The Classroom S–t–r–e–t–c–h

I’m completing a online wellness challenge through my school’s health insurance.  Overall, I’m logging in my time exercising each day and weight each week, but each week there is also some other challenge.  One week it was to eat up to 9 servings of fruits and veggies, the next it was to keep a food journal and this week it is to stretch for at least 15 minutes each day.

Now, you may already know that I am a big fan of teachers taking care of themselves so that they can do the best job they can.  Usually my message is to feed your own creative side – get inspired, so you can be inspiring!  But I also believe this to be true with health.

While there are many things you can do on your own: join a gym, do an exercise video, go for a run, join a support/weight loss group; there’s one venue that’s right in front of you every day – your classroom!

One of my favorite things to do with my class is to move our bodies.  We do things like jumping jacks, slow motion “high knees”, shoulder rolls and stretching.   You may be able to imagine their surprise near the beginning of the year, when I first ask them to, “Stand up and put your chairs in.”  Our little, crowded room becomes a make-shift gym.  We do things that are as quiet as possible, (we work in a modified open concept school), and don’t take up a lot of space.  The kids usually love it!

This past week, during my own challenge to stretch for 15 minutes, I made the same challenge to my students.  In class, we are able to get 5-10 minutes done, usually in increments of 3-5 minutes throughout the day, and then the students write in their planner what time is remaining for them to do at home.

So far, about 90% of the class claims to be keeping up with the challenge.  I think it’s great!  My hope is to continue with these challenges that show the importance of exercise and health and start to build a feeling of independent responsibility to stay healthy and take care of our bodies.

In essence, our class has become a mini workout group.  It’s good for the kids and it’s good for me too!

Do you use movement and exercise in your classroom?  Would you want to?  Please share!


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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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  1. I *loved* your “stand up and put your chairs in” — awesome. I get the same reaction with every new group of kids I’m with — even though they know I’m some kind of dancer, they can’t believe that I am really giving them permission to move!

    I should say that when I do PD with teachers we can generate a long list of challenges to having movement in the classroom. By the end of our workshop together the consensus usually is that it’s not a big deal, as long as you have a structure, a general plan, and some agreements with the kids about how it’s all going to work. Here’s a basic idea of how we handle it in Math in Your Feet:

  2. Sarah Mayer says:

    I teach 5th and 6th grade concert bands on Saturday mornings, and we always start with stretching while I do announcements and introduce warm ups. Halfway through our hour we get up and wiggle. It helps them refocus for the rest of the rehearsal and gets the blood and energy flowing again. I love it and so do they!

    • I love this. When I taught chorus, there were a few times I had the kids run laps to warm up their bodies. Students need to realize how much of a physical activity playing an instrument or singing really is (or at least should be!)

  3. Michelle says:

    Elizabeth, what a great idea! I have three 87-minute Learning Center classes a day. Each class has 10 – 12 students. We often go for walks around the building in order to get fresh air. When weather doesn’t permit, I believe they might participate in a stretch to start the day. As high school students, they can be so self-conscious and refuse to participate, but if I reward them with free time at the end of the block, they just might go for it!
    Freshman boys, especially, really do need recess! This few moments could do them (and me) a world of good!
    On the days that we walk, I notice an increase in their work production and their connection to one another. Perhaps I can get the same result with a stretch. I am going to give it a try.

  4. Marcia says:

    When you teach young children it is all about movement, movement, movement. I work hard to structure my classroom and daily schedule to have a natural flow of time to sit followed by time to move. We don’t have assigned seating or individual desks so that I am able to group and re-group throughout the whole day to meet their individual needs or the needs of the specific lesson. As for stretching, I have done that sporadically but love the idea of being more thoughtful with the planning of it.

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