Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

When an Energy Crisis Looms, Try a Ninja Run

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

When an Energy Crisis Looms, Try a Ninja Run

Article excerpt

Students sit still for hours at a time - it's no wonder they want to climb the walls. Try these invigorating activities to perk them up

The only solution was a ninja run. My nine- and 10-year-old students had already sat through assembly and registration and were now expected to sit through the whole of the morning lesson. It wasn't going to happen. I was bottling a thunderstorm and sparks were going to fly. I needed to get them moving.

What is the ninja run, you ask? To explain, we need to discuss why it is necessary.

Every day we force our students to sit for the vast majority of the time they spend in class. At my elementary school in New Jersey, US, that can mean 300 minutes on the reading rug or at their desks, broken only by break time or a short gym period. For three days out of five, gym is not part of my pupils' academic instruction and it is often conducted within the classroom because of scheduling issues. Recess is 20 minutes a day, but once the winter sets in, rain, snow and wind often mean that it is not held outdoors.

For adults, whose energy levels are limited, this relentless inaction would be bad enough, causing irritability and grumpiness. For children, it is criminal. Why are we surprised that students play up when we put them through the torture of enforced stagnation?

Into action

This brings us to the ninja run. As an avid outdoor enthusiast, I regularly experience how surfing, snowboarding, hiking and road-biking can reduce my stress levels, refresh my energy and increase my ability to focus. For children, the impact is even greater. So I began to devise movement strategies for the classroom. These are bursts of exercise that my pupils and I do regularly. The ninja run is one of our favourites.

It is basically a two-minute exercise used before a transition, between academic subjects or whenever I feel it would be beneficial. We start simply with ninja feet (running on the spot) and eventually progress to ninja jacks (jumping jacks) and ninja grabs (toe-touches followed by jumping in the air with arms stretched to the ceiling).

I often make a story out of it: "OK class, ninja feet quickly and quietly past the office. Watch out, it's the principal! Everyone ninja squat. OK, the coast is clear. Now ninja run! Watch out, it's the kindergarteners, ninja jump over them. …

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