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About Action Based Learning and Jean Blaydes Madigan
Jean Blaydes Madigan is an internationally known educational consultant, speaker and author on the subject of how brain research supports the link of movement to enhanced learning. She has made hundreds of presentations internationally in 10 foreign countries and nationally in all 50 states. Jean taught for 27 years in the classroom, in Physical Edu-cation and as a college professor. Her excellence in teaching is recognized by awards such as Richardson ISD Teacher of the year, Texas AHPERD Teacher of the Year, and one of six National Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year representing 13 states in the Southern District. Jean received the 2005 PE4Life Advocacy award. Check out Jean’s book Thinking on Your Feet, and learn more at abllab.com.
Q: How did Action Based Learning get started?
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When I was growing up, I didn’t learn like everyone else did. I was a very kinesthetic learner. I had to move to learn, act it out, and come up with little songs to help me remember. When I was a classroom teacher, I noticed other kids who were the same way. So I came up with how to teach academics kinesthetically, acting out con-cepts and using the whole body. When I started teaching physical education, I noticed we could still do the same thing. If you’re going to do a relay, why not do a relay on place value. If you’re going to do a tag game, why not do a tag game about fruits and vegetables. I always attached academics to physical education.
And I just have a heart for kids and noticed some kids were struggling and I wondered why. So when I started studying the brain research and started putting the pieces together, I realized some of our kids who were struggling were the ones who didn’t crawl when they were a baby or maybe they didn’t roll or they just missed some of the developmental gaps you have to go through in order for your body and brain to work together.
There are two parts to Action Based Learning. One, when I go into schools, I teach how to teach academics kinetically. So I’m giving them brain research on how the brain learns, grows, remembers, and forgets. Then, I translate that into classroom practice by teaching the academics kinesthetically. The second part is what we call the Action Based Learning lab. And that is for the preschoolers through second graders. It’s a series of six sta-tions that we designed. Each one of them is very intentional for movement and learning.
My co-heart in this is Cindy Hess. She was a physical education teacher of the year in Pennsylvania, and we collaborated on the lab together.
Q: What are the benefits of Action Based Learning for students, parents, and schools?
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For students, it’s going to increase their memory retention because it puts the information in more parts of their brain, so they can recall it. When they see it, hear it, say it, and do it, they have more ways to remember it. And for the Action Based Learning lab, we’re filling in those developmental gaps that they may have and also preparing their brain for learning. Plus in the classroom, it gives them a break. It helps them renew and refresh, which the research is showing we need that. Jean Blaydes Madigan Action Based Learning
For parents when they learn about Action Based Learning, some of them have set up a timer when their kids do homework, then when it goes off, they have their kids do something, jumping jacks or run around the house. Or we want them to get more focused like throw a ball back and forth, and while they throw and catch, they might do their skip counting, 3, 6, 9, 12. So we have activities that encourage them. Also, we’re trying to edu-cate the parents on how to build a better brain. I call it NEWS: nutrition, exercise, water, and sleep. So we teach them what is good nutrition and what does exercise mean. Also, we try to encourage them to drink water and to get enough sleep. We also have parent volunteers who come in to work in the lab.
In school, we see the most benefits. Our lab is in 48 of the 50 states. The information seems to be going across all geographies, all demographics, and all social economic groups. The program is based on brain re-search, physical education standards, and academics. All of those are solid. For instance, Charleston County Public Schools just came out with a study showing the Action Based Learning lab has significantly increased the annual yearly progress.
Q: How do you inspire and motivate a family to encourage physical activity outside of school?
I’ve been blessed to be able to speak with parents about building a better brain through movement. Just talking to them about the brain research about how exercise benefits the brain first. It improves memory, reduces stress, and causes kids to be less fidgety. It’s like a natural medication for them, a natural Ritalin or a natural Zoloft for the brain, and all that is backed up by the research.
At home, I go back to NEWS: nutrition, exercise, water, and sleep. For instance, when a commercial goes on, get up and do something, do jumping jacks, do something with the family. Also, just take a walk because when you walk you talk. I encourage the parents to go play with the kids. Let’s pretend you’re a daddy and playing catch with your son. He throws the ball to you, and if you drop it, your son will respond how you react. If you have the response of trying again, your son will look at that and respond in a similar way, trying again if he makes a mistake instead of giving up. Some of this is subconscious. It’s not just the exercise and physical activity component, it’s the building the family component.
Giving the parents the education they need is the most important, and if you’re going at it as it’s going to help them learn as well as be healthy, then there is a double whammy there. They have double the reason to do it. And it helps the parents too.
Q: What qualities are linked to Action Based Learning and students?
One of the things we are seeing that we did not expect is Action Based Learning calms kids down. We have seen and measured increased learning. They know their numbers and letters faster and better, and their learning stays with them longer. When their going from station to station in the lab, they’re focusing and attending, but they are also being social. In the classroom, when they have a 5-minute break doing physical activity, the kids are more focused for the next 15-20 minutes. And that’s backed up by science. The brain and the body are more ready to learn. With moods, after a school in Charleston incorporated the Action Based Learning, their attendance improved about 87%, and their referrals to the office decreased 63% in the first 6 weeks.