Thinking on your feet

picture from Dogo News
picture from Dogo News

I’m a black belt in thinking on my feet. Ask any of my friends and family. Some of my best lessons have been planned between the classroom door and the *blackboard/OHP/interactive whiteboard (*please delete as appropriate). It goes with the territory of teaching a subject like Classics or English, where a discussion or topic can head in a completely unexpected but profitable direction. Just don’t tell OFSTED. I’m not sure they would approve of this gung-ho approach.

I have no idea from where the idiom originates. Does anyone know? It could refer to the work of a barrister (or witness) who has to respond under pressure (and on their feet) to the business of the courtroom, I suppose. Whatever the reason, the possible benefits of thinking on your feet have been  under investigation in schools recently across the USA and Australia as well as in a Yorkshire school (Grove House, Bradford) and I, for one, am very interested in the results.

The story was reported here back in May here.

Allowing children to stand and even move around the classroom might give some teachers the heebie jeebies but I can see the advantages of being more active in the classroom, both in terms of combating the sedentary nature of modern living and being more engaged with the activities. Early on in my teaching career I was party to the implementation of just such an idea with a “bottom set year 7”. The lesson was  broken down into ten minute activities; the children moved around the classroom after each activity and stood up to complete most of them. It worked in that it resulted in a significant drop in disruptive behaviour and children were on task for more of the time.

The link between body posture and concentration is fairly well documented among occupational therapists including Sheilagh Blyth, who writes that “The human body has to work hard to either stand up or keep sat in one position. If we overuse our muscles perhaps by sitting in one place for too long we then can use excess energy. Thus causing us to lose concentration.” Shelagh is more in favour of allowing children ‘movement breaks’ to improve concentration.

Most teachers stand up to teach; those who want to close a deal on the telephone stand up to do so. Why not students at school? Certainly my experience of teaching children outdoors with the Our Flower Patch programme bears this out. An active student is a more engaged student, as far as I am concerned. Certainly it requires a different strategy for classroom management but teachers in some subjects manage this already – PE, Food Technology. Children and teachers are infinitely adaptable. Replacing the classroom furniture might be the most problematical aspect of the issue.

What do you think? Does anyone have any first hand experience of managing a standing room only classroom?

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