Kids are wiggly folk! How often do we think, “I wish I had that energy?” While watching the kiddos wiggle and run about? Imagine if we did have that energy but were told to stop ‘moving’? Oh my! Incorporating meaningful movement in the classroom throughout instruction, practice, and of course brain breaks, help make the most of that natural bubbling energy!
Research has shown, “that children who are more active exhibit better focus, faster cognitive processing, and more successful memory retention than kids who spend the day sitting still. Keeping the body active promotes mental clarity by increasing blood flow to the brain, making activity vital to both learning and physical and neurological health.”
We often appeal to visual and auditory learners, but what about kinesthetic learners? Connect with your kinesthetic learners by incorporating meaningful movement within daily lessons.
This blog post will provide ways to easily incorporate meaningful movement throughout the day in the classroom.
Incorporating Movement During Instruction
Movement can be easily incorporated throughout the day in the classroom. It does not have to be reserved just for brain breaks (these are still important)! Movement can be incorporated during instruction, while students are practicing various skills, and classroom management.
Dry-erase boards, markers, and eraser magic!
These are perfect for keeping kids engaged and adding a little movement! Students write responses on their boards when I need to check for understanding during instruction. I call it ‘ready, set, show’ when we use them. They are perfect for use during instruction and practice both!
Having students stand once they have written their response on the dry erase board adds a little extra movement!
I also use the dry erase boards when having students work problems or respond on the board. I have a couple of students come to the board giving them the opportunity to get out of their seats. Students at their seats also respond on their boards so everyone is engaged. Again, have them ‘stand’ as soon as they respond, providing them another opportunity to move.
Minute to Win It Spelling
This is a great game to spice up spelling practice with movement!
In this version of the game, students are placed in groups of 4. Each student needs a dry erase marker and eraser. Then each student is assigned a number from 1-4, numbers are provided.
- Slip the spelling sheet into a dry erase pouch or page protector.
2. Set a timer for one minute.
3. Call out a spelling word.
4. Player 1 writes the word then passes the board to player 2. Player 2 writes the word again and passes it to player 3. This continues until player 4 writes the word, then all four players stand up signaling they are finished and the teacher checks it. If correct, you award points based on who finishes first, second, third, so on and so forth, depending on how many teams you have.
If you find your students do not need the full minute, use a timer that is more suitable to the needs of your kiddos. Thirty seconds tends to be good for my current kiddos.
The rules and templates are provided in the download above.
I modified the game (I have a very small class this year), to where I pair up students and they pass the game board back and forth taking turns writing the given word until it is written four times. If there are five teams, the first team finished gets five points, the second group gets four points, the third team 3 points, so on and so forth. This way everyone has the potential to earn points for getting the words written.
Act it Out!
Act out vocabulary words! This is great for Vocabulary instruction and a very easy way to add meaningful movement in the classroom. When teaching new vocabulary words, use a loose version of charades! I have found this to be an invaluable teaching and practice tool for vocabulary instruction.
Teach with big gestures!
I add a few big gestures when teaching new concepts. My kiddos may forget the jargon or technical terms sometimes if I just use words, adding gestures really helps the concepts stick!
Here are a few examples:
When teaching addition, I open my arms wide like I am gathering things together, then pull them in close to me. When teaching subtraction, I take from an invisible container and ‘throw it away’.
For teaching nouns, we use binoculars because we start with the notion that most nouns are anything you can ‘see’. For verbs, we pump our arms up and down to remind us that they are ‘action’ words.
When teaching doubles, I have students flash the number of fingers of the digit we are doubling as we recite the facts.
Recently when teaching regrouping, we have made use of the rhyme: 9 or less let it rest, more than 9 send 10 next door. Students crouch to the floor, then pat the floor with the palms of their hands with 9 fingers out. They hold the 9 there for a moment, letting it rest. Next, they stand, then drop to the floor patting with all ten fingers. Then, they lift the 10 fingers like they’re lifting something and sit it next to them with a groan as if they were lifting something and moving it ‘next door’.
Read-aloud in motion!
Similar to reader’s theater, only simplified! As often as possible when conducting a read-aloud, I often have students act out certain parts of the book. This is also great for those tricky words in the text as well. Add movements to new words to solidify understanding.
Read through a book the first time to familiarize students with the text or use a familiar favorite. Then, as you come to portions of the text conducive for movement, have students act it out! Such as when the wolf huffs and puffs in the three little pigs, have them huff and puff like the wolf, using their hands to exaggerate the massive breath! Students are quick to pick up on their ‘cues’ to act out a portion of the text. I simply gesture to them with an open hand.
