6 Quick Low or No Cost Movement Ideas
By Stacy Turke, OTR/L
On November 5 of this year, I presented a session at #COETC16, or the MSU College of Education Technology Conference. As it states on the website, the conference was made possible through the collaboration between the College of Education at MSU and the Master of Arts in Educational Technology Program. COETC16 allowed educators to explore technology use across the curriculum while connecting with innovative educators from across the nation. This 33rd Annual event was focusing on the concepts of Equity and Universal Design for Learning, near and dear to the heart of this OT. The conference organizer, a former teacher with whom I collaborated frequently during her tenure at my school district, was adamant that our low-tech presentation, Meeting the Developmental Needs of All Learners Through Movement and Classroom Design, would fit well with the concepts of UDL and Equity, and help teachers answer the questions of just how to meet the needs kids present so that they can access all of the wonderful technology being used in today’s classroom. And so on that crisp autumn day, my generous OT colleague Jodie, our Fieldwork Level II student Dennis, and I found ourselves presenting our conference session to a room full of educators who all were giving up their Saturdays with their families.
We shared information about the Developmental Needs of Learning, reminding the educators of the importance of the building blocks that form the foundational layers of learning. We reminded them that young bodies NEED to move, and that our current educational system does not tend to keep developmental needs of young children in mind. And we shared all kinds of ideas for increasing movement options in the classroom so kids can be moving and focusing on curriculum at the same time.
Predictably, the teachers were especially interested in learning what they could do right away and with little to no cost, so this month, my blog post will discuss Low or No Cost Movement Ideas for the Classroom. (If you read back through my posts, you’d be able to find some of these already discussed, but who has time for that? So just keep reading, it will all be here for you!)
So here we go: 6 Quick Low or No Cost Movement Ideas
Animal Walks: move from location to location like a named animal. Prowl and pounce like a cat, gallop like a horse, bear walk on your hands and feet, slither like a snake. I’ve seen teachers dismiss their entire class from circle time by asking them to frog-hop to their seats at tables. Some teachers have had kids move like a snake from one center to another. I’ve seen an entire class walking like quiet tiny mice in the hallway between the gym and their classroom. Teach the movement first, separate from any other expectation, then use it when the children are transitioning around the building. Check out this cool visual that helps organize your kiddos and their animal walks!
2 Kinds of Push-ups…but not what you are thinking! Chair push-ups and wall push-ups are really effective for helping kids calm and focus either before or during listening tasks. Most classrooms I support do not have enough wall space to do whole class wall push-ups, so typically this is done one or two kids at a time. Chair push-ups can be done by as many kids as you have non-wheeled classroom chairs, and they can be done by individual students if they notice that they need to focus and attend. Here’s how to do them:
Chair push-ups: In a well-fitting chair, meaning the child’s feet reach the floor, have the child place their hands on the edge of the seat of their chair, right along side of their thighs. Slowly straighten the arms to lift the bottom off the chair, slowly count to three, then slowly return the bottom to the chair. Repeat 3-5 times.
Wall Push-Ups: So wall push ups are as easy as they look. Have the student stand, facing the wall just farther than their hands can reach. The child should lean forward and place their hands at shoulder height on the wall, then slowly bend the elbows until the nose ALMOST touches the wall. Slowly straighten the elbows again to the upright position. That’s one rep, repeat 3-5 times. To help your students structure this a bit, consider making a couple sets of paper hands, and laminating them. Place one set on the wall at approximate shoulder height for your taller students, and one set a little lower for your shorter students. This will help structure the where part of the process, and may even serve as a visual reminder of a teacher-approved way to get their move ON!
Propped on Tummy: I know how important properly-fitting seating is, and I bet you do too. We need to sit at tables that hit us approximately at our elbows, in chairs that allow us to sit with a 90 degree angle at our hips, knees, and ankles, so that we can maintain good posture and have maximum stability. But sometimes we need to move, and work can be done while lying on the floor. Seriously! Just grab a clipboard, or a large hardback book that is no more than a half inch thick, and plop down on the floor on your tummy. You are going to want to elevate your chest and head off the floor by weight bearing on your forearms, and then this position will not only give you deep pressure through your shoulders, but it will also put your face in alignment with the work on that clipboard or book. It will be easier to pay attention to your work, and it will be easier to avoid distractions. We spend so much of our time hunched over our desks or tables, with our backs flexed and curved toward the table. This position will give your back extensors a chance to stretch out and your brain a break from the sensory stimulation going on above the floor level. Some kids may have trouble maintaining this position for more than a couple minutes to begin with, but over time their strength, endurance, and interest will increase and you will find that students love the freedom laying on the floor in class brings
Yoga: A teacher colleague swears by Cosmic Kids Yoga, have you tried it yet? Subscribe to their YouTube channel, and you will have access to all of their videos, and they add a new one each Monday. Yoga poses can help with so many developmental needs, including motor planning, bilateral coordination, improved deep breathing, flexibility, strength, endurance, calm focus, mindfulness…you name it! You can access individual yoga videos that target specific needs, and you can also check out playlists targeting specific age groups. But of course, there are other ways to access Yoga for kids, both internet-based and in print. Yoga in the classroom can be done by the whole class, similar to GoNoodle, or you can consider a quiet corner of your room that is a Yoga spot for one or two children to visit when they need to regroup, refocus, or re-energize.
Fitness Stations: A PE teacher in one of my schools has created fitness stations throughout the halls of her small elementary school so simply that really ANYONE could do it in their own school! Ms. Bain simply taped page protectors at various points along the walls of the main hallways, and she inserted a simple exercise visual into each one. Kids walking the halls can move to one or more and get a little exercise while getting a drink, taking a walking break, etc. How simple is this?! Examples include wall push-ups, squats, and these toe touches. I feel a little silly that I never thought of this, and I also feel grateful that I work with someone who DID think of it, and better yet implemented it throughout her school! Check out these pictures, one from a distance to show how unobtrusive the pictures are, and the second showing how simple her instructions are.
Hopefully one or more of these ideas will be easy to implement in your classroom right away so you can help your students get focused and get moving! They will love you for these opportunities!
Pyramid of learning photo courtesy of: http://indonesiaexpat.biz/lifestyle/sports-health/sensory-integration-disorder-spd-a-misunderstood-disorder-of-addadhd-in-children/
Chair Push Up photo thanks to: http://special-ism.com/seat-based-sensory-strategies-to-keep-students-seated-and-focused/
Wall Push Up photo taken from: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/pushup-start-with-wall-pushup
Stacy M. Turke, OTR/L: “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.” Stacy has been a school OT for 31 years with the same intermediate school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.” Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas. She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!” You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @StacyTurkeOT.
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