call for slower movement can do the reverse, calming down children who are overactive, therefore supporting concentration.

Strong evidence supports the connection between movement and learning. Evidence from imaging sources, anatomical studies, and clinical data shows that moderate exercise enhances cognitive processing. It also increases the number of brain cells. Schools that do not allow the free movement of learners are short- changing student brains and their potential for academic performance. Movement activities should become as important as so-called “book work.” This attitude has become more and more prevalent among scientists who study the brain and it’s time for all educators to catch on.

Some of the smartest things teachers can do are the simplest. When we keep students active, we keep their energy levels up and provide their brains with the oxygen-rich blood needed for highest performance. Educators should purposefully integrate movement activities into everyday learning: not just hands-on classroom activities, but also daily stretching, walks, dance, drama, seat-changing, energizers, and physical education.

At Knights we start our day with a programme called Go Noodle, it gets our children up and going and they absolutely love it!  Brain breaks are an important part of all our lessons, sometimes children need to expel some energy by jumping on the little trampolines in their classes. We also allow learners to fiddle, doodle and play with fidget toys, while learning and listening. Flexible seating in classrooms is an absolute necessity, children should be allowed to sit on therapy balls, wobble chairs. If children prefer standing while working, then standing desks are provided in classrooms. Some of our learners prefer reading in little tents or tepees, some prefer sitting on pillows on the carpets at low desks. Let children learn where they want to as creativity should not be stifled.

Don’t handicap children.  Teachers who insist that students remain seated and be quiet during the entire class period are not promoting optimal conditions for learning – it is not conducive to thinking. When we restrict children’s movements, they focus so hard on trying to sit still and “be good” that they don’t think about anything else. We need to remember our end goal is to teach children how to use their brains for thinking. Therefore, we need to teach with the brain in mind. What is best for the optimal use of the brain? Brain-compatible learning means that educators should weave Math, Geography, social skills, role-play, Science, and Physical Education together, along with movement, Drama, and the Arts. Do not wait for a special event. We need to be more perceptive to the richness that children are teaching us.

Children move all the time. They are busy little bodies – let them move!

Michelle McMenamin

Michelle McMenamin


Michelle McMenamin has been educating young South Africans since 1994. She became the Principal of Knights Preparatory in 2002 and is passionate about educating and equipping young children to grow in their God-given talents. Michelle believes that as children become secure in their uniqueness, they are able to realise their purpose and make an impact on the world around them. She loves working with children and moulding their dreams.

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