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May 10, 2016

18 Activities to Get Your Students Moving

By Amanda Nehring
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    After a long winter across much of the country, students are feeling cooped up and in desperate need of exercise. As all teachers know, it is important to incorporate physical activity into your lessons in order to help students engage their whole bodies in learning and get that blood pumping to the brain. It's easy to think that students can only get moving during physical education classes or recess time, but there are actually many ways to create fun and educational experiences across the curriculum that allow students time for exercise and movement. Take a look at these 18 ideas to get your students moving while learning in and out of the classroom.

     

    Reading

    • Read the Room Hunt: This game is geared toward younger elementary students, but it can be modified to work for students of any age. To play you must first create flashcards with vocabulary words, sight words, or even short sentences that students will be able to read and that are relevant to your units of study. I suggest using the Word Workshop tool to make your flashcards (they even have lists already created too!). Once you have printed out your word cards, tape them all around the room. Give students a recording sheet, a clipboard, and a pencil and set them free to explore the room, reading and writing as they go.

      A student reading on the floor.
    • Stop, Drop and Read!: Everyone knows the safety practice “Stop, Drop, and Roll” so let’s add a new twist and make a movement-rich reading game! Have each child select a book to read. Move furniture out of the way to create walkways around your classroom. Play music for your students as they walk, hop, and dance around the room, but as soon as you stop the music make sure they stop, drop to the floor and read! Give students at least two or three minutes during each dance break to read so that they have sufficient time to get through a page. When you’re ready to begin the dance party again, have students mark their page with a bookmark, get up, and get ready to move again. Repeat this routine as many times as you’d like. The more you play, the more they read and move!

    • Sequencing Relay Game: Take a paragraph of text that shows an obvious sequence (like a short story or a section of a Scholastic News article) and cut apart each sentence. Place the sentences facedown on the floor on one side of your classroom while your students wait in a team on the opposite side of the room. The game begins with each team reading the starter sentence for the paragraph you have provided them. Then the first member of the relay team runs, hops, or crab-walks across the room to grab a sentence from the pile. They return to their teammates with the sentence and read to decide if their selected sentence is the next in sequence or not. If the sentence is sequential, the team should keep it and have the next player go and collect a new sentence. If their chosen sentence strip does not come next in order, the new player should return the strip and select another. Game play continues until the team has successfully collected all of the sentences of their paragraph in order. If you are playing with multiple teams, the first to finish their text wins.

     

    Writing

    • Students writing in journals outdoors. Outdoor Observation Journal Time: Take your students outside with their writing journals and walk around the school grounds. Ask them to stop, sit down, and record everything they can observe with their five senses. Give students about two minutes in a location and then have them get up and continue the nature walk. Repeat the writing practice in different locations throughout the schoolyard. At the end, have students share their observations with one another.

    • Sidewalk Chalk Compositions: Find a place outside the school where students can safely write with sidewalk chalk. Give them a writing prompt, like a haiku about the weather or a silly sentence about themselves, and ask them to write using their chalk. By nature of having to write in big letters on their concrete canvas, students will be building core strength, squatting and stretching to write on the ground. You’d be amazed what a workout it can be to write with sidewalk chalk for any length of time. Plus, it’s also incredibly fun!

    • Write the Room: Begin with each child at their own desk. Ask them to write a single sentence to start a story. Next, ask all students to rotate clockwise to their neighbor’s seat, read what they have written, and write the next sentence to continue their friend’s story. Play continues as students move around the room and write stories for one another. They can get pretty silly, so make sure each student has a chance to read their story aloud so everyone can share in the story they created together.

     

    Language Arts

    • Move and Spell: When practicing spelling words why not add a little movement and fun into the routine? Place students in pairs and give each pair a spelling list and the Spelling Spinner. Ask one partner to read a word aloud as the other spins the spinner to select the action they must perform. If the child spins “Run in Place,” for example, they must run as quickly as they can in place while they spell the selected word aloud. After their turn they should switch with their partner and read a word for the other student to move and spell. This is a favorite spelling activity in my room for sure!Spelling spinner for Move and Spell game.

