Is it better to have Math in the morning and Language Arts in the afternoon?
Some research says it does, like this study: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/REST_a_00525 and this one from David Sousa, a renowned educator, advocate for neuroeducation, and author: https://howthebrainlearns.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/impact-of-circadian-rhythms-on-schools-and-classrooms/.
But there are others that suggest otherwise and students will advocate strongly for no early morning classes.
So what’s the deal anyway?
Circadian rhythms, our body’s 24-hour clock, drives the cycles of alertness and drowsiness. Most adults will experience the biggest energy dip in the middle of the night between 2:00-4:00 a.m and after lunch. Theoretically early elementary and middle school aged kids will have a similar pattern. Teens however are quite different, for a number of reasons; PBS did a huge feature which is worth a read: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/teenbrain/from/sleep.html
If you have autonomy over planning your schedule, and you’re working with elementary to tween students, you may want to to organize your time blocks with subjects that require higher focus in the morning. That might look like math first thing in the morning, or math directly following recess.
If you don’t, and that’s the majority of teachers I know, or you're working with teens and college students, an alternative would be to schedule a two minute exercise activity to get your kids moving. John Medina, molecular biologist and author of Brain Rules, reminds us in brain rule #1: Exercise increases blood and oxygen flow in the body which makes our brain perform better. Check out more on this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ck-tQt0S0Os (cue in at 0:51).
Pediatric psychologist Dr. Lynne Kenney recommends 5 minutes of cognitive motor activity every 45 minutes.
Sample classroom workout:
Here’s an easy 2 minute exercise routine for you to try in your classroom: https://darebee.com/workouts/2minute-workout.html
Each exercise is 20 seconds long, with no rest in-between:
Side to Side lunges or regular lunges
Mountain Climbers, if space allows, or end with Jumping Jacks
You can laminate copies for your students to grab as they enter class.
I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.