During exam season it’s understandable to feel as though studying should eclipse everything else, but it's important to remember that students need to take regular breaks. They need to eat properly, sleep well and just as importantly, get some form of exercise.
In 2013, a study in the British Medical Journal found that short 10 to 40 minutes bursts of exercise led to an immediate boost in concentration and mental focus of children and young people. Try to speak to your students about this and explain to them, as well as other teachers and parents, why it's so important they stay active during their exams.
Showing young people the research and the impact that physical activity can have, and providing them with different opportunities to exercise both during school and at home, could have a tremendously positive effect on their overall wellbeing during this time.
Here are three of my top tips to keep students active and engaged.
- Avoid removing students from PE lessons or after-school clubs for study sessions. Often they’ll feel under pressure to stop doing these activities during exam time, but this might take away their only opportunity during the week to get some exercise or do something they enjoy. Physical activity can be hugely beneficial in reducing stress and could help them to be more productive when they do actually sit down to work.
- They don't have to join a team or run for miles to get some exercise. Try to encourage students to do shorter activities by swapping short drives, for example, to school, to the shops, to a friend’s house, for a walk, or downloading a yoga or workout app that they can do in their room during study breaks. Apps such as Sworkit are free, easy to use and can be adapted for different levels. These active breaks will help combat tiredness and boost brain function, as well as alleviate stress.
- In lessons or revision sessions, break up periods of study with games or activities that involve movement, or incorporate a practical element in the revision, such as revision table tennis. In this game, I place revision flashcards on either side of the table. If a student hits the ping pong ball onto a card, their opponent must ask them a question related to the topic on the card. If they answer correctly, the card is taken away. The aim is to be the first to have removed all of the cards on the opposite side of the table. This activity not only tests their knowledge but also develops their ability to accurately place a ball in table tennis. And they get to play.
There are many other examples out there – even Twitter can be a great place to find ideas so do some research and discover activities you could use with your students.
Let’s help them be happier and healthier during exam time.
This is an edited version of Laura's Subject Genius blog. Read the full version here
Laura Davies is the head of PE at a British International School in Thailand.