Jenn Johnson, a third-grade teaching assistant at Chandler School in Pasadena, attended a White House event hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. The event was billed as “A Conversation on the Health of our Nation’s Youth.”
Johnson, together with Chandler third-grade teacher Shelby Montevirgen, has created a classroom where students hop, skip, crawl, balance, jump, zombie walk and stomp as they learn math, spelling and other subjects.
“It was unbelievable to hear Michelle Obama talk,” said Johnson. “Her ‘Let’s Move!’ campaign is all about getting school kids more active, and that’s something we do at Chandler, not just at recess and P.E., but in classroom lessons.”
For Chandler’s third-grade boys and girls, moving makes a difference in their learning. Johnson explains, “Kids have fun playing Duck-Duck-Division and Frog-Hop-Multiplication so they don’t realize they’re learning. They work harder with less frustration when they can move. It’s more effective than just doing a worksheet.”
Educational research shows that students can remember facts better when they learn with physical movement. Johnson and Montevirgen are now believers. “Students understand and retain the concepts better,” says Johnson. “They also show more stamina and concentration.”
Montevirgen and Johnson are quick to point out that they’re not simplifying the lessons. “We teach the Math in Focus curriculum: we’re just adding movement to it,” explains Montevirgen. And while her classroom is playful, she sets firm expectations of self control. “With the opportunity to jump and skip in class comes the requirement that kids will be in control of their bodies.”
“Every teacher at Chandler is encouraged to reflect and innovate. That permission to try new things let us push the boundaries with movement in learning,” explained Montevirgen. “We started small, and as we saw positive results, we kept trying new things together.”
The teachers hope to share their work at national educational conferences.