Positive pedagogy: learning with the body

Positive pedagogy learning with the body

The idea that putting children’s or teenagers’ ass in a chair for hours and hours every week makes them better trained is prodigious bullshit.”


In class, you had this habit of chewing on your pencils, waddling your feet under the table, pretending to have a sudden urge to pee, or throwing a ball of paper at a friend. All this because you had an excruciating urge to move and hunt those ants in your legs and in your body.

And when the bell finally rang, you rushed into the playground with relish. Then, back in class, you felt invigorated, and at the same time a little frustrated by the next few hours during which you would have to remain still and silent to learn.

You had the intuition, something was wrong: you needed either more recess or more freedom of movement in class.

Now, science has shown it through several American studies from the Ohio State University (2):

  • Students learn best after a break during which they have been able to move
  • Those who do at least 1 hour of sport after school have better attention and learning skills

As summarized by positive pedagogy experts Audrey Akoun and Isabelle Pailleau: “Using the body to learn is to promote the development of children’s cognitive functions. »

So what does the body need to be “at its best” for learning?

We are going to go around the 5 basic physiological needs of the human body to understand it.

Learning with the body: Breathing

Like all parts and organs of our body, the brain needs oxygen from the air to function. The brain is 2% of our body mass and yet it consumes up to 25% of the oxygen inspired!

This supply of oxygen is vital to it because they ensure the proper functioning of the cells of the nervous system and therefore of the neurons, essential allies for learning (1)

Learning with the body: Drink … water (preferably)

In our brain, there are 100 billion neurons that ensure the transmission of nervous messages. In short, it is through electrochemical reactions that neurons propagate information in the form of electrical signals called nerve messages.

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And what is one of the best electrical conductors? Water!

So drinking water regularly is absolutely essential to make your brain work optimally, to allow better transmission of information in the brain and therefore allow children to think, concentrate and memorize better.

Learning with the body: Eating

The brain is 2% of our body mass and yet it consumes 20% of the caloric intake!

Like our sports champions LeBron James , Tony Parker , Teddy Riner or Kylian Mbappé who follow dietary programs adapted for their physical performance, we too need it to improve our brain performance. After all, the brain is a part of the body like any other!

According to numerous studies and in particular that of the Federation of Brain Research FRC (3), here are the golden rules of a daily diet for good brain function:


In particular, group B vitamins and vitamins C and D.

Group B vitamins promote the transport of oxygen in our body. They are found in large proportions in whole grains, dried fruits and eggs.

Vitamins C and D protect the brain against stress and intellectual decline. They are particularly present in citrus fruits, seafood, bananas.


Essential for the generation of neurons, omega-3s are found in fatty fish (salmon) and vegetable oils (nuts, rapeseed)


The brain loves fast sugars because glucose is its main source of energy. As he consumes a lot of it, prefer honey rather than refined sugar. Indeed, honey has a higher glycemic load , that is to say that it brings the same sweet taste to our taste buds for a smaller quantity in volume than sugar.

Learning with the body: Sleep, relax and refocus

Sleep well

You’ve probably had to work hard on a problem until late in the evening and finally throw in the towel, saying to yourself “  I’ll see about it tomorrow with a clear head ”. And, magically, the next day when you wake up, you find the solution in less time than it takes to tell. Indeed, during your sleep, your brain has activated the connections of neurons and has thus favored the processing of information and memorization.

Hey yes, a night of rest and presto! Finally, a good night’s sleep. Because for the brain to develop optimally, it generally needs a minimum of 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day.

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However, fatigue or lack of sleep in children and especially in teenagers has increased in recent years with the advent of new technologies (social media, mobile phone, tablets). Thus, they watch until late at night on their telephone when the latter does not vibrate under the pillow at the slightest message from their tribe.

In addition, lack of sleep is detrimental to learning because a tired child will be less concentrated, less attentive, less willing to memorize and stay focused. And, if the sleep debt is significant, negative emotions such as anger or irritability take over and block learning.

Refocus well through positive visualization

Positive visualization is a component of sophrology.

Sophrology or the science of harmonious consciousness was created in 1960 by neuropsychiatrist Alfonso Caycedo from the practices of traditional hypnosis, relaxation, oriental meditation and neuropsychiatry. Its 3 pillars are breathing, muscle relaxation and positive visualization.

Positive visualization aims to tame negative emotions. How?

Positive pedagogy experts Audrey Akoun and Isabelle Pailleau suggest that parents teach children to welcome their emotions and choose to distance themselves from them. The child will therefore, through the following tools, be able to move this negative emotion by associating it with a physical object. For example, it will:

  • remove the cloak of anger,
  • put his ball of anger in the problem box, or even
  • empty his anger balls into his bag of worries.

With positive visualization, your child creates new connections in his brain. From practice to practice, he consolidates his neural paths and reformats his brain in the long term in positive mode.

Meditation or mindfulness

Trust what will happen. Without naivety, but with curiosity, without ceasing to be attentive. Like a swimmer who interrupts his movements and lets himself be carried away by the course of the river. It is not about passivity but about presence.

With these words, Christophe André, psychotherapist, introduces the use of mindfulness meditation in psychotherapy. This practice allows a “  positive approach that soothes emotions, teaches how to focus one’s attention and develops acceptance of reality ”.

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Learning with the body: Moving

Integrating the body and movement into pedagogy and at school is the objective of positive pedagogy. In addition to the benefits of sport and physical activity on the brain, it is a new way of reconciling body and mind, body and learning, daily and in the classroom that would make all the difference.

The authors Akoun and Pailleau then offer the brain gym to achieve this. The brain gym is 26 movements to improve cognitive abilities such as concentration, motivation, fine motor skills and memory or even learn to better manage stress and gain confidence.

An example of brain gym exercises is the “8 lying down” :Ask your child to stretch one arm out in front of him, at eye level, with his thumb pointing up at the ceiling.Invite him to slowly trace in space the shape of a roller coaster, starting from the center and working upwards.Make him follow the movement of the hand with his eyes. Make him do the movement three times with one hand, then three times with the other and finally three times with both hands together.The movement of the figure eight improves coordination and balance, as well as binocular vision, necessary for learning to read, for example. It also makes it easier to concentrate.

Conclusion: to recap

So help your child to:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Drink water regularly
  • Eat a balanced diet and stock up on vitamins C, D and group B
  • Sleep well (7 to 8 hours per night)
  • Acting mindfully: knowing how to take a step back
  • To relax
  • Alternate physical and brain exercises

And don’t hesitate to review our trilogy of the head, heart and body approach to positive pedagogy and put it into practice step by step and with joy!

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