Walking into Mr. Fisher’s fifth grade classroom, make sure you’re ready to get both your mind and your body prepared for a full day of learning. That’s because students in his class participate in morning yoga at the same time as working on a variety of academic concepts ranging from math facts to discovering words that have the same prefix as a muscle in the body.
Mr. Fisher began practicing yoga 12 years ago as a means of recovering from a back injury. Four years ago, he incorporated yoga into the classroom to give students a physical outlet early in the morning. He says it allows students to channel pent-up energy into a positive manner.
“In yoga, it helps us prepare our minds. Doing the boat pose helps prepare our minds for math later in the day or just other learning. It prepares your body and your mind,” fifth-grader Connor explained.
Morning yoga is a part of the class’s daily routine and part of the curriculum. All students participate – this allows them to take time to come together as a class. Upon entering the room, the atmosphere is one of unity and enthusiasm.
Mr. Fisher believes that doing yoga helps, “channel your energy in a productive manner and quiets your mind.” He thinks it prepares your mind for an upcoming task.
Mr. Fisher takes time to model yoga poses and leads the class in the sessions when the school year begins. Students quickly learn the names and poses, and after the second week of school, the children become the teachers. Exercise coordinator – a student who gets to lead the yoga – is a highly-sought after classroom job that students have for one month at a time.
Each yoga session consists of a series of 15 to 20 poses as well as stretching. Each pose comes with different academic concepts to learn. Mr. Fisher knows that the approximately 25-minute daily yoga sessions need to be curriculum-based.
While students do the “boat pose”, they skip count all the way from 2’s to 12’s. This helps strengthen core muscles while improving math facts.
As students stretch various muscles, the exercise coordinator calls on classmates to say words as well as the word’s definition. Each word must begin with the same prefix as the muscle that they are stretching.
“We don’t just learn our multiplication facts. When we do the triceps and the quadriceps stretch… we can raise our hand and say words that start with the prefix tri- or quad- like quadriceps or triskaidekaphobia. So we integrate a lot of stuff into yoga,” fifth-grader Kendra explained.
In case you are wondering, triskaidekaphobia means, “the irrational fear of the number 13.”
Kendra learned this word in fourth grade when participating in a yoga session with Mr. Fisher.
Another pose is the “praying mantis”. Students turn to the side and stretch their oblique muscles. This is later incorporated into a geometry lesson when talking about oblique lines.
Students are making the connection between their muscles and many academic concepts. The children say that yoga helps with physical activity as well.
Fifth-grader Megan enthusiastically conveyed that, “It also makes you more flexible, and you can do more things when you go out to play.”
While math facts may sometimes be challenging to memorize, these students are confident that they will learn their multiplication facts.
“Mr. Fisher promised that we would learn all of our multiplication facts, and he is teaching us while we’re getting ready for the day, while we stretch out and get ready for the day,” fifth-grader Jalen told us.
“I think it helps you learn more things because I never really knew fours, and now I know them,” fifth-grader Aubri explained.
“It helps me relax, and while we’re doing the boat pose it helps learn your multiplication while you’re relaxing and stretching,” fifth-grader Aerys discussed.
Before ending the yoga session, students get in a circle, close their eyes and take a moment to reflect on their upcoming day. Volunteers state out loud a goal they will set for themselves for the day. Later in the day, students take time to discuss whether they achieved their goal. More often than not, Mr. Fisher says they do achieve their individual goals.
“I think yoga helps me relax and feel confident for the day,” fifth-grader Valor relayed.
Yoga is a unique attribute to have in a classroom, and it certainly seems to prove beneficial to students in Mr. Fisher’s class.