What are the connections between physical activity and learning?

Teachers generally acknowledge there are benefits of allowing our students to be physically active. To varying degrees we understand there are physical, mental and social benefits provided by physical activity but what about the contribution physical activity can make to our ability to learn?

Dr Nick Riley from the University of Newcastle explains the link between physical activity and academic performance in students.

A small Dutch study showed that students involved in maths and language lessons that also incorporated physical movement during those lessons outperformed students who did no physical activity during lessons. This improvement was seen in maths and spelling but not in reading.

The Guardian (Australian) website recently published an article discussing how physical activity can contribute to academic improvement.

The Western Australian Department of Sport and Recreation commissioned a review of the literature examining the relationship between participation in organised sport or physical activity and academic achievement. An article in 2010 (updated 2015) by Dr Karen Martin from the The University of Western Australia outlines the positive impact of physical activity on student cognitive function. These benefits included:

  • Improving memory
  • Behaviour
  • Concentration
  • Academic achievement

“The W.A. Department of Sport and Recreation review concluded that encouraging participation in organised sport or other strategies to increase children’s physical activity opportunities could result in improved health and academic outcomes.”

There are a number of traditional ways that schools provide opportunities to be active at school.

  • Recess and lunch – this does not garuntee all students are involved in physical activity but at least they have to get out of their seats.
  • Lunch time sports – for a select few the intensity and amount of activity on those days increases dramatically.
  • Physical education – regular physical activity approximately twice a week.

How though do we get students to be active at other times? What about those subjects where students traditionally sit for 50 minutes at a time?

Physical activity as part of a students school day is important and something we should take into account to improve our students ability to learn.

Year 10 Civics and Citizenship

The Year 10s have just started their semester two Civics and Citizenship course. Their introduction to this topic is looking at the Australian Parliament and how its works. A starting point for this was “Why should you care about our political system?” “Why should you understand it?”
Over the past two days students investigated 30 different issues central to this years election. The idea was to make students aware that politicians deal with issues that they will have a strong opinion about and therefore understanding our political system is important. In pairs, students used the list of thirty issues to create a top ten list of the issues most important to them. They then paired up with another pair and created a new top ten and so on. Once we got down to four lists we then debated as a class what issues would make our class top ten.
Class Top 10
  1. Same sex couples should have the same legal right to marriage as a man and a women.
  2. Terminally ill people should have the right to end their life with medical assistance.
  3. Penalty rates should be maintained for workers on weekends and public holidays.
  4. Indigenous Australians should be recognised in the Constitution.
  5. The health of the Great Barrier Reef is more important than the coal mining destroying it.
  6. Indigenous health programs should have funding increased.
  7. A higher portion of government funding should go to public schools.
  8. The NBN
  9. Having a strong public health system/medicare.
  10. The Government should regulate for affordable housing.
While students don’t have a deep understanding of all these issues they do recognise what is important to them. The discussion and debate the students have had around these issues over the past two lessons has been impressive.
If you are interested in knowing all of the issues students considered then click on this link. The link takes you to a survey which asks your opinion about a range of issues. At the end of the survey your position is graphed in relation to the Liberal National Coalition, the Labor Party and the Greens. The graph allows you to see which party you are most aligned with.
The ABC also has a website called Vote Compass that allows you to check which political party you are most closely aligned with.

John Hattie – Rebooting the system

John Hattie’s Jack Keating Memorial lecture at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education is worth listening to. John Hattie is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).

John Hattie’s theme throughout his speech is around ‘rebooting’ the Australian education system. The speech is fifty one minutes long and covers a range of Hattie’s views about how schools and Governments can change in order to improve student performance.

Some of Hattie’s ideas presented in the lecture include the following.

  • To shift the parent and Government focus of debating and pushing ideas that have minimal impact in education to a focus on what does have an impact.
  • To focus on the kids and not appeasing parents.
  • To stop blaming post codes and/or SES ratings for why schools struggle to get students to learn.
  • To focus on expertise and to value expertise.
  • To increase the number of Highly Accomplished and Lead teachers.
  • To have a common understanding of what ‘growth’ in relation to a child’s learning means. What does a years growth look like?
  • To change the narrative from schools believing excellence at the top end is the measure of success to seeing the growth of all students as the measure of a school success.
  • To develop collaboration and open classrooms – including student voice.
  • To focus on getting students into maths and science pathways who thrive on the struggle not just the ‘best’ students.
  • To abolish the exam system.

I think Hattie’s speech challenges us to think about what we do in schools and its impact on students. If you have an opinion about Hattie’s lecture I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Year 1/2 students from Cummins Area School use iPads to retell stories

The following videos show how a Year 1 and 2 class at Cummins Area School used iPads to create multimodal texts to retell stories.

A great way to engage and challenge students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of stories they have been reading.

Retelling Stories By Creating A Multimodal Text

Retelling stories – students’ perspective

The Forest as told by Year 1/2 students

These videos are from the Teaching and Learning You Tube Channel