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The Learning Journey: Get Moving!



Welcome back to The Learning Journey, as we explore the opportunities to engage with your child on their own learning journey. This blog series aims to offer tips and tricks - including specific learning strategies, working memory and focus exercises, assistive technology and online resources - for supporting learning development at home.


Movement

It is hard to overstate the importance of movement in a child’s learning and development. We simply need to move. Apart from the physical fitness benefits it brings, regular movement increases blood-flow, bringing oxygen to the brain, helps us relax and can even boost our mood, through the release of endorphins. At a most basic level, physical activity makes us feel better and more focussed.


Movement is also essential to how we learn. This is particularly evident in early childhood, where the integration of sensory feedback from our movement (proprioception) and sensory input (including touching and tasting), allow a child to explore the world around them and build a three-dimensional understanding of the relationship between themselves and their environment. This integration of sensory feedback continues to be vital right throughout our lives; it is the foundation of our ability to conceptualise and imagine, and reach automaticity in our skills.


However, movement can often get overlooked as we focus more and more on stationary, classical instruction and text-based learning, concentrating on what we see and hear. The growing use of screen-based learning, accelerated further during the pandemic, has increased the need to be aware of the importance of bringing movement back into the balance, as we experience, learn and grow.


Movement Breaks

We all need a break! Taking a movement break is one of the easiest and most effective strategies for helping your child (and you!) renew and maintain energy levels and focus during study sessions at home. These strategies range from simple movement and breathing exercises to more targeted routines that your school’s Occupational Therapist can recommend, for example Brain Gym®.


My top tips for simple, refocusing and re-invigorating movement breaks that take less than a minute are:


Exercise 1: Shoulder Crunches (for stress-relief and resetting)

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms relaxed to the side.

  2. As you breathe in through the nose to a slow count of 3, lift your shoulders until they are pressing on either side of your neck.

  3. Hold your breath and your shoulders up for count of 2.

  4. Let your shoulders drop and breathe out quickly (with a huff!) through the mouth.

  5. Repeat 4 times.


Exercise 2: Cross Bumps (for coordination and refocus)

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms relaxed to the side.

  2. Raise your right knee and bend your left arm across in front of you to ‘bump’ your raised knee with your elbow.

  3. Then do the same with the left knee and right elbow. It is important that you use opposing limbs.

  4. Repeat 4 times or more, with a slow, steady rhythm (imagine you are climbing a ladder!)


No matter how active your child is, encouraging them to start their study session with these exercises, then repeating them as needed, will help them to be more alert and focussed during their study session, without raising their energy level too high and over-exciting them.


Of course you can take this further - going for a walk, whilst you discuss the topic with your child, can really get the thoughts and ideas flowing. Playing a game of tag can be a great way of revising facts, such as key words, place names or times tables (your child can only avoid being ‘tagged’ by calling out the answer to the question!).


The broader picture

Helping your child stay active outside school is not always easy and can be time-consuming, but the benefits are well worth it. Movement is literally vital. Getting outdoors, away from tech, is invigorating and particularly beneficial. The NHS Healthier Families website has some helpful suggestions of how and where to start. Whatever you do, have fun, and get a ‘move on’!





About Matthew



Matthew Potger

Deputy Head (Academic)


BA (Hons), PGCE, Post.Cert. Level 5 Dyslexia & Literacy (York), Post.Cert. Level 3 Success with People with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)






Matthew continuously explores creative opportunities in his teaching to create an exciting, vibrant academic environment. Focusing on pupils’ well-being, self-esteem and positive learning experiences has always been his priority; an approach that fits perfectly with his role as Deputy Headteacher Academic, at The Moat School, London.


In 2018, Matthew set up the ‘I Believe In Me’ project, designed to connect young people with projects that can support them through music and creative arts. ‘I Believe In Me’ became the theme song of the inaugural Neurodiversity Celebration Week in 2019 and the ‘I Believe In Me’ project went on to be shortlisted for the 2020 TES Well-being Initiative of the Year.


Matthew Potger - potgerm@moatschool.org.uk







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