Jon Smedley from Teach Active offers some fresh ideas to help teachers in the UAE incorporate more physical activity into the school day.
Research carried out by New York University Abu Dhabi and Zayed University found that 82% of children in the UAE fail to meet the one-hour daily exercise target. According to another study, this figure is higher and a whopping 84% of UAE children aren’t getting the bare minimum of an hour’s physical activity a day.
Many schools will be searching for ways to encourage their pupils to get at least 60 minutes of sport or activity every day, in accordance with the World Health Organisation guidelines.
So how can they address this issue? One approach might be to make lessons more physically active.
The good news is, there are some very simple ways to do this.
A New Take on Literacy
How about changing the way pupils learn English?
You could ask the children to stand in a circle, each with a different word on the ground in front of them. They then take turns to throw a ball and form a sentence using the word in front of the child who catches it, helping to develop their vocabulary.
Introducing chair aerobics, where pupils do shoulder rolls, knee taps and finger scrunching at their desks, helps to strengthen the arm and hand muscles they need in handwriting.
There are plenty of ways to make maths lessons more active too.
Jumping Jack Maths
Rather than asking the children to sit inside writing or calling out the answers to maths questions, get them out into the playground where they can have fun, get some exercise and learn at the same time.
How about an imaginary table tennis match? Split the pupils into pairs and ask them to choose a card with an instruction on it – count up to 200 in fives or recite the three times table backwards. They then take turns to shout out the answers while pretending to hit a fast-moving imaginary ball across the table to their partner, using their palm as the bat.
Another option might be to set up a relay race where pupils in teams compete by running to the other end of the playground to collect different number statements. This could be a multiplication or division question – ‘what is 15 divided by 3?’ – or a simple maths problem they need to solve. They then race back to their teammates to answer the question before anyone else, and then it’s the next child’s turn.
Schools that have introduced these kinds of activities into their lesson plans have seen the positive difference they can make to children’s health and wellbeing and the enjoyment they get from learning in this way.
Seeing the Benefits of Active Learning
Holy Family Catholic School is targeting inactivity by giving children the chance to be physically active in maths and English lessons. The school uses Teach Active, an online tool I originally had the idea for when I was a primary teacher trying to encourage a reluctant learner to engage in maths lessons. The online tool provides active lesson ideas to teachers so they can deliver primary maths and English lessons through a range of physical activities.
Steve Tindall, the headteacher at Holy Family Catholic School, is a firm believer in active learning to help improve wellbeing. “Active learning changes the psychology of learning as children forget that it’s English or maths. They are just learning while they run around having fun with their friends.”
The impact on children’s enjoyment of the subject is palpable too. The school first began using active learning techniques in maths and the results prompted them to introduce the techniques into English. “Maths used to be our pupils’ ninth favourite subject, but since we introduced active learning in lessons, it had risen up the ranks to take third place after art and PE. We’re delighted about that.”
Emma Marshall, a specialist subject lead for PE at Colmore Junior School, is also a convert to active learning techniques: “By introducing more physical activity, such as scavenger hunts to find solutions to a range of maths problems hidden around the school, we have found that children enjoy the activities far more, whilst still learning.”
Bringing movement and fun into everyday lessons will encourage children to keep fit and develop new skills. By creating a happy and lively learning environment, lessons will be every bit as fun as playtime and pupils will be learning more than ever.
50 free active lesson plans are available from www.teachactive.org
Social media: @teachactive