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A Teacher’s Letter about the Importance of Movement

Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. -John F. Kennedy

Last Tuesday, we wrapped a contest co-hosted with our partner Georgia Shape and their Power Up for 30 program. Our missions are similar; simply put, we want everyone to fold physical activity into their daily lives and habits. Physical activity not only extends lives, it enriches them by providing energy, blood flow and brain power, no matter what your age!

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This specific contest focused on elementary school classrooms and we asked teachers to incorporate movement into their day-to-day activities– not just at recess! We asked teachers to make that effort and record their in-classroom activity progress on Walk Georgia from January 15 to February 15. The classroom with the most time recorded would be our winner, and the winning teacher would receive recognition and prizes at our annual Night at the Hawks event, February 20th. Our winning teacher, Samantha Richardson, from Shirley Hills Elementary in Warner Robins helped her classroom move a total of 517 hours (and 4 minutes!) during that month (between all kids combined) and inspired us all to prioritize our brains and our bodies. She wrote us an amazing letter in response to her winning announcement and we’ve included it below. We wanted to share it with you all, so that you can also be inspired to Move More and Live More– your future self will thank you!

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Mrs. Richardson’s Kindergarten students moving more!

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Mrs. Richardson at the Night at the Hawks award ceremony

This is great news! My kids were so excited to hear how all their hard work has paid off! I’m so proud of them. 

I teach group fitness classes at the local gym (Edge Fitness) in addition to teaching kindergarten, so fitness is something that’s very important to me. I have always tried to incorporate movement in the classroom, but when I heard about the challenge, I knew I needed to make time for more exercise!!

Typically, our morning work time (a period of 40 minutes from the first bell until the time class begins after announcements) consisted of writing in morning journals. With this contest, I changed the morning work to morning exercise. This is a change I will keep permanently!

We use a lot of GoNoodle* in our classroom, and the FreshStart Fitness channel gives a ‘Total Motion’ twenty minute cardio session. When the kids walk in, the video is on. They unpack and get moving! At the end of the video, we play it one more time. This still provides me the time I need to prep for the day or pull a student one-on-one to assess/provide remediation without distraction, but gets the blood flowing to students’ brains! By the time we begin our morning meeting and writing block, students are focused and ready to work! I cannot exaggerate how much this switch has helped my students.  (Plus, they have improved their form in various exercises!)

When I asked the students how they felt about the change from morning journals to morning exercise, the majority of them said they love it!  Students commented, “It helps us get our energy out so we’re ready to write,” “I like it so we’re not doing double writing,” and “I like exercise because it makes me stronger!”  I asked students, “Do you remember why we started exercising in the morning?” One child quickly responded, “Yeah, because there’s a challenge and we can get a prize!” I told them that the contest was over. They asked, “Who won?”  When I explained that they did, and that they had logged more hours than any other class in Georgia, they were speechless. They couldn’t believe that they won! (They were also skeptical of how you knew about all our exercise, despite the fact that I logged most of the minutes in front of them on the screen.)

In addition to the new morning cardio sessions, I have regular practices that keep our class active:

  • We take numerous “brain breaks” throughout the day. Again, we love GoNoodle! We are very into guided dancing in my classroom. (I teach Zumba as one of my classes at the gym, so I try to get the kids into Zumba!) We’ll take a brain break between each subject, but I’ll also put one on any time I see I’m losing student focus…even if it’s in the middle of a story! Kids can’t help it when their attention begins to fade, and it’s our job to keep them engaged.
  • Students always have the option to sit or stand while they work. If students choose to stand, they just push the chair in and stand behind it, leaning over to work on the desk.
  • Students have different spots in the room for different subjects.  Students move to their preferred spots (including the floor) for writing and reading.
  • I never use lost recess as a punishment.

Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity!

*If you’re not familiar with GoNoodle, it is a website that features a free collection of kid-friendly exercise videos!  Videos range in length from 1-20 minutes. You can search by channels or categories.  Channels feature the same people/characters, while categories feature a certain type of exercise.  

Mrs. Samantha Richardson
Kindergarten Teacher
Shirley Hills Elementary

Congrats again to Mrs. Richardson (you can also check out her inspiring blog HERE)! Your classroom is an inspiration to us all.

Let Walk Georgia know how we can help YOUR students, friends or family move more and live more! Email us at walkga@uga.edu.