By Melissa Bittner & Mariya Davis
Physical activities give students a break from demanding cognitive tasks and serve to encourage creative development (Skoning, 2008). Offering active breaks during classroom instruction has favorable outcomes for academic achievement (Fedewa & Soyeon, 2011). Research also supports the positive impact of physical activities on student classroom behavior (Barros et al., 2009). In addition, physical activity is especially important for children with disabilities, as they are almost 1.5 times more likely to be overweight or obese compared with their typically developing peers (Healy et al., 2018).
When the weather gets extremely cold or extremely hot, students may be staying indoors for recess instead of going outside. One way to help them be physically active with possibly limited space is by using tablet applications. Technology has been shown to have an especially positive effect on engaging students with disabilities, especially when used concurrently with physical activity (Wong et al., 2015). The use of technology, an established, evidence-based practice on its own, is highly motivating and reinforcing (Takeo et al., 2007). With technology-aided instruction, students with disabilities may be able to engage in more on-task behaviors and learn physical activity skills more quickly than without it (Case & Yun, 2015).
How can teachers implement physical activity in their classrooms? These five tablet applications will help teachers engage students, improve their learning and academic performance, and facilitate healthy child development.
- The Exercise Buddy Professional application is a video-modeling application designed to help students with autism spectrum disorder and other disabilities engage in physical activity. The application includes over 175 videos for fitness, locomotor, and ball skills.
- GoNoodle is an application dedicated to videos that encourage students to get up and participate in physical activity. The videos are interactive, encouraging the learner to replicate demonstrated movements.
- The Sworkit and Sworkit Kids applications use video modeling demonstrated by peers to promote physical activity by focusing on strength, agility, and flexibility. Sworkit, which stands for Simply WORK IT, collects data at the end of each exercise, including elapsed time and calories burned.
- Super Stretch Yoga is a yoga application that uses 12 poses modeled after animals. Children demonstrate the yoga poses for viewers to replicate. Users can go through the yoga poses in the given order or pick specific poses to master.
- The NFL Play 60 application is avatar-controlled, using the student’s own body movements to run and jump in place. Collect coins, level up, or compete against peers while learning and engaging in health and fitness.
Activate and Engage!
Exercise is an evidence-based practice that you can use in the classroom with students of all different skills and abilities. Physical activity benefits students by providing them with a break from demanding cognitive activities and encourages their creative development. Teachers can positively impact student behavior and academic achievement by utilizing physical activities during classroom instruction. A plethora of applications is available for engaging students in physical activities. The five tablet applications described here are appropriate for children with and without disabilities and will improve the learning experiences of students while helping teachers implement physical activity throughout the day in a fun, interactive way.
5 Tips for Implementation
- Keep physical activity manageable and insert breaks when needed, with minimum 10-minute sessions (Garber et al., 2011) to accumulate 60 minutes of physical activity daily.
- Create a classroom physical activity calendar that includes a variety of events and ideas.
- Use a classroom physical activity tracker.
- Participate with your students in the activity.
- Play kid-friendly music and have fun!
Dr. Bittner is Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at California State University, Long Beach. Her scholarly interests are physical activity, evidence-based practices for children/youth with autism spectrum disorder, and advocacy for adapted physical education.
Dr. Davis is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Her research focuses on the transition of students with disabilities into post-school environments and equipping them with skills necessary for successful employment, postsecondary education, and community involvement upon graduation.
Barros, R. M., Silver, E. J., & Stein, R. E. K. (2009). School recess and group classroom behavior. Pediatrics, 123(2), 431–436. http://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2007-2825
Case, L., & Yun, J. (2015). Visual practices for children with autism spectrum disorders in physical activity. Palaestra, 29(3), 21–25. http://dx.doi.org/10.18666/PALAESTRA-2015-V29-I3-6908
Fedewa, A. L., & Soyeon, A. (2011). The effects of physical activity and physical fitness on children’s achievement and cognitive outcomes: A meta-analysis. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 82(3), 521–535.
Garber, C. E., Blissmer, B., Deschenes, M. R., Franklin, B. A., Lamonte, M. J., Lee, I. M., Nieman, D. C., & Swain, D. P. (2011). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: Guidance for prescribing exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 43, 1334–1359. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e318213fefb
Healy, S., Aigner, C. J., & Haegele, J. A. (2018). Prevalence of overweight and obesity among US youth with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(1), 49–57.
Skoning, S. N. (2008). Movement in dance in the inclusive classroom. Teaching Exceptional Children Plus, 4(6), Article 2. Retrieved from http://escholarship.bc.edu/education/tecplus/vol4/iss6/art2
Takeo, T., Toshitaka, N., & Daisuke, K. (2007). Development application softwares on PDA for autistic disorder children. IPSJ SIG Technical Report, 12, 31–38.
Wong, C., Odom, S. L., Hume, K., Cox, A. W., Fettig, A., Kucharczyk, S., & Schultz, T. R. (2015). Evidence-based practices for children, youth, and young adults with autism spectrum disorder. University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, Autism Evidence-Based Practice Review Group.