Why move? Movement increases blood flow to the brain and improves attention. It stimulates the release of chemicals in the body (such as noradrenalin and dopamine) that help kids feel good, increases energy levels, and (the icing on the cake) improves memory. For young children and those with certain learning styles, movement in the classroom can make the difference between success and failure. Some children seem to NEED to move in order to learn, but it can facilitate learning for all children. Besides, movement can make learning more fun, and who doesn’t learn better that way?!
How to move: There are many ways to incorporate movement into a chess lesson. When you first start introducing more movement into your classroom, you may find it is a bit disruptive. Students will be excited and may have trouble settling into the next activity. However, once they get used to the new routine and expectations, you will start to see the benefits. Gross motor movement is excellent, but even small movements are helpful. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Relays: Divide your group into two teams. Set up a chess board with a clock in the middle of the classroom or outside. Teams should be equidistant from the board. Giant chessboards are cool, but not necessary. If you use a small chess board, it can help to give each team their own board to track moves. Teams discuss moves together and take turns running, crawling, crab walking, hopping, etc. to the middle chess board to make their moves.
Dyna-Disks: These are exercise disks that are about three inches thick, filled with air. Students can sit on them while they work. It allows them to move while they work or play without being disruptive. Exercise balls work also, but can be more disruptive since they invite other play. These disks are especially useful for children with attention problems or those that just have a difficult time sitting still.
Changing Seats: Simply have students do puzzles or play chess games on different boards set up in a row or around the classroom. Students move from board to board to complete the puzzles or make a move. To add a little excitement, list out six different ways of traveling between boards. Students roll a die after making a move or completing a puzzle. They must move as indicated by the die (e.g., walking, running, crawling, hopping).
Answer with Movement: Have students answer questions with movement. For example, students can stand up when they have figured something out, move to a particular place in the room depending on the answer they get, etc.
What ideas for incorporating movement have you tried in your classes?