A. Physical activity or movement should be an integral part of your teaching program and should be part of a whole school approach to increasing physical activity at school.

Physical activity is basically movement; running, skipping, active play, gardening and dancing are a few examples. Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Children (5 – 12 years) states “that for health benefits, children should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day”.

Moderate to vigorous intensity activity is movement that makes their heart beat faster and their breathing harder than normal, generally termed ‘huffing and puffing’.  

On the other hand physical education is one of the learning areas in the curriculum with mandatory outcomes, which include participation in physical activity.

Physical education focuses on explicitly teaching the knowledge, understanding and skills required to participate in physical activity. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) wrote the Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum with a time allocation of 8 per cent, which equates to learning in health and physical education, two hours per week over four school terms from Foundation to Year 10. 

Many primary schools employ Physical Education specialist teachers who will teach your class physical education for 1 hour per week (on average). So where are the other opportunities in their day to move and be physically active outside of recess and lunch times?

Find out how much physical activity your students do in a day. An increase in sedentary behaviours has been attributed to increases in screen time, children’s safety, modern street design, less outdoor spaces for play, smaller house blocks and longer working hours for parents.

You may be interestingly surprised to find out that many of your students get out of bed, have breakfast, climb into the car and are dropped out the front of the school, having only to walk a few meters to their classroom before school begins.

At the conclusion of school they may be picked up again and go home to watch television or play computer games. They may go straight to an after school care program, which encourages quiet indoor play. 

On the other hand you may have very active students who ride to school and go to an active after school program, which encourages outdoor play and interaction in sports activities. 

Taking the time to find out how much physical activity your students participate in each day may alert you to part of the reason why some of your students are finding it difficult to engage and sit at their desks for long periods of time.  

The opportunity to move and play at recess, for some students may be the first real opportunity they have had to be physically active since the end of their lunch break the previous day. Some students may also opt for less active recess and lunch activities like reading in the library.  

Whole school approaches to physical activity include strategies to engage students in physical activity in recess and lunch breaks such as lending out sports equipment, organising rotations of games and activities, movement challenges and competitions.

Get students moving at the beginning of every day. Try to avoid having students come straight into the classroom and sit down every morning either at their desks or at the front of the classroom. Have students stand while you are marking the roll, try a movement wave where every morning each student needs to think of some crazy movement they can do when they hear their name called.

Once the roll is marked, make time to take your class outdoors for 30 minutes to participate in a range of activities such as cross lateral, team building, balance, core strength, motor skills (climbing, running, jumping, hopping, skipping) and activities that will raise their resting heart rate like tag games (freeze tag, stuck in the mud, octopus tag).

Ensure that the activity that you choose is one that the students enjoy and one in which there is no exclusion. You don’t want any students sitting out, active participation is the focus, so modify any games so that nobody is out.

Physical activity at the beginning of the day will contribute to student’s motor skill development and can have social and emotional benefits for students, reducing anxiety and stress, increasing confidence and practicing social skills. During physical activity, blood volume to the brain increases creating major benefits for the learner, which can also have a positive effect on their academic skills and behaviours.

Incorporate movement into your learning experiences throughout the day. Is your classroom encouraging sedentary behaviour? Are students being asked to sit at their desks for periods of 30 minutes or more? Learning is a movement activity.

An analysis of 19 studies involving 586 kids, teens, and young adults that was published in the British Medical Journal, found that short 10 to 40 minute bursts of exercise led to an immediate boost in concentration and mental focus. 

Make movement opportunities part of learning experiences developing the connections between their brains and their bodies, have your students moving more and sitting less.

Create explicit links between movement, subject matter, each other and the real world. Using the learning area of English as an example, movement opportunities such as role-play, charades, non-verbal communication, body language and facial expressions can be used when teaching about language for interaction.

Ask students to design movements to the syllables in words. Use word cards that describe an action so that students use their visual memory, perform the movement and recall how to write the word e.g. Run, jump, hop.

In mathematics students can be asked to become a particular number, they can line up for sequencing or duck down to not be counted when skip counting by fives. Incorporating play is also a movement opportunity, set up a stall, a shop or a bank in the classroom where students can play with Australian coins. Organise an obstacle course or treasure hunt with the students’ outdoors to learn about giving and following directions. 

The opportunities for movement and physical activity are only restricted by your imagination and when you get stuck, ask the students for ideas because they can always come up with fun ways to move and learn.