Movement and Learning in the Classroom


Movementand Learning in the Classroom

Movementand Learning in the Classroom

Itis really astounding that, many learning institutions are still stuckin the dominant model for formal learning that does not pay muchattention on movement in the classroom (Jensen,2005).Education administrators have continued to use the ‘sit and grit’system when all evidence suggest that lecture alone is not veryeffective in imparting knowledge. Movement is very pivotal inlearning, research has shown that kinesthetic intelligencesuperfluities in a learning setting where movement was fundamental inthe curriculum (Gilbert, 2007).Formany years scientific and education groups believed that thoughtprocesses had no connection with movement (Jensen,2005).Maverick scholars envisioned the association between movement andlearning but their concept did not gain public attention for manyyears. This paper will seek to establish the link between the twoconcepts and exemplify the connection between physical education,energizing activities, movement, recess, breaks and improvedcognition. It depicts that movement can be very powerful cognitivestrategy to improve learning, strengthen retrieval and memory andpromoting morale and motivation among learners.


Intimes of thinning pecuniary resources, administrators and educatorswill have to change the way they approach teaching. Brain researchhas given new information on the import of movement in learning, andthe way the two concepts are connected (Jensen,2005).There is wide range of evidence that demonstrate that movement can bea very powerful ingredient in facilitating learning, especially amonghigh school students. Due to the fact that movement is usually one ofthe natural parts of the school day, it is expected that it willsignificantly influence the brains of the learners. In this part weshall examine the cognitive, anatomical, and functional studies thatsuggest that movement in very vital process in the learning (Jensen,2005).


Thefirst proofs that supports the connection between the brain and thebody has been spread in numerous proposals over the last ten decades.With better and more advanced technological ability, evidence hasbeen grounded soundly and a good number of neuroscientists concurthat movement and cognition are powerfully linked (Jensen,2005).


Thepart of the human brain that is responsible for motor control isreferred to as the cerebellum. It is situated in the rear area of thebrain. It accounts for about one tenth of the total brain’s volume,although it contains 50 % of the neurons in the brain ((Ivry&amp Fiez, 2000).It is estimated that it contains more than 40 million neurons whichtransmit information to and from the cortex. In fact nearly all thenerve fibres in the cerebellum are outbound, meaning that they areable to influence the rest of the brain. Strick peter (2002) hasdocumented another link. He has found a pathway from the cerebellumto the area of the brain that is responsible for attention, spatialperception, and memory. Scholars have established that the area inthe brain that is involved in movement is also involved in thinkingprocess (Barkley, 2004).

Otherstudies that employ magnetic resonance imaging have also supportedStrick findings. They have found parallel roles of movementstructures and cognitive structures (Jensen,2005). They have concluded that human beings learn to predict movementbefore executing them. This ability indicates that all motor actionsare heralded by swift thought processes that establish the goals,examine variables, predict results and execute movements. Achievingsuch a feat calls for widespread connections to all sensory regions(Flanagan,Vetter, Johansson, &amp Wolpert, 2003)

Numerousstudies also support the link between information on the connectionbetween movement and visual systems Shilman etal.(2007), Movement and attention (Courchesne &amp Allan, 20001),movement and language systems (Kim et al., 2004) and movement andmemory (Desmond et al., 2007). It is evident that the aforementionedstudies do not show that there is any form of movement in thosefunctions but put forward there is connection with the cerebellum insuch mental processes as timing, rehearsing, predicting, practicingand sequencing a task before it is executed.

Inthis light it is evident that the cerebellum can make corrective andpredictive actions irrespective of the fact that it is dealing withmentally rehearsed tasks or motor task sequence. This means thatthere is a very strong connection between motor and cognitiveprocesses (Jensen,2005).


