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Teachers implement action based learning in classrooms

posted Nov 9, 2015, 5:47 AM by Bcps Bcps   [ updated Nov 9, 2015, 5:47 AM ]

Peek into Deidria Elliott’s classroom at Icard Elementary School and you’ll notice something different. A handful of her second graders aren’t sitting on hard, school desk chairs. Instead they are bobbing up and down on brightly colored stability balls. The same scene is repeated in Laura Horton’s third-grade class at Chesterfield Elementary School and Jamie Newton’s fifth-grade class at Forest Hill Elementary School. Elliott and Horton are recipients of a Kids Fit Action Based Learning grant from Burke County Public Schools and Anything Office Furniture – a grant that will up fit their classrooms with furniture that moves. Newton received DonorsChoose funding to roll out 27 stability balls in his classroom.

Ditching traditional classroom furniture for stability balls, recumbent bikes and pedal exercisers introduces students to action based learning. The premise is when students aren’t confined to the “crisscross applesauce” position or stuck in desks, but instead are actually allowed to move and release innate energy, they concentrate better and retain information better.

My students are movers and shakers,” Elliott said. “Providing an opportunity for them to move engages their brains on a different level than simply sitting in stiff chairs completing worksheets. This engagement benefits the classroom teacher in that students who are active are able to retain content at a higher level because physical movement encourages the development of dendrites within the brain.”

Horton said, “By allowing students to participate in an action based learning environment, the frustrations related to the lack of physical movement will be eliminated, thereby freeing their brains to focus on the academic concepts rather than the physicality of their learning environment.”

For a less scientific response, Elliott shared this from one of her students: “I don’t know why it works, but when I sit on this ball and I can move, my brain works better and I don’t have to work so hard to make it work. It just does.” 

Elliott’s goal is to spread the movement outside her classroom walls and get more students in the school involved in action based learning. She seeks to create a “Ride to Read” lab fitted with recumbent bicycles available to every student in the school so they can sit, pedal and read.

She said, “The dream is to set up a movement station within the school, in order to encourage active bodies, and therefore active brains.”

Both teachers will document how their action based learning labs impact student achievement and behavior.

Horton said,  “If an action based learning environment helps my students channel their energy toward productive learning activities, then their level of confidence as learners will increase. As a teacher, this higher level of confidence and productivity will personally benefit me through a decrease in the necessity to manage students’ behaviors.”

                Newton said the stability balls already have made a difference in his classroom.

                “I noticed some of my students battling staying in their seat during important whole group instruction time, and it was becoming a distraction for them as well as the other students,” Newton said. “I decided to think outside the box and bring something that would allow them to move a little and still remain focused. What a difference this has been so far.  The students love them as well as the parents. The unnecessary movement has almost stopped and the students are more focused than ever.” 

                Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Larry Putnam invited all second through fifth grade teachers to apply for the district’s Kids Fit Action Based Learning grant.

                He said, “I was looking for teachers passionate about trying action based learning in their classrooms. For the grant process, they had to explain how they would use the equipment, how they expected it to benefit their students and themselves, how they would measure outcomes and what they would do with the results. I am excited for Ms. Elliott and Ms. Horton and their students and can’t wait to see what they do with this action based learning opportunity.”


Photo: These students in Deidria Elliott’s second-grade classroom at Icard Elementary School sit on stability balls instead of traditional desk chairs.



Photo: These students in Jamie Newton’s fifth-grade classroom at Forest Hill Elementary School sit on stability balls instead of traditional desk chairs.
























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