Saturday, December 14, 2013

Exercise in the Classroom

My first year teaching I attended a talk by John Medina, the author of Brain Rules. In his talk he suggested that schools might be more successful if everyone wore workout clothes and every hour or so took part in some physical activity.

He suggested this for two reasons. First, several studies have shown that our brains work better after exercise. Second, in order to remember something our brains need to hear it over and over again, but not all at once. So, by taking a break to exercise our brains have the time needed to process and store new information over time.

I fell in love with this idea, but being a new teacher I didn't feel comfortable asking for permission to do it. Three years later, I am feeling brave.

I also have quite a few students with ADHD in my class this year. They are, invariably, the students who are struggling the most in my class. They have also struggled in every grade. Not to say they aren't making progress, they are. Unfortunately, they are still very far behind their classmates.

I was talking to my husband about this fact, and he asked, "You know what the definition of insanity is, right?"

I said that I did know that it is crazy to try the same thing over and over again and expect different results, but that I (and the other teachers) am constantly trying new ways to get through to these kids.

His words stuck with me though. Am I really doing anything that different for these kids? What if it would take a radical change to get to them?

Then, I remembered John Medina. I wondered if there was any research on exercise and kids with ADHD. I know that I always feel better and more focused after exercise - is it possible that this was the case for kids with ADHD too?

A quick Google search confirmed my suspicions. There are pages of studies that show that exercise increases the ability of ADHD kids to focus and check their work for mistakes. Pages. From real scientists.

Why haven't we explored this connection already?

So, I am going to come up with a proposal for my principal, and see if we can implement a trial program in January, 2014. For one month we will take a break every 45 minutes to exercise for 15 minutes. We don't have anything fancy so I am thinking jogging around the school or jump roping - just something to get our heart rates up. After exercising, we will get right back to work.

There are three other fourth grade classes so I think we would have some good data to compare the two groups.

What do you think? Will my principal agree? Will I see positive results? 

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