Cognitiveevidence provides vital information on the importance of movement inlearning. Impulses travel through neurons to and from the cerebellumand to the others parts of the brain. The vestibular nuclei areclosely regulated by the cerebellum and also activate the reticularactivating system at the upper part of the brain (Jensen,2005).This part is vital to our attention system, for the reason that itregulates the sensory information coming in. This connection assistin maintaining balance, transforms thoughts into actions, andcoordinate movements. This is the main reason why movement activities(jumping, rolling and swinging) in the playground are crucial becausethey simulate the inner motion in the ear (Palmer,2003).These stimulating activities confer immense benefits in reading andimprove attention significantly.


Medlinedatabase show that at least 333,000 scientific materials on thesubject of movement, confirm its immense import in learning (Jensen,2005).Oneresearch findings indicates that individual who engage in exerciseand other activities have more cortical mass than those that do not. Basic biology supports a close connection between movement andlearning. Oxygen in extremely vital in the proper functioning of thebrain, and increased blood flow to the head increase the amount ofoxygen that is transported by blood to the brain. In this light,physical activities (movement) are reliable way to increase the rateof blood flow to the brain and hence oxygen (Jensen,2005).

Anexperiment conducted at the University of Illinois by WilliamGreenough (2001) show that movement (physical activities) in ratsincrease the number of connections among neurons. It also increasesthe number of capillary network in the brain. Solid evidence alsoindicates that walking can also spark an arousal-meaning an increasein heart rate, and excitatory brain chemicals (Williams, 2008). Evenstanding and stretching have been shown to increase the rate of heartbeat and blood flow to the brain by more than 5% in a matter ofseconds (Tong, Shen, Perreau, Balazs, &amp Cotman, 2001). Researchfindings have also shown that movement influence gene expression andthis improves memory and hence learning. Gene expression enhancesnumerous elements that improve encoding and transfer of information,plasticity of nerve fibres and synaptic activity. All thesedevelopments facilitate learning (Jenkinsetal.,2008).

Particularmovements can spark the release of the body’s natural motivators,tow of the most widely known motivators are dopamine andnoradrenaline which are hormones of (neurotransmitter that creategood feeling and hormone of urgency and risk respectively). Motorrepetitive movements trigger these body motivators (Braniff, 2011).Once activated these motivators energize learners, increase theirenergy levels and significantly improves their information storageand retrieval.

Thereis immense literature that supports the concept that movement isimportant in learning. Young children engaged in physical activitiesdepict superior motor fitness, attitudes, and academic performance inschools. There is research that shows that incorporating physicalactivities in the course of learning during the day can lower thecases of disruptive activities and problematic behaviors (Braniff,2011).


Thisliterature review has shown that here are many studies that haveestablished there is a strong connection between movements on motoron cognitive performance. Strong evidence support that the linkbetween movement and learning. Evidence from brain resonance imaging,anatomical research, clinical data, and biological studies indicatesthat moderate physical activities enhance cognitive processing(Holtkamp et al., 2004). It has also been found to augment the numberof brain cells. Movement activities should therefore become animportant part of the school curricular. This means that learninginstitutions should commit a sizable part of resources to harness thehidden power of movement and physical activities. The important ofmovement in learning among scientist has become more and moreprevalent owing to the massive body of evidence that numerousscholars have documented.

Forexample Jensen (2012) has found that movement influence geneexpression and this improves memory and hence learning. Geneexpression enhances numerous elements that improve encoding andtransfer of information, plasticity of nerve fibres and synapticactivity. All these developments facilitate learning. Numerousstudies also support the link between information on the connectionbetween movement and visual systems Shilman etal.(2007), Movement and attention (Courchesne &amp Allan, 20001),movement and language systems (Kim et al., 2004) and movement andmemory (Desmond et al., 2007).



HeadStart is a national child development program for children agedbetween 3 and 4, that offers service to promote emotional, social andacademic development for family that are income eligible. It is anexample of community based program that primarily focuses onchild-centered care. It offers a multifaceted program encompassingmental health, education, nutrition, social services, dental care andparent involvement opportunities for children from low incomefamilies.

