Active classrooms create active learners. Children and young people who move more often have improved concentration and are more engaged in class.
What makes an active classroom
Active classrooms incorporate movement into classroom learning helping them retain knowledge in a meaningful way. Small changes in the classroom can have a big impact on student learning, health and contribution to their daily activity levels.
An active classroom involves:
- active breaks between and within learning activities
- learning activities which involve movement
- working at benches, standing desks, on the floor, or in combination to create movement between work areas
- learning outdoors.
Strategies and approaches
These strategies and resources provide suggestions for how schools can support active classrooms.
Policy and leadership
Strategies for school leaders
- Communicate the concept and benefits of active classrooms to all staff
- Secure support to implement strategies.
Strategies for teachers
- Provide resources, support and education for all staff to promote and operationalise a physically active classroom
- Promote active lessons as a change in teaching approach (pedagogical approach), not an add-on within a crowded and time-constrained curriculum
- Highlight the benefits of active classrooms on student behaviour in class, and cognitive and academic outcomes to all teachers.
UK Government and
Scottish Government both have excellent resources on leadership in making learning more active using the outdoors.
Teaching and learning
Take lessons outdoors
Learning beyond the classroom is a great way of encouraging physical activity, improving engagement and bringing students closer to nature and can also be used in a wide range of learning areas such as on the oval, in shaded areas, or in specifically-built outdoor classrooms.
Delivering active lessons
Integration of movement into class lessons for a learning outcome. Create active lessons by embedding movement into lesson plans to ensure these strategies become part of normal school routines. Movement can be incorporated into any subject including, but not limited to, art, numeracy, science, language, and geography. For example: with children standing, their outstretched diagonal arms can represent the function y=x, tilting arms in increasingly steep configurations can show an increasing slope.
Conducting active breaks
Interrupting a seated academic lesson to take short active breaks (e.g. 2-10 minutes) throughout the day, particularly after sitting for long periods (i.e. 20 minutes). These can be cognitively challenging and can incorporate moments of movement and music to create a positive atmosphere (e.g. running on the spot until keywords are said by the teacher which relate to pre-defined movements requiring coordination). Active breaks may or may not be linked to the curriculum.
Learning in the Outdoors Toolkits from Outdoors Victoria
Transform-Us! (Free) offer internet-based professional learning, videos and resources on how to create active classrooms
Active break ideas provided by Action for Healthy Kids
BioLAB, which offers excursions and incursions for primary and secondary school students to experience STEM classes with a theme of "Human Performance and Sport"
Go Noodle offers movement and mindfulness videos created by child development experts to help boost productivity in the classroom
Teachstarter website provides Brain Break teaching resources for primary schools
Champion Life, which offers 'body sets' follow-along video active breaks
iPLAY which offers internet-based professional learning, videos and resources on creating active classrooms
brain break ideas available from The Institute of Positive Education at Geelong Grammar School.
Other resources focused on Outdoor Learning include:
- Encourage physical activity outside of school hours
- Set active homework tasks for students to complete in their local community
- Limit the amount of seated homework activities to ensure it does not become a barrier for physical activity.
Transform-Us! provides free resources and ideas for teachers to set active homework tasks for primary school students.
- Design or modify indoor and outdoor spaces to maximise opportunities for physical activity
- Change the classroom layout to facilitate and promote movement (e.g. standing desks, pushing desks and chairs to the side leaving open space in the middle for movement, or using the playground, or ground line markings as learning spaces)
- Use stand-up or height-adjustable desks
- Allow students to move freely around the classroom (e.g. roving group work)
- Consider using existing outdoor spaces or building outdoor classrooms at your school.
Best practice principles are highlighted in the South Australian Education Standards Board fact sheet for outdoor learning environments