Another example, when reading Jack and the Beanstalk, have students mimic climbing the tall beanstalk! Literally, any book with ‘action’ has the potential to add meaningful movement to any read-aloud.
For more examples and read-aloud books that are perfect for incorporating movement check out Dancing Off the Page: Movement to Storytime
Meaningful Movement in the Classroom for Practice
Fluency & Fitness®
Need to add some meaningful movement to your daily fluency practice in both Literacy and Math? Fluency and Fitness+ has it all! Fluency&Fitness® videos combine engaging fluency videos with exercise! The videos range from letter recognition, sounds, sight words, word families, to numbers, number words, math equations, time, and so much more! If there is a fluency skill, Fluency & Fitness+ has engaging videos with plenty of practice and movement!
Literacy and Math Dance Videos
To add some meaningful movement through engaging dance videos, click the links below for some collections of fun Literacy and Math Videos I have compiled.
This is great for quick practice and very versatile. Have students stand in a circle, you stand in the middle, you are the ‘Robin’. You can use any flashcards: letters, numbers, math problems, sight word cards, vocabulary cards, or spelling word lists. Start with a child, hold up a card, or call out a word, if they get it right they remain standing, if incorrect they sit. Continue around until you get back to a seated child, then, present them with a new question. If they get it correct, they get to stand back up and join the ‘nest’. This new opportunity each round to get ‘back’ in the game prevents students from ‘checking out’ the moment they get something incorrect! I set a timer and the goal for students is to be standing when the timer goes off. The timer is not necessary but gives a finite beginning and end to the game or ’round’.
When your kiddos are ready, you can allow one of them to be the ‘Robin’ or the one holding flashcards or calling out words. I refer to the circle as the ‘nest’, but you can name it anything that suits your class theme.
Around the World
Grab any flashcards for the skill you want students to practice. Students remain in their seats. The first child stands next to the child next to them who is seated. Hold up a card or ask a question. The first person to answer correctly moves to the next seated person. The person who gets it incorrect remains at ‘that’ seat. The goal is for one child to make it all the way around and back to their original seat.
Discs on Floor – Sight-Word Steps
I put sight words and vocabulary words in my discs and students are required to recite them each time they enter or exit the room. You could place letters, numbers, math equations, or anything you are practicing that can be recited quickly.
Movement for Classroom Management
Adding meaningful movement in the classroom doesn’t just have to be for learning, check out these classroom management techniques to get your kids up and moving more.
Connect 4 Class Game Board
I keep a large connect four game board in my classroom. I use this jewelry organizer as my current connect four board and colored pieces of construction paper. This is a great way to keep kids engaged during instruction while permitting some movement too! I usually assign a color to several students making it ‘even’. Throughout the day, I will reward certain tasks with the opportunity to add a piece to the board. For example, I’ll tell students when they finish this assignment, go up and place a piece on the connect four board. This quietly encourages students to stay on task! If we play games, I will let the winners place a piece on the board. Sometimes if I ask challenging questions, I will reward responses with a turn to place a piece on the board. When a group ‘color’ connects four, I reward them with something small.
If I need to get everyone’s attention quickly I say, Hands-on Top! Students quickly put their hands on their heads, look at me, and say, “Everybody Stop!” This takes a bit of practice for expectations, but once fully implemented, it works great when you need a student’s undivided attention.
Most of us are aware of the fun shout-outs to get kids’ attention. To make these even more effective, add some simple movements. Have students repeat your movements along with your words.
Say, “Class, Class!” Then Clap Twice – Students say, “Yes, Yes!” and clap twice in response while quieting and looking at the teacher.
Check out Bored Teachers for 35 Fun Attention-Getter to Keep Your Classroom Under Control for more fun attention-getters!
Brain Breaks and Mindfulness
One of the easiest ways to add some meaningful movement in the classroom is with brain breaks. Our days are jam-packed with learning, but it is important to still let kids have fun!
GoNoodle is fabulous for brain breaks! These free, engaging dance videos are as short as one minute and can go up to thirty or more minutes if you need some indoor recess time. These are also great to use for rewards! The kiddos can pick a favorite song as a quick reward. The videos range from guided dance songs, content-oriented dance songs, exercise, indoor recess, silly movement, yoga, and mindfulness.
Below the students are learning to ‘shake off’ negative feelings with this adorable pup!
Kids love following along to these popular dance hits on GoNoodle!
Cosmic Kids combines yoga, mindfulness, and adventure! Students follow along with Jaime as she takes them through a series of adventures through kid-appropriate yoga moves. You can watch Cosmic Kids videos for free on youtube. The videos on youtube unfortunately do have ads, but they are free! They do have an app that you can subscribe to and receive all the videos ad-free!
What are your favorite ways to incorporate meaningful movement in the classroom?