Thedistrict serves a total of 213 preschool children in 9 classes and 1Home Base option. The program works in close collaboration withcommunity departments to offer services to children and theirfamilies. Lee County Head Start has helped more than one thousandchildren and their families in the 45 years it has served Lee County.

Thesites of the research are at Head Start which is situated in a rurallocale of Saint Charles, Virginia. The class has 20 students with Ilead tutor and 1 assistant teacher. The learners are required toattend classes in all days. Special education is offered alongsidenutrition and mental health services by specialist in these areas.


Whileall 20 students are screened for success and growth, the directtarget group of the research is two students that did not pass theFine and Gross Motor section of the Acuscreen assessment and twostudents that did poorly on the PALS assessment. The two childrenthat did not pass were recently diagnosed with Autism. The goal isto create more movement through creative play and exploratorylearning with activities such as, dramatic play, music and movement,and center activities to increase cognitive and fine and gross motorskills.


HeadStart has two key evaluation tools that are used to assess thephysical and cognitive development the PALS and A cuscreen. PALS isan evaluation used to identify students who are fall below theexpectation of kindergarten level in literacy basics. On the otherhand Acuscreen is used to assess cognitive skills, although it canalso measure gross motor and fine skills.

Iplan to use the prior assessments scores from the fall assessmentperiod to establish a baseline to compare the results to.&nbspFirst, I will look at the two students that failed the Fine and GrossMotorsection of the Acuscreenassessment. Then we will look at the twostudents that were low on the cognitive development portion of theAcuscreen and PALS assessments.

Iwill also use observations of the students as baseline data. The twostudents that failed the Fine and Gross Motor portion of theAcuscreen assessment have patterns that are evident duringobservation. These two students have trouble with balance andagility which becomes more evident during physical activities such asrunning and playing with the other children. The two students thatscored poorly on the PALS assessment have trouble reciting theletters of the alphabet, numbers, questions posed during recall, andalso have a very short attention span. These students usuallyrequire more attention and remediation to meet their goals.

Theonly way that can be used to reliably indicate an issue exists is bythese evaluations and observations. Such students call for high levelsupport because they encounter massive difficulties to complete taskin classroom and playground (Marzano etal.,2001). Devoid of this manner of support, such students would wallowin quagmire and would never attain the academic expectation of theteacher or administrators.

PossibleSolution Strategies

Researchhas shown that students who are active get their brains growing andworking. Jensen (2005) states that the human brain continues togrow past childhood, because for each challenge, stimulation andsituation we encounter new nerve fibers are formed. He also assertsthat movement can be a very powerful technique to improve memory andstrengthen learning (p.60). Studies indicate that learners who areactive ensure that their brain is constantly working and growing. Jensen also tells us that there is anatomical evidence, “informationtravels to and from the cerebellum, the brain’s center of motorcontrol, and other parts if the brain involved in learning, but mostof the neural circuits are outbound…amazingly, the part of thebrain that processes movement is the same part of the brain thatprocesses learning” (pg. 61).

Researchalso suggests that incorporating movement in the classroom enhanceslearning for the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. Visuallearners can interpret concepts through physical movement, whichhelps children possess, embody and maintain abstract information.Students might map the solar system through the creation of a dancepiece involving spinning planets. They may act out stories or fillin the details of a story, such as, The Lorax. (Griss, 1994).

Thekinesthetic learner prefers and imitates learning by doing. Studentsthat are kinesthetic learners are more successful if they can theyexperience enjoyment and fun. Most students find at least one or twokinesthetic activities fun and exciting. Examples might include: Atreasure hunt, place footprints around the room and let students huntfor the Leprechaun’s gold (the gold pieces may have theirindividual name on it). Other examples might include “museumvisits, field trips, practical learning sessions both in and out ofthe school environment” (Kinesthetic Learners, n. d.).

Auditorylearners learn best by using hearing and speaking methods. Theygenerally learn and remember better by sound.Examples mightinclude: A read aloud to yourself or someone else, give oralreports, and find study buddies to discuss the information with. Onemight use the association of music and dance with ideas and concepts(Peterson, 2013).

