Sitting Still Does Not Equal Learning. Book Study Expert Commentary for Chapters 11 and 12 (Week 8)

Published on: October 19, 2015

Filled Under: Beyond The Pages, Books, Guest Speakers

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This week we are discussing Chapter 11: Why Does Sitting Still Equal Learning? and Chapter 12 In Defense of Active Learning. Deborah Stewart will provide insight and lead our discussion this week. Just joining us? Get all the book study details HERE.


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“Who’s to say we have to sit down to learn?” Why can’t we lay on the floor on our tummies to learn?” When I read that statement in Rae Pica’s book, I had to nod my head and smile.


In my classroom of children, who are ages three to five, you can count on at least one child ending up on his or her tummy during our gathering time. As a young teacher, I would have immediately told the child to hop back up and sit on those pockets. Now that I am a much older and more seasoned teacher, I have come to realize that my students need to be able to change their sitting positions or stretch out those arms and legs so that they can stay better engaged in the entire process of what we are doing.

DS 1

My students not only have the need to move their bodies during morning gathering time but this need continues all through out the classroom day. We provide tables for standing, carpeted areas for getting down on the ground, and chairs for sitting. Our classroom environment and schedule is designed for active learning.


Rae Pica states “Movement is the young child’s preferred mode of learning.” I want to expand on that statement and say that it is through movement that young children develop and master new skills, understand and remember concepts, strengthen muscles, relieve and manage stress, interact with their peers, and find joy in the learning process.


If I can encourage you to leave this post with one thing, it would be to remember movement in your planning. It is so easy to overlook how important movement is in the early childhood classroom. While you are brainstorming your lesson plans ask yourself…

  • Do my plans consider the need for my students to move?
  • Does my environment invite my students to explore and learn in a variety of different physical positions?
  • How can I teach these concepts through action or how can the children build on these concepts through action?
  • Am I spending too much time asking or expecting my students to sit still? If yes, what can I change in my planning to use movement to help us all be successful?

Read more thoughts about “Tummy Time” on my blog by clicking here!

Deborah J. Stewart, MEd


Please share/retweet this post! Let us know that you’re participating in this study. We’d love to hear from you about your thoughts regarding Chapters 11 and 12  and about the commentary Deborah has provided. Your voice matters – participate in the dialogue and share your ideas! (Comment below) If you’ve chosen to blog about what you’ve read on your own site, link back and share your post with us here. Perhaps you have a burning question about something that you read in one of these chapters… we have a feature for that – Ask The Author! That’s right, Rae Pica will be available throughout this live study to answer your questions. #AskAuthor

What to read next: Chapter 17 In Defense of Authentic Learning and Chapter 18 Who Should Lead the Learning (10/26/15).

*If you’re a MN participant seeking training hours, please visit this link to access to requirements.

68 Responses to Sitting Still Does Not Equal Learning. Book Study Expert Commentary for Chapters 11 and 12 (Week 8)

  1. Nallely says:

    The movement is the reflection of our development and, at the same time, it constitutes the pieces that will build all the subsequent skills that the child will need, allowing the child to explore and experiment with their own body and physical space. The power of the movement in teaching is incredible. Freeing students from a passive learning posture, glued to chairs and looking forward all the time is able to connect them in a much more creative physical way with what they are learning. An easy-to-see example. Imagine a class where students sit and listen to the teacher while he explains, now imagine those same students trying to represent with their bodies scenes of how the Industrial Revolution occurred or putting themselves in the shoes of a literary character or representing themselves as something solid, liquid or gaseous to demonstrate the density of the molecules.
    This type of learning could be applied to all subjects. It would create a much richer environment by building memories connected to time, space, emotions and the senses.
    The open spaces in which to run and use all the muscles of the body jumping, climbing, climbing and lowering, are healthy spaces. They favor the use of all the senses and avoid that all the attention is focused on a point as it happens when they are watching TV.

    In nature, each child decides what to do according to their tastes and by testing their own limits.

  2. Liz says:

    How wonderfully stated that by Rae Pica “Movement is the young child’s preferred mode of learning”. During those times of movement so many skills are also being developed that we do not always see. It is important to remember to think outside of what we see and allow children to learn in ways that work for them.

  3. Laura Borchardt says:

    Movement in the classroom is so important to a healthy learning environment. It helps children with stress and to retain the information that they are being taught. Sitting still does not equal listening children. Some of the children that I have noticed over the years taking in the most information and having very insightful thoughts are those children who are not looking at me and are moving all over the carpet and off the carpet. There are some challenges associated with that as well but the fact of the matter is we as teachers tend to think that the child sitting still is paying attention when they could be thinking about something else and not be engaged. It is also healthy for us as adults to participate with the children through songs, stretching, and exercising. They definitely are more engaged when they see the adults in their rooms participating as well.

