This week I found that writing the initial blog post was really, really helpful to start forming the ideas I needed for the final piece of the research paper, conclusion/next steps. After I had written my blog post, I pretty much had everything I needed for my conclusion! I was able to look around lots of other blog posts and see other peoples’ conclusions and see the way they are wrapping their projects up. Some of these projects have become of real interest to me and I’m glad to see how their work can be used in other (my) classrooms!
Also, as we wrap up the formal writing part of our projects, we begin preparing for the digital presentations. I admit, the only suggested program to use that I am familiar with is PowerPoint. After discussing on the twitter chat, and hearing people’s ideas for how they will present their projects is making me feel a little braver as I begin exploring new technologies that I am unfamiliar with.
Overall, the data from my action research project has shown that implementing Brain Gym as an intervention in the classroom can have multiple positive effects. Brain Gym can help increase student morale and classroom environment. There is also a strong indication that Brain Gym improves student engagement when used over extended periods of time. Brain Gym is a controversial program, and many researchers criticize its grandiose claims (Hyatt 2007; Spaulding, Mostert & Beam, 2010; Stephenson, 2009). Though Brain Gym may not meet all the claims that its website makes, the bottom line is that Brain Gym is effective and has many benefits.
I would recommend Brain Gym to any teachers looking for a way to create more positive energy and enthusiasm in their classrooms, and to those who are looking for long-term solutions to engagement issues. I will continue to use Brain Gym in my classroom, and furthermore, now that I have been exposed to the benefits of Brain Gym as a brain break, I will continue to explore other types of brain breaks, to increase the variety of breaks in my classroom, and to try to find activities that best fit my students interests and needs.
I think the applications from my project to other teachers’ classrooms is pretty clear. My project has shown that implementing brain gym in my classroom has improved classroom morale, student happiness and classroom environment. Additionally, my results demonstrated a pattern that suggests improved engagement after extended use of brain gym. Teachers who are looking to improve the morale and environment of their classrooms will benefit from using brain gym in their classrooms. Also, teachers who are looking for long term solutions to engagement issues should consider implementing brain gym as an intervention.
As for me, I will continue using brain gym and I will continue to monitor its effects on engagement. I am also looking in to other types of brain breaks, and will begin experimenting using other brain breaks besides brain gym. I’m pretty convinced thought that brain breaks and fun, quick and good use of class time!
This week I really enjoyed getting to read around at different blog posts to see what my peers learned from their research projects. This week’s essential question really struck at what the entire purpose of the project is, and why we have been working so hard for the past 10 weeks. I have become really familiar with some of the projects my peers are working on, and it’s exciting for me to see their projects come to culmination. I just hope some other feel the same about mine! I received some very positive comments on my blog post, which I love receiving, and they helped support me in my thought process, and how I approached my discussion section.
Other resources that helped me this week were on Dr. Jones’ blog, and the twitter chat. I scoured over the blog for different resources to help guide my discussion section, and refine my data analysis section. The twitter chat was also helpful to me this week. I was able to asked questions about the struggle I was experiencing with writing my data analysis, and I was also reminded by Dr. Jones that I have to adjust the process to what fits my ‘story’ the best. That I am allowed to change the set up of the paper if it suits my project better. The reminder was very welcome, and helped me in my writing this week.
The results of the data collection period were not necessarily what was expected. Going into this project, I had expected to see an immediate increase in student engagement once Brain Gym was implemented. It was for this reason that I specifically took data before the Brain Gym implementation so that I could clearly see the increase in gains. It took an entire week however, until I began to see a noticeable increase in student engagement levels. By the time data collection was over, there were only three significant data points that demonstrated an increase in student engagement. These final points suggest that Brain Gym does help increase student engagement, but a longer data collection period would be necessary to solidify this suggestion. I believe that there are a few different factors that contributed to the results that were collected by this project.
Firstly, like people of all ages, students are creatures of habit. School children thrive on routine, and anytime that routine is changed in some way, there must be allowances made for an adjustment period. The first week of data observations that was very similar to the pre-implementation data observations was an effect of the change in routine. This first week that did not demonstrate any changes was due to the students in the classroom adjusting to the new change in routine in the classroom. By the second week, when the routine was internalized, and the classroom schedule has once again become predictable for the students. The data observations collected during the second week reflect real results and effects of the implementation and use of Brain Gym.
The second reason why observation data could have been skewed, apart from the adjustment period, was because of the nature of a few particular students in the classroom. After reviewing the recordings that were taken of the classroom, I began to notice that a majority of the off task behavior was coming from the same three students day after day. The students in question are all students that have extenuating circumstances that make school more challenging for them. One of the students is cognitively impaired, another is learning disabled and the last student has attendance issues, and finds school challenging when he attends because he misses so much from his absences. The three students caused the data to be more misrepresented than was actually observed. Were data collected using only the students who do not have any extra difficulties with school, I imagine that the data would have show increases in engagement sooner, and that the increases would have been sharper.
Apart from all the potential inconsistencies and problems with data collection, I received very positive feed back from my students in the Brain Gym surveys and from the students selected to be in the focus group. Because of the feedback I have gotten from my students, in combination with the promising results from the observations, I am going to continue using Brain Gym in my classroom. I have decided that the benefits we receive from taking these purposeful breaks are well worth the loss of instructional time.
Now we’re finally getting to the good stuff; applications in the classroom! What all this hard work was for! Well, one of the main reasons why I decided to do my project on brain breaks was because I used to deny the power of brain breaks and I used to argue against them. I felt they were not a good use of instructional time, and I only wanted to use physical movement if it was for specific academic purposes. But after three years of teaching rural schools, this winter more specifically I found myself wondering if brain breaks really would be beneficial and that it might be okay if taking 10 minutes or so of instructional time to take purposeful breaks if the benefits made up for it.
After actively and purposefully I’m implementing brain breaks in my classroom for about a month now, I have officially changed my mind. I have learned that brain breaks are great, and for a few different reasons. First off, I was able to see some improvement in the classroom after using them. Furthermore, doing these fun and simple physical activities makes my students happy. They get to have fun, move around and be active for a few minutes. They laugh and smile while doing them, and this enjoyment really helps our classroom environment and can pull kids out of the grumpy moods that often accompany springtime and long daylight hours.
Other educators can use my findings to support their use of brain breaks in their classrooms. Brain breaks are great and can be beneficial in the long and short terms. Also ‘y research supports the use of brain gym in the classroom, despite much criticism by educational scholars. After reading my research, other educators would be able to discover that brain breaks are worth the loss of instructional time and are a good way to improve classroom engagement and build classroom community and environment.