Whenaddressing the question of three possible solutions that I plan touse to help students pass the Fine and Gross Motor Skills assessmentof the Acuscreen and the PALS assessment would be we will use playactivities that incorporate the sensory motor system to helpstrengthen and maintain physical and cognitive ability. First, I planto use whole group activities such as, literacy activities thatinclude thematic unit presentations, drama and role plays, and musicand movement. Themed units promote curiosity, increases confidence,and help to promote self-directed learning. Through dailyread-alouds students will be able to hear stories and expand theirvocabularies. Students will use drama and role plays to act outstories and nursery rhymes using prompts and dramatic play. We willuse music and movement to learn the alphabet, numbers, and days ofthe week, as well as traditional preschool songs and finger plays.

Second,I will employ center activities to support gross motor and fine motorskills and to assist improve cognitive skills. Fine motors skillsentail the use of smooth small muscle, particularly those found inthe legs and hands. When young children are using their fine motorskills they learn to clasp, grasp and maneuver small tools andobjects.

Withthe use of center play such as, the block center and table toyscenter students are actively involved using fine motors skills suchas. Blocks provide opportunities for children to share andcommunicate with each other as well as planning and problem solvingwhich are cognitive skills. They learn fine motor control with size,shapes, building and manipulating the blocks. The art centerprovides writing, drawing, painting, cutting, pasting, lacing,puzzles, small blocks, and foam manipulative to enhance fine motorcontrol. Students are up and moving, they have free range of motionin their center to pick out their own supplies and make anything theywant to.

Wewill practice Gross Motor Skills as well. Gross Motor Skills involvethe larger muscles of the body. Students will practice Gross MotorSkills in Circle Time through activities like, music and movement toget their minds exhilarated, a beach ball toss to answer questions,acting out nursery rhymes, and students telling stories and using themotions they are describing. The whole body is in motion usinglarger muscles of the body such as those in the arms and legs.Students use control of the head, neck, and torso to complete theirtask. Children develop many gross motor skills as they move andexplore freely in the classroom. We will also use outside play andgym activities such as, play-ground equipment, balls, hula hoops,large motor games and activities to develop their bodies

Third,we will address cognitive development by looking at the PALS scores. Through cognitive development and sensory motor development studentsgain the ability to learn, reason and analyze facts. There are manyactivities that will help my students with the development ofcognitive skills presented in a play based structure.

Roleplays and drama are some of the way to get young children to remainactive and engage in movements. Students will read story books andgive an account of the epic to their peer depending on how theyinterpret facts. In this process they may employ flannel board totell tales or create their own. Action songs are also effectivestrategy to promote movement that shall support learning (colors,alphabet and numbers). Students can also use white boards to scribbleout the tale and then tell their peers by acting. The smart-board isa wonderful tool that we will use to get the students out of theirchair and their minds active.

Iwill use all three solutions detailed above to answer my researchquestion of: “Can a play-based pre-k program enhance cognitivedevelopment in the classroom?”


Literaturereview has provided sound evidence that supports the preposition thatmovement can be a very vital strategy to ensure that students areengaged, active and improve learning skills in the learninginstitutions. Jensens (2005) research has proved very pivotal inanswering the question of how movement aids learning. Manyresearchers and scholars in different capacities have establishedmany ways through which movement in connected with learning. Numerousstudies also support the link between information on the connectionbetween movement and visual systems, attention, language systems, andmemory. It is evident that the cerebellum can make corrective andpredictive actions irrespective of the fact that it is dealing withmentally rehearsed tasks or motor task sequence. This means thatthere is a very strong connection between motor and cognitiveprocesses. Young children engaged in physical activities depictsuperior motor fitness, attitudes, and academic performance inschools. There is research that shows that incorporating physicalactivities in the course of learning during the day can lower thecases of disruptive activities and problematic behaviors.


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