  4. DeAnna Stowe says:

    Children learn through playing. The way they learn through play is through their experiences of cause and effect. Children also learn through dramatic play by reenacting real life scenarios. Many parents and some educators get confused on this. They believe that children sitting still all day and taking in what is being taught is a better method of teaching. Many do not realize the cause and effect that may occur in later life.

  5. Judy Nelson says:

    After reading chapters 11 and 12 I plan to take time and evaluate the curriculum used in our classroom. Although we encourage active learning I know there may be additional opportunities to learn through this effective learning style.
    Prior to reading these chapters we have been trying different Methods of accommodating several children that learn more effectively when not sitting in group. The challenge seems to be accommodating the needs of one without distracting the rest of the group.

  6. Brittany says:

    Yes. We have become a society where children all have to behave the same when it comes to learning or evening listening. We can all remember our teachers saying cres cross applesauce hand in your lap right? Now yes it does look very nice and orderly but it not what we want or do we want learning. I remember a time when I was teaching a lesson to children. One child decided to sit under the table and listen. Now the old way would be to make that child come with the group and do it the same as everyone else. I allowed him to stay where he was. You know what child knew all the answers when the lesson was over. The child sitting under the table. Teachers need to help parents and educators that singing songs, moving, and different positions for listening is the best for the child’s learning.

  7. Sherie Melchert says:

    Children should not be expected to site still to be able to learn. Children learn better by active learning rather than just reading about something in a book.

  8. Jill N. Walker says:

    This chapter stressed movement as a way for children to expand their learning. I am a firm believer in this because children learn in very different ways and some children can sit and listen but some children need to be moving to learn. In the many years that I have been teaching I have learned that children listen even if they are not sitting right next to me. The children that are moving can often be heard singing a song or talking about the subject of group time later in the day. Movement is a child’s preferred mode of learning!

  9. Karen says:

    Children learn more by moving! I like the response of teacher Dee Kalman, “When the bum is numb, the mind is dumb.”

  10. T. Enter says:

    I was always that child that couldn’t sit still through all the classes, I would need to kick my legs around, switch the way I sat on my chair, color on my notebook, whatever I could to stay moving. I am still that way and I incorporate it in my classroom. My circle times I am laying down with the kids reading stories, or we are up singing and dancing. I can’t sit long and I don’t expect the kids to do that either.

  11. Theresa says:

    I agree active learning is better than sitting still learning, you do remember more and for a lot longer time period. I have actively built lesson plans to make certain there are activities that we do that would incorporate physical movement with learning. For example, putting out sight words and having the children walk briskly over to and stand by the words the teacher calls out.

  12. Shannon Alexander says:

    When I started my childcare business, I was so confused why the kids weren’t engaged and moved to a new activity so quickly. I was use to third and fourth graders in the classroom setting. Chapter 11, helps me understand why these little kiddos can’t sit for a long time because their bodies are made to move! Now that I’ve added more movement and outside play the kiddos have been behaving better and enjoying the inside play activities more. In Chapter 12, I love the part exploration and discovery equals more meaning and lasts longer!! This makes so much sense, even for adults. I did an activity to see what objects would sink or float. The kids were so excited to find things in our play space to place in the water. The kids still talk about how most of our toys floated on the water. If we just read a book about sink and float, I don’t think the kids would still be talking about it.

  13. S. Hanson says:

    It’s easy to forget that young children are such movers especially during story time. Even as an adult it can be hard to sit still for a long time. I avoided Tuesday/Thursday college classes because they were all over an hour as opposed to the 50 minutes on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. I plan to look for some new ways to incorporate more movement to our circle times to help them be more engaged.

  14. G Anderson says:

    Keeping us moving keeps us healthy and happy. I totally agree with feelings to incorporate more movement in all aspects of our day/activities. I often arrange children in our circle time so those who may need more wiggle space on the outside of circle so they don’t end up on top of another friend.
    I think it is also a good idea to change up how we ‘do’ a group time- lay on our bellies…standing…..sitting…or all of the above. see what works best for the group or for the moment.

  15. Morgan Hinzmann says:

    The unofficial motto of my toddler room is ‘Toddlers Learn by Doing.’ My head teacher and I try to live by this every day. We have a group time every morning where we sit with the children and read a book or talk about the weekly learning theme but once we are start learning, we are moving.
    Asking a toddler to sit still for long periods of time is cruel. They need to move to stay engaged and keep learning. I wonder why the schools ignore the research and demand kids learn without moving.

  16. Cheryl Thomas says:

    WE should allow children to learn in ways that work for them. Sitting still and being quiet is hard for an adult! Active learning is OK.

  17. Lynda Smith says:

    If one is not sitting in a comfortable position, it is very easy to lose concentration.

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