Kids Learn Best If They Don’t Have To Sit Still, Here’s Why

Sitting still is not necessarily the condition for good school learning, whether in class or video at home. Gesture and movement are essential for thinking and learning, explains a specialist in educational sciences.

In a remote classroom session with video conferencing software Zoom last year, my son’s teachers gave the following instructions to their little kindergartners: “Your eyes are watching, your ears are listening, your voices are staying. Silent, your bodies do not move. However, I noticed that my 6-year-old was constantly manipulating all kinds of objects found at home, making Lego constructions, kneading modeling clay, doodling with his crayons. While some might say that he does not have the spirit in class, the research invites us to apprehend the situation differently. The manipulation of materials was to awaken his attention, helping him focus on the required task.

As a parent of school-aged children & a researcher in the field of technology-enabled learning, I find our current models of distance learning to be ineffective. Indeed, sitting in front of a computer screen weakens, even completely detaches us from a large part of the perceptions of the body. To learn most effectively, our minds depend on the movement of our bodies, the use of a variety of tools, the inclusion in the dynamics of places, and the presence of collaborators around us.

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The Role of The Body In The Thinking

In a distance learning system, it is often implicitly assumed that as long as the child’s mind engaged, it is not a problem if child remains still. But this argument no longer holds today.

Research on embodied cognition – the study of body’s role in thinking – shows that body must first interact with the world for the mind to open up to learning. It is why students who work with a wide range of tools and materials during a learning activity are better to understand abstract concepts like gravitational acceleration & fractions.

Asking students to remain seated doing their work increases their mental load. It asks them to focus on staying still and on that task that keeps them at their desk or in front of their screen.

Christine Langhans and Hermann Müller have put forward based on work carried out around people solving math problems, “sitting quietly not necessarily best condition for good school learning.”

Learn From Our Environment

Man’s thoughts are the extensions of the world around them. The technology or tools they use, the people they work with, the ways they go to school or work, all of these evoke ideas in their bodies. Their minds then combine these feelings with an interpretation or understanding based on past events.

In this sense, thoughts are repetitive. People explore new ways of life every day while applying what is written in their body memory. Learning to cross the road, for example, to practice. Over time, the brain organizes ideas collected in different contexts, making it possible to identify good times.

Action is essential for thinking and learning. Not only do gestures, head movements, and shoulder gestures allow listeners to add nuance and emphasis to the speech, but gestures also help the speakers to express their thoughts better.

According to research, in mathematics, pupils’ gestures indicate that they have understood a problem even before expressing the solutions in words. Thus, teachers who can spot these signs can follow their progress in understanding the concepts as closely as possible.

In addition, gestures are way for educators to accompany the translation of concept so that explanations are more effective. Therefore, seeing each other facilitates learning – which is in total contrast to videoconference situations where the child only sees faces of his classmates and teachers or, at worst, an empty box.

Get In Motion

Whether the courses are face-to-face or remotely, it is possible to better integrate the body into learning. Here are some avenues to explore a teacher when teaching online, knowing that parents, of course, also have role to play in encouraging students to stay active:

• Do not restrict movement to breaks & instead integrate it into classes, for example, by taking a walk in the neighborhood the introduction to the day’s science lesson;

• Notebooks, pad, pens, or pencils, take a moment at the start of the lesson to ask the students to gather their materials and visualize the tools at their disposal;

• Encourage students to make gestures;

• Schedule time to encourage students to listen to their emotions;

• Repeat the same task at different times during the course, using different media;

• Consider the classroom environment, from school to neighbor. Rediscovering a familiar place from a new angle can help students open up their perspectives of reflection.

Overall, it’s about changing the representations we have of what it means to “be in a position to study, to do your homework.” Even though walking, running, or dancing may seem unrelated to the task given to the student, these activities often help them think better.

5 Reasons Why It’s Hard To Sit Still

I take the liberty writing to you because my son’s teachers have asked us to consult an occupational therapist. We have been living in Germany for 3 years. Nicolas is 7 years old and has integrated very well into his class. He is fluent in German. However, he moves a lot. He can’t sit still; it must constantly move. He always has an object in his hands. He is unable to rest his hands on his legs or on the desk without moving.

Do you think occupational therapy could help her?  It’s a little one that works very well. He is easy to learn and always wants to learn more.

 The child does not move enough during leisure time. Between the ages of 6 and 9, a child should benefit from a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity gross motor activity per day*. Nevertheless, for a child who has been deprived of opportunities to move in order to develop during his early childhood and preschool career, we must consider that his needs are possibly even greater than those of the child who has moved enough and well consolidated his developmental bases before the age of 7. To remedy this problem, we can schedule time in the morning to do motor games, ideally outside, before school, after school and in the evening, in addition to taking advantage of weekends to do various forms of exercise.

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