Friday, August 7, 2015

They Need More Than Just Literacy and Numeracy

This summer I'm reading and commenting on the book What If Everybody Understood Child Development? by Rae Pica.

Chapter 14: The Body Matters, Too
Chapter 15: Reading, Writing, 'Rithmetic...and Recess
Chapter 16: Why Kids Need "Gym"

In previous chapters, Rae Pica has noted that many educators or reformers treat the body and the brain as separate. At least they behave in ways that support this dichotomy. Teachers focus on literacy and numeracy but not physicality. 

But the body is important, too. Young kids are developing serious health problems, mainly because they do not have the opportunities to run, play, and move as in the past. As teachers, we must think about the physical skills and health needs of kids as well as their reading/math skills and cognitive needs.

How can teachers do this? Look for ways to incorporate movement in each day. Include brain breaks and other opportunities for movement as part of instruction. Teach some basic movement skills and add unplanned, self-selected movement activities as part of the schedule.

Unplanned, self-selected activities = recess. Many schools are eliminating or at least paring down time for recess. Exclusion from recess is an oft-used tool for behavior management. (And usually effects the kids that need recess the most!) Rae Pica notes several benefits for including recess as a part of the school day--breaks in learning actually benefit learners; on-task attention increases when recess is a part of the schedule; physical activity feeds the brain with more oxygen, water, and glucose; recess is a great stress-reducer; unstructured play helps build social skills.

When I was teaching second grade, we did go out for recess. Many days but not every day. I noticed the students. Kids would run and jump, climb and swing. They would create chasing and tagging games. I noticed the teachers. Many would sit along the sidelines and chat. They would call to kids to "stop that" or "change this." This time was seen as just a time to let the kids go and make sure they didn't get hurt.

But I think that this can be an important time of instruction, too. Not with planned and specific things for kids to do. But for encouragement. For suggestions of things to try. For interaction and conversation in ways that don't happen in the classroom. And sometimes running and jumping, too.

As teachers, we are responsible for the whole child. Brain and body. Look for ways to nurture both.

Some links from the book---
And a few others---

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