    • Parts of Speech Four Corners: Label each corner of your classroom with a part of speech sign, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Have all students begin the game in the center of the room. Announce a word to the class and ask the students to skip their way over to the corner of the room that matches the part of speech to which your word belongs. For example, if you said “quickly” all of your students should find themselves in the "adverb" corner of the room. I have also used this game with my first graders to practice the types of nouns: people, places, animals and things. The options for your four corners are endless and the students will surprise you by how long they want to play.

    • Body Building: Take your students outside or to the school gym where they have plenty of space on the ground. Give the class a word to spell and ask them to work together to spell out the letters with their bodies. This game encourages teamwork while practicing spelling and getting in a good stretching session.

     

    Math

    • Measure My Movement: Part of learning measurement in the elementary grades involves learning to measure larger distances using feet, meters, and yards, so one fun way to practice is to measure students’ movements. Have your students begin at a starting line and see how far they can jump. The students can then measure how far they hopped using a ruler, yard stick, or meter stick. The same type of activity can be repeated by throwing or kicking a ball, pushing a scooter, or any other type of safe movement your children can measure.A student recording their measurements.

    • Graphing Games: Time your students to see how many jumping jacks, push ups, crunches, toe touches, etc. they can do in 60 seconds. Afterward have your students graph their activities. Students can use the graph to figure out which activity is the easiest for them and which is hardest. I would recommend staying away from using the graphs to compare students’ performances against one another as this can be a sore spot for many students as everyone is developing at different rates.

    • What Time is it Mr. Fox?: This classic game is a playground favorite and also a fun way to practice telling time. Provide the student who is “Mr. Fox” with a large analog learning clock. This student will stand at one end of the gym or playground facing away from the other students who line up at the opposite end. The class will call out, “What time is it Mr. Fox?” at which point Mr. Fox will show a time on the clock and shout back the time. The students are able to take as many steps toward Mr. Fox as there are hours in his time (if he/she says four o’clock they can take four steps). The class as a whole is trying to reach Mr. Fox before he calls for midnight and runs to tag them. If a member of the class is able to reach the student playing Mr. Fox, that student becomes the fox and play continues. This is a fun way for you to assess your students’ abilities to show a given time on an analog clock while they are still running around and enjoying some exercise.

     

    Science

    • Students playing with simple machines on a playground. Fun with Force & Motion: Physics in the early elementary grades is all about learning how things move by applying forces to create motion. Help your students learn about pushes and pulls by running, jumping, riding scooters, playing tug of war with a rope, and any other physical activities you can apply to your lessons. You’ll find that students have a much better understanding of abstract concepts like applying forces or observing the effects of gravity when they have experienced them firsthand. Plus, as always, your students will be able to get moving and stay active during science time.

    • Take a Nature Hike: After learning all about the plants and animals in your environment, take the students outside the school for a nature hike. Come up with a list of the plants and animals you may expect to see. As you walk around the school grounds have your class keep track of the living things they can check off the list. Feel free to make a few laps around the playground or school area so that the students can look for new animals each time and you can get a few more minutes of movement in for your students.

    • Playground Simple Machines: Show your students some real-life simple machines on your school’s playground. Encourage the students to hunt for a pendulum (swings), inclined planes (slides, ramps), levers (seesaws), wheels and axles (merry-go-round), and even screws (spiral staircases or the spiral metal poles to climb and slide). Experiencing these simple machines in real life will help your students better understand how they work to make our lives easier. 

     

    Social Studies

    • Take a Walking Quiz: I love to create walking quizzes for my students to help review topics all across the curriculum, especially social studies. Begin by creating notecards with written questions relating to your topic of study. Go around the school before students arrive and tape the notecards to hallways, drinking fountains, doors, and anywhere else you feel you can take students during class. Provide students with clipboards and paper for recording their answers to the quiz. Then, during class time, quietly guide your students as they explore the school in hunt of quiz questions. When you arrive at a question, have a volunteer read the question aloud and give all students some time to write their answers on their clipboards. This is a fabulous way to take a routine assessment and make it more fun and physically engaging.


