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How to tackle lack of activity among young students

Jon Smedley, Founder, Teach Active shares ideas on how to help children in the Middle East get more active while they learn

Last year more than 620,000 students took part in the Dubai Fitness Challenge, a great accomplishment for schools around the country. This year is set to be a success too, with a range of activities lined up from kids’ yoga and dance parties to morning stretches and workouts for the whole family. 

However, many teachers and school leaders will be wondering how to continue keeping children active once the 30 days of challenge comes to an end. 

Indulge in active lessons

One way of making sure key lessons are delivered while improving the physical and mental health of students is by introducing active learning. Active learning is the process of having children move around the class and physically interact in lessons as part of the learning process rather than sitting at a desk passively taking in information.  

For example, in English lessons, rather than simply answering comprehension questions in textbooks, sitting at desks in the classroom, students get outside and race in teams to the other end of the playground to collect the correct answer.  

Or each student can be given a word and children throw a ball to each other to form a sentence using the correct conjunction.

An element of competition can be added to the learning experience too. Teams can compete by playing charades to act out the meanings of new words or become dictionary detectives to spot misspelt words dotted around the room. 

In maths, rather than learning how to tell the time by looking at pictures of clocks on a page or screen, students get out into the playground, become the numbers on the clock themselves and use skipping ropes as hands to learn the different times. Or children can go on treasure hunts around the school to identify different 2D and 3D shapes or find items to measure the perimeter of.

Many schools around the world have already begun introducing active learning techniques. 

Active lessons have not only helped increase movement but also improved attainment in maths and English across the school. As the learning is disguised through physical activity, children are more willing to solve problems that they would otherwise struggle with which has had a significant impact on their overall maths ability and confidence.

As one child says, “I really look forward to maths lessons now because I like moving around to learn and it’s helping me understand what I am learning better.”

A leading school has seen a similar impact on English learning. After using the active teaching technique throughout the school, the children’s confidence in English has grown, as has their enjoyment and independence within lessons, particularly among the lower ability children. The best measure of progress was a 98% pass rate in last year’s Year 6 spelling, punctuation and grammar test after using it for revision with that year group.

Teachers and students at both schools are also more mindful of reaching their goal of 60 minutes of daily activity which has not only had a positive impact on their mental health but their physical health too. It’s a win-win for everyone. 

Here are three top tips to get your class more active in lesson time

  1. Start small – you don’t need to overhaul the entire curriculum to introduce more active learning in your school. Start by bringing more physical activity into one maths or English lesson each week, then take it from there. 
  2. Mix it up – try a variety of different activities to find out what active lessons work best for your class. This will help to keep everyone engaged in getting more physically active.  
  3. Monitor the impact – being able to see the positive impact active learning can have on children’s health, wellbeing and achievement will help you to encourage students, teachers and parents to embrace this new way to learn. 

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