The Implications of Structured Movement to Enhance Student Engagement and Student Performance

The Implications of Structured Movement to Enhance Student Engagement and Student Performance

The contribution to the Performance Pyramid as made by Katie Cherkas and Zoey Dwiggins, Fall 2017


"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." -Benjamin Franklin









Impact on Cognitive Development and Learning


The use of movement helps to promote engagement and increase student performance. If we are passive learners, we are more likely to ignore the ongoing learning process even if by mistake. Incorporating movement activities the learner is essentially forced to engage in the learning process. Lessons that involve physical activity increase time on task and attention to the task in the classroom setting.  


Cognitive functions associated with attention and memory are intensified by physical activity and aerobic fitness. In subjects like math students are able to focus and recall more while learning when a movement is involved. Our research is focused on incorporating movement into early childhood classrooms in unique ways to enhance student engagement and performance.  


Flexible Seating














  Flexible Seating allows students to have options in picking where they are most comfortable in order to learn and do their best work. Flexible seating moves away from your typical desk and chair and instead gives students more comfortable and unique options. Some of the benefits from using flexible seating are increased motivation and engagement, using up excess energy, burning more calories and improving metabolism, a better oxygen flow to the brain, and improving core strength and overall posture.


After interviewing two teachers that use flexible seating in their classroom, we found that the difference they see in their students is incredible. They have seen their students core strengthen because of the seating and they have also seen a huge increase in their students engagement as well as their performance. One teacher said,“I believe we differentiate work, so flexible seating is another way to differentiate for our students needs”. Flexible seating makes for a more student centered classroom by involving students in the success of their own learning.


Link to Seating Options:

Link to Donors Choose:

Infographic for Benefits of Flexible Seating:



Yoga in the Classroom















  Yoga today focuses on clearing your mind and body for further relaxation and meditation. The practice of yoga centered around the idea of mind-body oneness that focuses on the mental and physical benefits. Over the past couple of years yoga has increased in popularity because of the benefits (mentally and physically) one experiences during practice. Although yoga has numerous benefits for exercise purposes there has been recent research on the effects yoga has on children in classrooms. Implementing the practice of yoga in classrooms has been seen to be extremely beneficial for calming students down after transitions and refocusing students for a different task. Yoga also benefits students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by improving the core symptoms of ADHD, including inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. In addition to this yoga has also been used as tool to reduce test taking anxiety that a lot of students face because our testing culture.  standardized tests. Yoga teaches students deep breathing exercises that they can use while taking high stakes tests. Yoga is also highly accessible and you do not need to be a yoga instructor to flow through poses with students. There are thousands of videos online for free that students can follow along to in the classroom. Implementing yoga in classrooms is easy, free, and has numerous mind and body benefits for students!



Benefits to Practicing Yoga

Increased brain function

Anxiety relief

Boosting focus

Stress reducing

Improved sense of balance

Develops coping skills

Improves memory

Students attention span increases

Increases self esteem

Improved concentration

Improvement in academic skills

Increased mindfulness

Reduces aggression in students


Link to Yoga infographic:


Link to yoga video:


Use of Manipulatives


"Play is the highest form of research." -Albert Einstein




















Manipulatives to aid learning have a long tradition and backed research history. A manipulative is any object, picture, or drawing that represents a concept or onto which the relationship for that concept can be imposed. Manipulatives can physical objects that students and teachers can use to illustrate and discover mathematical concepts, whether made specifically for mathematics or for other purposes. This definition can also be expanded to using the physical body as a manipulative and using movement to help aid learning. For example, using air writing for sight words or rhythmic clapping to spell out words. Manipulatives are not limited to being used just for mathematics but are used specifically in math for base ten, ratios, fractions, and counting. Manipulatives allow for learning to be made visual which is especially powerful for content that is more abstract like mathematics. Manipulatives also support experiential education. Experiential education revolves around the idea that learning is enhanced when students acquire knowledge through actively engaging and participating in. When students use manipulatives they are picking them up and engaging with the resource to create an experience around the learning process. In addition to this manipulatives can be used at every ability level and used to teach almost every topic covered in elementary math curriculum.

Melissa Kincaid, a Miami University professor who specializes in math methods and also is a teacher herself, gave us greater insight on the use of manipulatives in the classroom. As far as which type of learner benefits most from manipulatives she says that EVERY learner benefits from manipulatives! When we learn something new, our brain has to first play around with the material. In addition to this she explains why K-3 students need to have manipulatives in their hands. Utilizing manipulatives helps students (especially K-3 students) gain the background experience that they need to learn new material. For example, imagine asking students to measure in paper clips. Some may have small paper clips while others have large. As students are comparing answers they begin to understand and see the need for standard units. With this manipulative, the ideas of what is measurement, iterating units, and need for standard units are much more rich! Instead of trying to remember that the teacher said we had to use a ruler, students have an experience that their brain will connect to as they continue understanding the role of various unit of measure. She goes on to explain why something so simple as manipulatives work so well for students. Manipulatives are the concrete representation that all learners need to make content accessible. Math is all about finding and exploring patterns and relationships and they using those findings to solve problems and explain your world. However, the symbols used in math can be very abstract. The use of manipulatives makes the abstract concrete and creates a more accessible learning pathway especially for young learners in elementary school. Kincaid has seen struggling learners finally succeed when using manipulatives to represent math concepts and recommends that every student should be taught math with them!


Manipulatives are especially helpful when teaching:

Number Relations



Number Bases




Place Value


Problem Solving



Most Common Manipulatives used in K-3 Classrooms:

Snap cubes

Place value/base ten blocks

Place value disks


Fraction strips

Fraction towers

Pattern blocks

Attribute blocks

Two color counters

Bear counters

Unifix cubes

Color tiles

Play money


Link to manipulatives/movement video example:


Martial Arts














According to the Journal of Pediatrics, exercise, such as martial arts, positively impacts children’s academic performance. Not only does physical fitness improve children’s health, it also positively affects the brain, which can enhance students' ability to perform well in school. When students enjoy an activity, they are more likely to stick with it. When children practice a skill, they feel accomplished, especially when their efforts are recognized. Martial arts includes both aerobic exercise and motor tasks, which is an ideal exercise for children and as they participate in martial arts, they have a better chance of reaching their academic potential.


Summit Academy Schools are for children with learning disorders such as Autism, ADHD, and Asperger’s. Since 1999, Summit Academy has had a Martial Arts program that is a part of their core curriculum. This program was created to teach the students about martial arts but more so to help them with self-control, academic learning strategies, and how to set goals. The schools have found that this program truly helps their students with ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome because it forces them to focus on their body as a whole rather than as pieces and parts. They have also found that the martial arts program is therapeutic for these students and helps them to coordinate the actions of both their mind and body which in turn improves both their social and academic performances.


Link to Summit Academy Schools: