With organisations such as The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) highlighting issues like child obesity, and the government increasing target hours for physical activity, teachers are facing an increasing pressure to educate children about leading a healthy life. This sentiment for active learning is being reinforced by the curriculum, which means that it is becoming increasingly important for teachers to consider both the way a pupil likes to learn and how they can incorporate those topics that pupils struggle with into fun physical activities that they are already familiar with and enjoy.
To investigate whether this is possible, and to look at how childrens’ and teachers’ attitudes are affected, leading educational resource supplier brand Hope Education, challenged Mossy Lea Primary School in Wigan to ‘Get Active’ in the classroom. Mossy Lea Primary teacher, Caroline Lamb held an afternoon of active lessons for Years 4-6 and during the ‘Get Active’ afternoon, the children rotated around three different literacy and numeracy activities. All three activities were devised to teach practical lessons in numeracy and literacy, as well as to be enjoyable for the children. The idea was to keep them engaged in the learning process while also getting them active, by creating activities that they would want to take part in.
The first of the activities took a traditional literacy lesson in storytelling and transformed it into a physical activity using fun and exciting equipment. This involved encouraging the children to create sentences and stories using a ‘Story Generator Cube’ – this includes various cards with sentence starters, character and setting prompts that challenge pupils to think creatively about suitable language to fulfill each section of their story. Caroline Lamb compared the activity to techniques she has tried previously: “I have used a similar activity to this in the past but it involved writing ideas down on paper. Because there was a big blow up dice involved and the pupils could roll it on the floor, they were more eager to get involved with the activity. The children thought it was great fun – and the prompts gave them scope to introduce some of their favourite characters into their stories, like Harry Potter and the Daleks from Doctor Who!”
The second activity involved using a ‘Charades’ game, which included cards with actions for the pupils to demonstrate. This is a great activity to use during literacy lessons because it involves the children asking questions and communicating with each other – and because there is an overall winner, the pupils are motivated to participate. Upon playing the game, the pupils at Mossy Lea never sat still for too long and it really helped to keep their attention – infact most pupils asked to play again after their time at the activity station was over. “The children particularly enjoyed this activity and I noticed a lot of laughs coming from that table. This activity would be great for children with communication difficulties and children with autism,” says Caroline Lamb.
The third activity was a numeracy lesson with giant inflatable ‘Clever Catch’ maths balls. The children loved being able to throw the ball inside and they could relate the activity to games they would normally play in their free time. They all wanted a go at catching the ball and answering the sums. The activity involved an addition, subtraction, multiplication and division ball, so it was great for teaching a well rounded maths lesson. Caroline Lamb was particularly impressed with how this activity focused the childrens’ attention: ‘It was great, all the children were involved and up and out of their chairs taking part in a lesson which may have ordinarily involved sitting and looking at the whiteboard. The pupils couldn’t wait for their turn and were all asking ‘can I do it, can I do it?’”
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards states that a classroom should not only be a place for teaching but also a place for fun. Furthermore the Board states that learning can often be more effective through play. This is because active learning helps pupils to acquire knowledge and skills outside of books.
Keeping pupils active in the classroom helps teachers to fill the national quota for physical activity but it can sometimes seem quite a challenge to cram it all in with all the other lessons they need to do every week. The activities undertaken by Mossy Lea are a great example of ways to combine the two and also demonstrate the ways in which traditional lessons can be applied though active and fun activities. This can often be more effective than pupils simply reading or sitting and writing at their desks.