Sedentary classes neglect to offer greatest learning experience

Gigi Cepeda and Imra Tajuddin

We’ve all been there: 45 minutes into class and your eyelids are already heavy, your head falling toward the desk, maybe you even let out a snore. You probably didn’t get much sleep last night- homework, sports, activities and family take precedence over the dreamy eight hours that everyone says you need.

But teachers, can you blame us? How can you expect a bunch of teenagers to sit in one place for 90 minutes without drifting off, or at least zoning out? Sitting in a windowless room at eight in the morning is tough, especially if the teacher sticks to conventional lectures or turns on a video.

Many students think that high school classes do not involve enough movement. According to a non scientific Oracle-conducted survey of 314 students, about 71.3 percent of students at South surveyed believe that high school classes are too sedentary.

“I think it’s hard to learn material [in sedentary classes] and [those types of classes] aren’t engaging enough,” sophomore Aditya Bhalla said. Bhalla is one of many students that feel they would benefit from a break.

As students, we can say with certainty that we  do not absorb as much information in classes where we just sit there. We get it- as a teacher, it’s difficult to teach your students the material when you only see them two or three times a week. So, you may try to cram as much as you can into that 90 minutes.

Teachers, please don’t let that interfere with a student’s potential to learn. When all else fails, give students the five minute break they need to refocus and revitalize their minds. According to John Sullivan, social studies teacher, halfway through the period he gives his students a five minute break to use the bathroom, get a quick drink of water, check their phones or simply take a walk down the hallway.

“[The break has] allowed the flow of the lesson to be more natural rather than having students raising their hands and asking to go to the bathroom intermittently, which breaks things up,” Sullivan said.

According to Sullivan, one of the reasons he gives his students a break during class comprises of the fact that certain subjects involve more movement than others.

“Some subjects don’t lend themselves to a lot of movement [. . .] [For example] history, or social studies,” Sullivan said. “We can figure out ways to get students to move, but inherently, it is not a mobile subject, like science, where you’re doing labs, and you’re on your feet, and you’re moving. [. . .] I don’t think that’s inherently wrong; it’s simply the nature of the beast, in a way.”

But, for classes that do lend themselves to hands-on activities, including these activities in your lesson plan can make the world of a difference to student learning.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, teachers who have students do hands-on activities weekly exceed the success of other teachers by 70 percent of a grade level in math and 40 percent of a grade level in science.

History teacher Emily Ekstrand believes incorporating movement into everyday activities is beneficial to the classroom learning experience. Ekstrand is a certified yoga instructor, and she tries to embed some form of movement into every class period, whether it be through a stretch break or simply moving between groups.

“I will do a quick stretch every now and [then],” Ekstrand said. “But I also try to have at least three activities per class, and I make sure that students get up and change seats between those three activities. So even if they’re not moving while they’re doing the activity, they have chance to move their body in between the activities, because I think that signals to the body and the brain that something new will be happening.”

Ekstrand regards movement during class as a way for students to refocus their attention if their thoughts had started to drift. Moving around, Ekstrand said, is like hitting a reset button.

“When people sit down [after doing an activity], they notice that they feel different,” Ekstrand said. “Or if they get up and change seats and are working with a different group, [they are] suddenly surrounded by new people [and] new ideas. It’s a different way of relating to the class environment.”

According to Ekstrand, students are more likely to absorb more information if they are more focused and involved in the classroom environment. She also stated that students are not meant to sit all day, and that classroom movement helps conquer that problem.

“Through most of human history, humans have not been sitting most of the day,” Ekstrand said. “This is a modern phenomenon, and so our bodies and brains are still wired for movement, and we’re asking [people], especially teenagers, to sit still all day.”

Sedentary classes go against nearly every instinct of the average teenager’s mind. Teachers, we urge you not to limit your students’ potential for learning, and do everything within your abilities to enhance the schooling experience. Not every subject can be taught using the same methods, so incorporate movement in any way you can, whether it be hands-on activities or a mere five minutes of unstructured relaxation halfway through class.