Balance is Best! Connecting Learning with Physical Fitness
My students need active lessons. Research connects balance & reading, so the balance items will help their reading skills. The launcher will be used outdoors with beanbags & balloons to replace "skill & drill" worksheets.
Imagine a classroom where students sit quietly in rows while doing worksheets all day. That is NOT my classroom! In my room, we have stability balls to sit on, tables that roll up and slide away so that I can use the floor for learning activities, and a variety of sports equipment I use for my lessons.
My students are amazingly resilient, hard-working, creative, and curious individuals.
I teach in a Title 1 school in a Title I district. Over 80% of our students receive free and reduced lunch, and many of them receive backpacks of food so they can eat over the weekends. What they lack in opportunities, they make up for in strength and courage.
Some of their favorite activities are the ones I have created using sports. We do obstacle course math. Instead of flag football, we play flag grammar or math. We race to do our work and hop, skip, and jump our way through practice.
While the materials in this project will reach my class of 20 this year, they will continue to be used year after year and so will benefit many more children as I continue my teaching career.
I have been researching the connection between learning and physical activity. In recent years, many connections have been made between various body movements and how the brain processes learning. For example, body balance also helps train the brain to read properly - i.e. tracking words from side to side and lines from top to bottom. Physical activity helps keep the brain active and children ready to learn.
Active lessons create engaged students who want to be in school and who have better memories and higher order thinking skills.
I will use the balance beams and stilts to help my students practice balance while we reinforce reading and math skills. For example, instead of doing a math fact practice sheet, they will have team races where they recite the facts while walking the balance beam. I can have the students walk on the stilts to spots in the room to identify certain parts of speech. There is a never ending list running through my head of ways to use these items to practice targeted skills while working on their physical balance.
The launcher will be used for different kinds of physical movement. First, they will have to accurately launch the balloon/beanbag at their target. This helps with strength and motor skills as well as hand eye coordination. Secondly, I can make adjustments to how they have to launch in order to target specific movements - like cross-body movements, which help with memory.
As an example of a lesson, I have in a mind a sorting game where I attach book titles to beanbags and have my students launch them into circles with author's purpose labels. They would have to land the title in the correct purpose (persuade, entertain, inform, etc.) in order to get a point for their team.
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