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Why ninjas are the key to behaviour management


If you’re struggling with bad behaviour, elementary school teacher Greg McGrath may have just the answer: ninjas.

Don't panic, he is not suggesting a highly trained form of corporal punishment. McGrath, a 4th grade teacher at Charles H Bullock School in New Jersey, US, is not advocating the use of masked assassins to tame misbehaving seven-year-olds.

Instead he is offering a potential remedy to the restlessness that causes so much bad behaviour in schools.

“Every day we force our students to sit for the vast majority of the time they spend in class,” he writes in the 21 November issue of TES. “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?”

That’s where the ninjas come in.

“I regularly experience how exercise can reduce my stress levels, refresh my energy and increase my ability to focus,” writes McGrath. “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.”

The run is basically a series of ninja-themed exercises, performed on the spot, that have been devised with the help of an occupational therapist to ensure all students can take part safely. McGrath puts his class through the exercises whenever he feels that they need it. And the impact has been significant.

“Prior to incorporating movement into my classroom, transitions between subjects were chaotic, disruptive and took far more time than was necessary. Students talked more, requested additional trips to the bathroom and frequently stumbled or bumped into each other. Group activities were also louder and less focused,” he says.

Other teachers at McGrath’s school were impressed and devised their own themed exercises. A favourite among the students is a colleague’s Mario challenge, where students attempt to jump for rings and squeeze into imaginary tunnels.

Clearly, the idea has scope. You could invent Hunger Games gauntlet, for example, or a Transformers trail. We’re sure you can think up some better examples, so feel free to tweet them to the @tes account with sample exercises and we will retweet the best ideas.

Read the full article in the 21 November edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents

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