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Increasing Physically Active Learning In Lessons

Increasing physical activity throughout the day can have so many different benefits on children and their learning. Philippa Youlden shares her advice for increasing physical activity throughout your day!

Posted on Tuesday 11th April 2023

Following the launch of the Childhood Obesity Strategy in 2016 there is an expectation that schools will ensure ALL pupils are physically active for least 30 minutes in each school day. This is half of the 60 active minutes recommended by the Chief Medical Officers, with the other 30 minutes expected to be achieved outside of school hours, at home or in the community.

So how do we ensure ALL our pupils are active for 30 minutes each day?

Not all pupils are active at break and lunchtime, so those times of the day don’t guarantee we are meeting the expectation. However, pupils are in lessons for large parts of the school day, so this provides a perfect time. Now before you all shout at the screen:

  • “I don’t have time”
  • “My curriculum is tight enough as it is”
  • “I have no clue what to do or where to start”
  • “My class would be bouncing off the walls if we included physical activity in lesson time”

I am here to reassure you that these barriers can be overcome. In some cases with a bit of planning, in other cases with some reassurance and also with some ideas. We can all increase activity levels in lesson time even if just by a few minutes in each hour.

Why do we need to increase physical activity?

The key thing is to understand why we might want and need to increase activity levels in lesson time. You will realise it makes learning easier, more fun and easier to retain.

The ‘Why?’ is the centre of the golden circle with the ‘What?’ and ‘How?’ around the outside. If we really understand ‘why’ then the ‘what’ and ‘how’ will follow.

Check out this video on Youtube.

This is a great short animation that explains the role of physical activity in supporting children’s learning. This is the Why!

How do I find the time to build in more physical activity?

So now we understand the importance of being active for our learning and cognitive development, we may now wonder how can we fit it in to the already jam packed school day?

Well, let’s consider two ways we could achieve this:

Brain Breaks

One option is to include brain breaks of short bursts of activity within lessons or between lessons. The heart rate goes up, the limbs move, the children smile and these can add an extra few minutes of physical activity into the school day.

Physical teaching and learning activities

The second option is to get pupils out of their seats and moving. Just make sure that what they are doing supports the lesson outcomes or learning intentions. This means we need ideas, resources, user friendly tools to help teachers and TAs blend activity into pupil learning. This will help children develop and sustain healthier bodies but also help the blood flow to the brain, help to spark and strengthen brain connections and help children learn and retain information. Think – how often are you pupils out of their seats and moving?

For maths and literacy you may consider kits, such as the Active Outdoor Literacy Collection or the Outdoor Maths Collection. Both kits contain a range of fun and creative learning resources for use both indoors and out.

Also, consider resources that may support a range of science concepts and language development, as well as mark-making, exploration and investigation. For example the Sand and Water Collection or Construction and Loose Parts.

Building activity into lessons can work well both when you are introducing a concept and when consolidating learning. You could display objects, information or questions around the room for pupils to get up and visit, to check and challenge their learning. Or, could you conduct peer review via walk and talk activities or pair and share conversations as pupils move around the playground or classroom? This type of review doesn’t have to be static.

“A positive association exists between academic attainment and physical activity levels of pupils” PHE 2014

Take the opportunity to find lots of different ways to get children more physically active in your classroom!

Thank you to Philippa Youlden for writing this blog for us.

Philippa Youlden is a freelance PE, sport, wellbeing and education consultant passionate about the power of movement, activity and high quality PE and school sport opportunities for all children. Philippa works nationally delivering CPD, developing educational campaigns and writing resources for a range of organisations and school networks, supporting children to enjoy, thrive and fulfil their potential through PE, sport and physical activity.

You can also take a look at WELLNESS with Zip Active to support EYFS and KS1 Wellbeing through physical activity, and MOVE with Zip Active supporting EYFS and KS1 fundamental movement skill development and communication and language through movement.

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