Worried about passive, phone-tapping kids, Finnish schools are trying to get students moving, writes Tim Walker in The Atlantic. An American, Walker lives in Helsinki and teaches in a bilingual school.
Kids in Finland have short school days and frequent 15-minute breaks — typically there’s one after each 45-minute lesson. And even though the breaks keep them more focused in the classroom, they don’t necessarily keep them more active at school.
Under the “On the Move” initiative, his school has turned sixth graders into “recess activators” for first and graders. Older kids lead the younger ones in games, such as Banana Tag.
In the fall, a new schedule will combine short recesses into at least one 30-minute break. Students in grades seven through nine will choose activities, such as yogalates, floor hockey, or gymnastics.
Teachers also are looking for “strategies for getting students to be more active during lessons,” writes Walker. These include “energizers” (short breaks from sitting), allowing kids to complete work while standing or while sitting on large bouncy balls.
He’s replaced oral presentations, which tend to be dull and time consuming, with the “gallery walk.”
Students fasten their presentations to the walls of the classroom or hallway as if they were exhibiting their work in an art gallery. Each display is numbered and the children rotate from exhibit to exhibit systematically, spending a minute or two carefully studying each one. To make this experience more meaningful, students provide written-feedback to each other as they’re visiting each display. Before they start the active gallery walk, I hand out sticky notes in two different colors. On one color, my sixth graders write questions about the work for the presenter to consider and on the other, they jot down positive observations.
On the Finnish Report Card 2014 on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, Finnish kids received a “D” for physical activity levels, reports Walker, U.S. children earned a D- on the 2014 United States Report Card.