Brain Breaks: UK team studying impact of physical activity at four FCPS elementaries

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In one GoNoodle activity, Amber Livingood’s students jogged in place, danced, and sang along to a catchy video called Pop See Koo. (Photos by Tammy L. Lane)

In one GoNoodle activity, Amber Livingood’s students jogged in place, danced, and sang along to a catchy video called Pop See Koo. (Photos by Tammy L. Lane)


 

By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward
 

When Amber Livingood’s third-graders take a five-minute movement break, a University of Kentucky student watches closely as they clip on small pedometers and literally go through the motions.
 

After the youngsters log their time and number of steps and then return to task, the college observer takes note of how often Livingood prompts the class or redirects a child and of their behavioral compliance – comparing the half-hour before and after the mid-class break.
 

Later, the Livingood and others on her UK team will also review the students’ standardized test scores to gauge the effect of these brain breaks.
 

Afterward a movement break, students logged their minutes and total steps. UK will collect the data at the end of the year-long study.

Afterward a movement break, students logged their minutes and total steps. UK will collect the data at the end of the year-long study.

“What I found in prior studies are increases in kids’ achievement scores. They’re not super drastic, but we’re seeing gains that are statistically significant. We’ve found some nice improvement – math in particular,” said principal investigator Alicia Fedewa, an associate professor in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology at the University of Kentucky. “Our hypothesis is the more physical activity breaks in the classroom, the higher the scores.”
 

Fedewa’s team visited Livingood’s and other participating classrooms at Dixie Magnet Elementary in Lexington over a two-week span to collect data this fall. They’ll return in February and again in the spring to complete their research. The group of 18 UK students is conducting the same study simultaneously with grades three through five at Ashland, Garden Springs and Meadowthorpe elementaries. All sites use a physical activity system called GoNoodle.
 

“We’re shooting for 10 extra minutes of physical activity per day,” said Fedewa, who noted the children generally have a 20-minute recess at school. (The national recommendation is 60 minutes of exercise each day.) “We’re really curious to see just how much activity the kids are getting in these breaks,” she added.
 

The third-graders also learned new vocabulary while acting out words.

The third-graders also learned new vocabulary while acting out words.

Livingood, for instance, uses GoNoodle twice a day – morning and afternoon. In one recent session, her third-graders learned new vocabulary while acting out words such as resistance, architecture, lurk and self-absorbed through Word Jam. They also jogged in place, danced and sang along to a catchy video called Pop See Koo.
 

“We chose this as our platform because it’s very interactive for kids,” Fedewa said of GoNoodle. Two schools are assigned to the free version, and two can access the “plus” version, which UK pays for. The former is pure movement – unrelated to instruction. The plus version allows teachers to customize activities with their own class content. For example, Livingood’s students use their arms and motions to present spelling words. “We’re really curious if there’s any difference in those breaks,” Fedewa added.
 

Livingood said her students look forward to the action. “I have a lot of kinesthetic learners, and GoNoodle is a great way to keep them engaged and motivated throughout the day,” she said. “It promotes a healthy, fun classroom environment. Research has proven that if kids can get up and get involved, then they learn better. It also helps get the wiggles out. You don’t even have to leave the classroom. You just pull it up on the SMART Board, and then you can get refocused and back into the lesson.”
 

Fedewa is optimistic about this round of studies in Fayette County Public Schools, saying, “I’m predicting that any teacher who has more minutes, regardless of the type of break, will see gains in achievement and better behavior.”
 

Tammy L. Lane is website editor for Fayette County Public Schools.

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