A Little Exercise Goes a Long Way

Helpful classroom tips that work to keep your students active.

Ana-Maria Jerca, Staff Writer

When Physical Education stops being mandatory, unfortunately, so does exercise.

High school students across Ontario who omit gym are faced with the challenge of incorporating exercise into their daily schedule. When exam time rolls around, personal health usually takes a backseat to studying and completing assignments. Healthy meals are swapped for rapidly prepared and consumed junk, so where does that leave exercise?

I can only speak from my experience as a second-language teacher, but my goal is to get all teacher candidates thinking of ways that incorporate physical activity in their classrooms regardless of their teachable. Don’t shy off quite yet, because it’s possible with a little imagination. Truth be told, nobody can sit perfectly still for an hour and fifteen minutes. It’s even harder to do so when forced to conjugate verbs. Furthermore, language learning should be an interactive experience, but who says that the interaction must be done while sitting or standing completely still?

Games involving physical activity are a great way to reinforce grammatical points in a second-language classroom. For instance, Labyrinth works wonders when teaching the imperative tense, which is used for giving orders.
  • Students split into two teams and each team creates a labyrinth out of the desks in the classroom.
  • One classmate from each team is blindfolded and sent to the other team’s labyrinth while their team members give them instructions in the target language on how to escape.

If the teacher assures the safety of all students involved, this game is great practice for the practical skill of giving and listening to directions in a foreign country.

Another activity teaching the imperative: a scavenger hunt.
  • Students get into pairs and hide an object somewhere on school property for their partner to find using the directions they’ve given.
  • Other grammatical points can be incorporated in this game depending on the level of the students. Partners can solve riddles or complete tasks like conjugating an irregular verb while doing jumping jacks to get the next clue.
  • If the whole activity can be done in the target language, students will be gaining valuable second-language exposure without spending a minute sitting in their seats!
The Flyswatter Game. In a language classroom, this game can be used to reinforce vocabulary and add an interesting flavour to an otherwise boring task of simply memorizing words.
  • The words in the target language are scattered about on the chalkboard and students are split into two teams.
  • Each team sends a representative with a flyswatter to the back of the class and a path is cleared to the chalkboard.
  • The teacher then says a word in English and students race from the back of the room to the chalkboard.
  • The first one to slap the correct word wins a point for their team.
  • A math teacher could use this game to get students to identify formulas for the areas of 2-D and 3-D shapes.

A  science teacher could use it to reinforce the elements on the periodic table or ionic compounds. A law teacher can practice terminology like “natural law” and “positivism.” The possibilities of this useful activity are almost endless.

Another advantage physical activity in the classroom has is that it engages our students and makes the subject matter more interesting; something we all strive to do. Come exam time, it has the power to relieve stress and improve their mental health and thinking abilities.

We all know how difficult it is to learn when we’re bored, groggy from sitting in chairs all day and taking just notes. It’s amazing what wonders just a little physical activity can work in our classroom. Try it for yourself!


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