Image from Pixabay – public domain
In class today I referenced research I had seen indicating that exercise was good for the brain. A student of mine wanted me to cite the source of the research. Good for him; he’s been paying attention to our argumentative writing unit that encourages evidence to support a claim. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember on which site I had seen it.
So, after class, I searched the internet to find the evidence to make certain I was correct – and good news – there are numerous studies (“Active education: Growing Evidence on Physical Activity and Academic Performance” at Active Living Research and “How Physical Exercise Makes Your Brain Work Better” at The Guardian – the first two Google results) that support the idea that exercise is beneficial for the brain, including impressive ones with brain scans and statistics and everything!
So, now that I’m certain the research on my side, I will share what we did today. Simple: I asked the students to dance a little bit before our class meeting. The students have been somewhat reluctant to participate and I wanted to get them motivated to participate and take some risks so they could feel more comfortable. I had hoped that the music and physical activity would improve the quality of the discussions in our meeting as well.
The students did not dance at first but some eventually did. I thought teenagers just got up and danced immediately whenever music played, but it was like pulling teeth. They had some good ideas about how to improve participating. (Don’t try extra credit – it didn’t work.) They said they would like to do a song together with directions (The Electric Slide or The Macarena, for example.) Some suggested a Simon Says-type of game where a volunteer does a dance and everyone else does the same thing. I thought the idea was to have a partner and mirror their dance moves, which they did not mean, but I still think my idea was pretty good.
Also, they requested better music (sorry, I didn’t know Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk was “old.”), so we sent a paper around to sign up with their favorite songs and artists. They wanted to choice of when and how often to dance as well, so they voted on it.
Both classes wanted to keep the dancing. They said they were still not completely comfortable with the other students yet – we only really did two team-building activities – so I would like to increase social activities to help them feel safe and supported. Hopefully, once they know each other a little better, they will fully participate and reap the benefits that exercise has on academic achievement. I am interested in seeing how much a little dancing will improve the climate of the class and if it really will impact the class grades.
So, one caveat – I was trying to get students motivated to dance by dancing. Myself. Alone. In front of the students. In the middle of the circle. And when I turned around, I noticed a row of students filming my lame dance moves. I asked them not to publish it, but alas, it was already too late. I felt betrayed because I was trying to create a climate of trust and who is going to risk anything if they are going to end up looking stupid in front of the class AND to the entire worldwide internet.
So, even though we had some challenges in introducing this, I encourage you to take a risk and try it – I’ll bet they’ll like it!