      Students make maps of the school.

    • Map the School: Put those map skills to use by asking your students to draw a map of the school. Give your students each clipboards, blank paper, and pencils and set them loose (well, under teacher observation) to walk around the halls and create a map of the building. Remind them to include a map key explaining the function of each room as well as a compass rose to provide directions. You can save the maps and use them for practice in class as your students create questions for one another about how best to get from point A to point B.

    • Make an Assembly Line: While your class is learning about workers and production of goods, why not create your own assembly line? I like to plan this activity around our school’s supply drive for a local homeless shelter and have my students work together to prepare care packages with snacks and toiletries to donate. The students spread out all around the room, creating an assembly line with a specific job for each student. By making our assembly line fill the classroom, the students also move around, walking their part of the package from one person to the next. We all get active and help our community at the same time.

    Have your own suggestions for class activities that get students moving while learning? Leave them in the comments below. I always love hearing from you!

    After a long winter across much of the country, students are feeling cooped up and in desperate need of exercise. As all teachers know, it is important to incorporate physical activity into your lessons in order to help students engage their whole bodies in learning and get that blood pumping to the brain. It's easy to think that students can only get moving during physical education classes or recess time, but there are actually many ways to create fun and educational experiences across the curriculum that allow students time for exercise and movement. Take a look at these 18 ideas to get your students moving while learning in and out of the classroom.

     

    Reading

    • Read the Room Hunt: This game is geared toward younger elementary students, but it can be modified to work for students of any age. To play you must first create flashcards with vocabulary words, sight words, or even short sentences that students will be able to read and that are relevant to your units of study. I suggest using the Word Workshop tool to make your flashcards (they even have lists already created too!). Once you have printed out your word cards, tape them all around the room. Give students a recording sheet, a clipboard, and a pencil and set them free to explore the room, reading and writing as they go.

      A student reading on the floor.
    • Stop, Drop and Read!: Everyone knows the safety practice “Stop, Drop, and Roll” so let’s add a new twist and make a movement-rich reading game! Have each child select a book to read. Move furniture out of the way to create walkways around your classroom. Play music for your students as they walk, hop, and dance around the room, but as soon as you stop the music make sure they stop, drop to the floor and read! Give students at least two or three minutes during each dance break to read so that they have sufficient time to get through a page. When you’re ready to begin the dance party again, have students mark their page with a bookmark, get up, and get ready to move again. Repeat this routine as many times as you’d like. The more you play, the more they read and move!

    • Sequencing Relay Game: Take a paragraph of text that shows an obvious sequence (like a short story or a section of a Scholastic News article) and cut apart each sentence. Place the sentences facedown on the floor on one side of your classroom while your students wait in a team on the opposite side of the room. The game begins with each team reading the starter sentence for the paragraph you have provided them. Then the first member of the relay team runs, hops, or crab-walks across the room to grab a sentence from the pile. They return to their teammates with the sentence and read to decide if their selected sentence is the next in sequence or not. If the sentence is sequential, the team should keep it and have the next player go and collect a new sentence. If their chosen sentence strip does not come next in order, the new player should return the strip and select another. Game play continues until the team has successfully collected all of the sentences of their paragraph in order. If you are playing with multiple teams, the first to finish their text wins.

     

    Writing

    • Students writing in journals outdoors. Outdoor Observation Journal Time: Take your students outside with their writing journals and walk around the school grounds. Ask them to stop, sit down, and record everything they can observe with their five senses. Give students about two minutes in a location and then have them get up and continue the nature walk. Repeat the writing practice in different locations throughout the schoolyard. At the end, have students share their observations with one another.

