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How to Add Movement to Your Lessons This National Physical Fitness and Sports Month

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Photo of Emma (Teach Starter)
Updated | 3 min read

The weather is getting nicer, the days are getting longer, and the school year’s nearing the end. Who’s ready to celebrate National Physical Fitness and Sports Month in the classroom? Despite the name, this isn’t just one for the PE teachers out there — there are plenty of ways to mix movement and learning in the traditional classroom, not just the gymnasium.

It’s been a rough couple of years with students trapped at home more and spending an increasing amount of time in front of screens instead of outside playing. There’s even a new report out from the International School-Related Sedentary Behavior Recommendations for Children and Youth warning teachers and school leaders that students need both unscheduled and scheduled movement breaks throughout their school day. The experts say elementary students ages 5 to 11 need those breaks at least once every 30 minutes, and they recommend a break to move every hour for older students.

The Teach Starter teacher team advocates brain breaks be a part of your teacher toolkit any time of the year, but National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is a good time to remind your students that moving our bodies can be fun and help us work out everything from stress to those kinks we get from leaning over devices too long.

Why Do We Have a National Physical Fitness and Sports Month?

Our leaders in Washington have been talking about youth fitness since the 1950s when then-President Eisenhower created the President’s Council on Youth Fitness, renamed the President’s Council on Physical Fitness a few years later by President Kennedy. It’s since been renamed (yes, again) the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition (PCSFN) to include a focus on healthy eating.

It was in 1983 — under President Reagan — that we got a whole month devoted to the cause. National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is held in May every year, designed to get more Americans up and moving and making healthy choices. The whole thing kicks off May 1-7 with National PE & Sport Week, an initiative from the Society of Health and Physical Educators to get more students moving and enjoying it too.

Ways to Mix Movement & Learning This Month

You don’t need us to tell you that adding play to the classroom is an integral part of making learning more fun for your students. But did you know aerobic exercise specifically can help your students focus and retain information better? And anaerobic activity can help our students (and us adults) feel less stressed and calmer as they take on a task? Not to mention a study from the University of Illinois showed that children who are physically fit are more likely to perform better in school and achieve higher grades.

Here are some of our favorite ways to mix movement and learning this National Physical Fitness Month … and all school year to make a more kinesthetic classroom experience.

Act Out New Vocabulary

Fitness in the classroom really can be as simple as getting students out of their seats and giving them a chance to move their bodies while learning new words. Turn your next vocabulary lesson into a game of charades, challenging students to act out words while their classmates guess the term. This has the added benefit of helping students to associate these new words with their body movements, enhancing memory (and understanding).

Celebrate Right Answers

When students answer questions correctly, allow them to celebrate their small win with a small moment like a jumping jack or a quick dance.

Simon Says

We know Simon Says can help students learn to listen more attentively and follow instructions, but it’s also a great way to get students moving while learning. Teaching subtraction? Solve this problem in your head, and stand on one foot when you know the answer — 10 + 18. Uh oh! Simon didn’t say! 

Add Movement to Classroom Songs

Music is an excellent tool for helping students memorize learning material. If you incorporate songs into the day, put a little boogie in it. Instead of singing out from their seats, have students stand up and copy movements while they’re at it.

Play Last One Standing

Our teacher team developed this free active game for students to test and build their vocabulary knowledge, opening it up to be used across a range of subjects.

See dozens of active games for learning, created by the expert teachers at Teach Starter!

Banner image via shutterstock/Sergey Novikov

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