Here at Student-Centered World, we are HUGE promoters in flexible seating. The whole idea behind flexible seating is that a student will put forth their best work if they are in a position that they are the most productive. For some students, this is still at a traditional desk. For others, this could be standing, sitting on the floor, or laying down. Allowing this movement in the classroom will help a student (no matter what age) determine how they work best. We are always so concerned about finding learning styles so they know how they LEARN best, but what about how they WORK best? Giving them this autonomy (with guidelines, for sure….certainly not a free-for-all!) allows them to learn more about themselves and how they will perform at their peak. Even as adults, we do this. My husband, for instance, needs to sit at a table with all his belonging placed accordingly around him. Me? I work best propped up against 105 pillows….neither of us can concentrate well in the other scenario, but why do we require this of our students when it’s so easy to, well, NOT?
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Movement in the Classroom
Today I came across two amazing articles that explain the science behind why traditional seating isn’t the best for our Generation Z students who sit in front of us (or around us in an actual student-centered classroom). The first article is from Valerie Strauss, with a focus piece from Aleta Margolis, in the Washington Post titled Letting kids move in class isn’t a break from learning. It IS learning. I think that title in and of itself is so telling. We have been trained to believe that a student sits quietly until they are given a break. This is the INDUSTRIAL MODEL, we are no longer an industrial society! We are turning into a hands-on society of entrepreneurs. Will that be everyone? Of course not….but it will be a bigger majority of our students than before. As a matter of fact, we are preparing today’s students for jobs that don’t even exist yet. Seem far-fetched? How many people that you went to high school with wanted to be a social media manager as a job? What about work for Uber? We take jobs for granted now that didn’t exist all too long ago. Chew on that one for a minute.
Ms. Margolis brings up an excellent point in her article. When it comes to student movement in the classroom, she says by having the students physically doing something, it creates more of an understanding of that particular process than if they were just passively learning about it, which makes complete and total sense. My son just took his training wheels off his bike and even though he mentally knew how to ride, he physically couldn’t until he went through the motions enough times that it clicked. ALL learning is like this! My favorite line from the piece is this:
Incorporating movement-based activities can help learners of all ages articulate and internalize new ideas, and this process invites adult participants to leave their comfort zone and reexamine their roles as both teachers and learners. They explore the relief that students feel at being invited to move, as well as the uncertainty and shyness that can arise when something new and unexpected is introduced.
Truer words have never been spoken. Still many people balk at the idea of the normalcy of movement in the classroom because it’s not traditional. Why can’t kids today sit still long enough to learn…WE did it, why can’t they? A few reasons. Number one, the average attention span has dropped DRASTICALLY since we have become a society of instant gratification. Know how long it was when public education was created? About 20 minutes. Know how long it is now? Approximately 7 SECONDS. SECONDS. #notatypo. We literally cannot expect the students in front of us to learn the way other generations have. You will be fighting a losing battle if you think you’re going to overcome the odds here.
As a matter of fact, another article from the Washington Post by Mrs. Strauss and Angela Hanscom titled, A therapist goes to middle school and tries to sit still and focus. She can’t. Neither can the kids, may just be the most eye-opening article you will ever read about movement in the classroom (seriously…click on that link and read it…I won’t be offended if you’re taken off track for a few minutes). It’s legitimately a vicious cycle. The teachers know students should move, but they feel locked into cramming a ton of information into their brains (more than again, you guessed it, previous generations were required) and don’t see a choice. With this, students are losing focus, developing sedentary lifestyle habits, and not actually acquiring the learning that the teacher is trying their hardest to accomplish. Recess is being cut shorter and shorter and the society of fear we have grown into is preventing these kids from running around and playing outside after school (not to mention, there is often homework to “reinforce” what was “learned” that day in a state of unfocused cramming). To quote her, after 90 minutes of being in the classroom,
I’m mentally exhausted and the day has just begun. I was planning on observing the whole day. I just can’t do it. I decide to leave right after lunch.
This is why “traditional” learning just isn’t the best method of instruction for our students anymore. It’s not.
With the requirements to learn more and more and the time to simply “be a kid” becoming less and less, something needs to change. We need to incorporate student movement in the classroom without it being a special treat. The students need to move for not only their physical and mental wellbeing but also so they actually learn.
Plain and simple…where will they learn more: actively trying to solve a problem or actively trying to stay awake?
Friends, incorporating student-centered learning isn’t difficult. It’s different. Encouraging student movement in the classroom is not difficult. It’s different. Switching teaching styles just go against the grain of how so many people view what education is supposed to be. But tell me….what is education SUPPOSED to be? It is supposed to be students going to school and learning. It doesn’t HAVE to look like anything in particular, so why can’t it be a model that today’s student will actually get more out of?
The most intimidating part of student-centered learning is that there really isn’t much out there that truly explains HOW to do it. There’s a ton of information about how relevant it is and there is data that shows how much it works, but there isn’t much that says, “here, try this”. This is why Student-Centered World exists in the first place. We want to help you make the adjustment. Please, take the time to check out our blog. Being afraid of change is no excuse to not give it a try. We teach so we can help our future leaders learn. Why not try to do that in the best way possible for THEM? Our Kids Deserve It. Thanks for reading.