Up out of their seats and onto their feet, the third-grade class at A.Z. Kelley Elementary in Antioch, Tenn., erupts into uncontrollable fits of laughter as they dance around to hip-hop beats and strike yoga-like poses one after another.
Teacher Linda Johnson couldn’t be happier with all the commotion. She’s overseeing a GoNoodle exercise — known as a “brain break.” It gets the fidgets under control while spurring a bit of stealth learning.
Following instructions projected at the front of the classroom, the boys and girls participate in a five-minute fitness routine that also helps them practice their vocabulary and math skills. A popular choice in Johnson’s class is Bodyspell, where students bend their bodies to form letter shapes as they spell out words.
“Their grades are improving on both their spelling and reading tests,” Johnson says. “This also helps them learn their multiplication facts. They want to be faster than the screen. It motivates them to get better so that they can participate and helps them to refocus on the subject.”
“The kids don’t realize they’re learning and getting healthy at the same time.”
One of Johnson’s students, Blessyn Nkrumah, sums it up succinctly: “You learn a lot. You get to dance and make your body fit. There’s a creative bunch of movements.” This isn’t just a program at use at A.Z. Kelley in Antioch. Every elementary school in Tennessee has free access to GoNoodle for the next three years.
Everyone jumps in
Principal Marsha Dunn sees GoNoodle as an opportunity that doesn’t exist in other forms of recreational programs, and she appreciates how the program fits within specific time constraints.
“What I love about it is that it’s so low-maintenance,” she says. “It’s not like you have to bring out exercise balls and bands. It’s so flexible. We have a very elaborate schedule so otherwise it can be difficult to give students a break time during the day.”
Dunn believes this new generation of kids respond to learning opportunities in more resourceful and assertive ways — and GoNoodle goes a long way toward building their confidence and creativity.The variety of GoNoodle exercises means that every personality type can discover something they enjoy.
For example, one of Johnson’s students really likes the meditation exercise, which fits his more quiet nature. Others love the GoNoodle breaks that let them dance and jump around.
“There’s a lot of power in giving students choices,” Dunn says. “I’m amazed at how many of the students will say, ‘I could use a break right now,’ and then I see them go right back to work. When I do classroom observations, they’re very proactive. They really own it.”