In my work as a consultant, presenter and inclusive schooling advocate, I work with teachers who are supporting diverse groups of students. Their classrooms include those with learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, sensory needs and autism. The work I do with educators most often involves teaching them about differentiating instruction and helping them to understand the needs of students with unique learning profiles. Teaching about movement breaks is always a part of this work.
There are many reasons I love teaching about movement breaks in my workshops. First all of, I want educators to know that all students need to move & interact to learn effectively. While movement is important for all students, it may be particularly important for students with disabilities. Students who are constantly getting out of their seats, fidgeting, pacing, and bothering their classmates are communicating to their teachers that they need a break. Unfortunately, this type of behavior is often seen as a sign that these particular students cannot handle the structure of the general education classroom. It should be interpreted, however, as a sign that it is time for all students to take a break. It is true that many students with disabilities may be the first to show discomfort during long lectures or when a classroom discussion lingers for the better part of a class period, but that does not mean that other students are not ready for a change in the learning state at that point. In my experience, when some students begin to show a need for a break, most are feeling it. Students without identified needs might just be better at hiding their discomfort, fatigue or exasperation. Students with disabilities, therefore, can serve as a useful catalyst for change in the classroom. When some learners are beginning to struggle, it is probably time to “shake up” the learning experience!
The second reason I bring movement breaks into my work is because they are useful in so many different ways. They help with engagement, they can aid information “storage and retrieval,” and they work well as a preventative and positive behavior support. When breaks can provide so many potential benefits to students, why wouldn’t teachers want to add the occasional Word Jam, Cookie Boogie or Victory Dance to daily lessons?
Finally, I embrace movement breaks because they are simply fun. Joy and anticipation are great states for learning and GoNoodle allows students to experience a bit of levity and novelty in the day. This may result in students having a better attitude about school in general, which can result in more effort or even improved daily performance.
For all of these reasons (and a few more), I was thrilled to be asked to guest blog on GoNoodle. I always encourage the teachers I support to learn a handful of movement breaks (e.g., jumping jacks, 2-minute dance parties, toe touches, Simon Says) they can use any time they need a change in the learning state. Educators like this idea, but often tell me that they feel overwhelmed trying to remember a wide range of options and keeping offerings interesting to students. This is where GoNoodle really helps. It allows educators to learn new ideas, to expand the types of breaks they use (e.g., dances, track & field exercises, reflections) and even to connect some of the breaks to standards-based content. In other words, GoNoodle makes planning and implementing breaks easy!
So, if you are teaching in an inclusive classroom, be sure to make movement a part of your daily lessons. I often say that inclusion isn’t about the space, it is about the spirit. What I mean is that most students with disabilities will not succeed in inclusive classrooms if they are offered only the “real estate” of the classroom. They need not just the space, but responsive instruction, engaging teaching and learning and a welcoming environment. GoNoodle can’t do all of that… but it can help teachers create a space for all, and is a “must” for those teaching in diverse, differentiated, inclusive classrooms.
Dr. Paula Kluth is a consultant, author, advocate, and independent scholar who works with teachers and families to provide inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities and to create more responsive and engaging schooling experiences for all learners. Paula is a former special educator who has served as a classroom teacher and inclusion facilitator. We’re so honored to have Dr. Kluth share her expertise, and you can keep up with her on her blog, paulakluth.com!