Movement and Learning: Grow a Better Brain!

1999 Taylor and Emily in the park in Bradford, PA (5)-001

Did you know that movement may
grow a better brain? It can! Recent research has demonstrated that movement can strengthen learning,improve memory and the retrieval of those memories, and enhance motivation and morale (Jensen, 2005, p. 60).

Do you have a learner who is struggling? Or, maybe your learner is doing great, but you want to give him or her every advantage possible. “Have I got a deal for you!” No expensive tutor or curriculum necessary, just get your learner moving!

Here’s what the research is showing (Jensen, p. 60-68):

  • “Students who are engaged in daily physical education programs consistently show not just superior motor fitness but better academic performance and a better attitude toward school.”
  • “Exercise improves classroom behavior and academic performance.”
  • Playground activities such as swinging, rolling, and jumping cause “significant gains in attention and reading.”
  • “‘Loss’ in study time spent in P.E. did not translate into lower academic scores.”
  • Movement and learning are both processed in the same part of the brain, the cerebellum.
  • Children who do something physical every day are seen to have “positive changes in self-discipline, grades, and a sense of purpose in life.”
  • “Playing active games, will activate the brain across a wide variety of areas.”
  • “Moderate exercise enhances cognitive processing. It also increases the number of brain cells.”
  • “Exercise may grow a better brain!”

So, they jury is in. Get up and move and include movement in your daily class time learning, not just P.E., organized sports, and playground time. So, how do you include movement in history, math, science, or english? Well, I’m glad you asked! Here are a few ideas to… get you moving!!

  • Build historical buildings out of Legos or paper bags stuffed with newspaper.
  • Use pipe cleaners or licorice and marshmallows to build DNA.
  • Spell words using your body to make the letters.
  • Give math quizzes standing up. Send children to the other end of the room. With each question they answer correctly, they move one step closer to you. When they can reach you, they quiz is over.
  • Hide an object that is related to the lesson for children to find. When it’s found, have them guess how it relates to the lesson.
  • Take a brain break (which have also been shows to help grow a better brain) and get up and dance. Find songs related to your lesson. YouTube is a great place to find songs.
  • Add competitive games or relay races to your day.
  • Create a cheer related to your lesson.
  • Act out a history event.
  • Make a life-size Candy Land game using concepts from your lesson. For example, if you were studying the brain, you might have Cerebellum Castle, Thalamus Woods, and Amygdala Mountains. Well, you get the idea.
  • Toss a ball, asking learners to name one of the 50 states or a state with its capital each time they catch the ball.
  • Create a sand box dig and bury objects related to the lesson.
  • Take a nature walk. Collect items or take pictures of wildlife. Have learners sketch a favorite plant or animal. Afterward, identify the objects you found and the pictures you took. Create a nature notebook.

Have you got the idea? Now, step away from your computer. Candy Crush and Facebook can wait ;). Get your kids moving and grow a better brain!



Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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2 Responses to Movement and Learning: Grow a Better Brain!

  1. Adelien says:

    Moving body means moving brain, I think. My boys love moving a lot. It seems they look naughty, but their brain really move together with their body. They can be more creative after moving. Thanks for sharing.


    • bethanyd says:

      Yes! Our brains never stop working. Children, especially, learn through movement and through use of multiple senses. Thanks for your comment, Adelien!


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