    • Sidewalk Chalk Compositions: Find a place outside the school where students can safely write with sidewalk chalk. Give them a writing prompt, like a haiku about the weather or a silly sentence about themselves, and ask them to write using their chalk. By nature of having to write in big letters on their concrete canvas, students will be building core strength, squatting and stretching to write on the ground. You’d be amazed what a workout it can be to write with sidewalk chalk for any length of time. Plus, it’s also incredibly fun!

    • Write the Room: Begin with each child at their own desk. Ask them to write a single sentence to start a story. Next, ask all students to rotate clockwise to their neighbor’s seat, read what they have written, and write the next sentence to continue their friend’s story. Play continues as students move around the room and write stories for one another. They can get pretty silly, so make sure each student has a chance to read their story aloud so everyone can share in the story they created together.

     

    Language Arts

    • Move and Spell: When practicing spelling words why not add a little movement and fun into the routine? Place students in pairs and give each pair a spelling list and the Spelling Spinner. Ask one partner to read a word aloud as the other spins the spinner to select the action they must perform. If the child spins “Run in Place,” for example, they must run as quickly as they can in place while they spell the selected word aloud. After their turn they should switch with their partner and read a word for the other student to move and spell. This is a favorite spelling activity in my room for sure!Spelling spinner for Move and Spell game.

    • Parts of Speech Four Corners: Label each corner of your classroom with a part of speech sign, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Have all students begin the game in the center of the room. Announce a word to the class and ask the students to skip their way over to the corner of the room that matches the part of speech to which your word belongs. For example, if you said “quickly” all of your students should find themselves in the "adverb" corner of the room. I have also used this game with my first graders to practice the types of nouns: people, places, animals and things. The options for your four corners are endless and the students will surprise you by how long they want to play.

    • Body Building: Take your students outside or to the school gym where they have plenty of space on the ground. Give the class a word to spell and ask them to work together to spell out the letters with their bodies. This game encourages teamwork while practicing spelling and getting in a good stretching session.

     

    Math

    • Measure My Movement: Part of learning measurement in the elementary grades involves learning to measure larger distances using feet, meters, and yards, so one fun way to practice is to measure students’ movements. Have your students begin at a starting line and see how far they can jump. The students can then measure how far they hopped using a ruler, yard stick, or meter stick. The same type of activity can be repeated by throwing or kicking a ball, pushing a scooter, or any other type of safe movement your children can measure.A student recording their measurements.

    • Graphing Games: Time your students to see how many jumping jacks, push ups, crunches, toe touches, etc. they can do in 60 seconds. Afterward have your students graph their activities. Students can use the graph to figure out which activity is the easiest for them and which is hardest. I would recommend staying away from using the graphs to compare students’ performances against one another as this can be a sore spot for many students as everyone is developing at different rates.

    • What Time is it Mr. Fox?: This classic game is a playground favorite and also a fun way to practice telling time. Provide the student who is “Mr. Fox” with a large analog learning clock. This student will stand at one end of the gym or playground facing away from the other students who line up at the opposite end. The class will call out, “What time is it Mr. Fox?” at which point Mr. Fox will show a time on the clock and shout back the time. The students are able to take as many steps toward Mr. Fox as there are hours in his time (if he/she says four o’clock they can take four steps). The class as a whole is trying to reach Mr. Fox before he calls for midnight and runs to tag them. If a member of the class is able to reach the student playing Mr. Fox, that student becomes the fox and play continues. This is a fun way for you to assess your students’ abilities to show a given time on an analog clock while they are still running around and enjoying some exercise.

     

    Science

    • Students playing with simple machines on a playground. Fun with Force & Motion: Physics in the early elementary grades is all about learning how things move by applying forces to create motion. Help your students learn about pushes and pulls by running, jumping, riding scooters, playing tug of war with a rope, and any other physical activities you can apply to your lessons. You’ll find that students have a much better understanding of abstract concepts like applying forces or observing the effects of gravity when they have experienced them firsthand. Plus, as always, your students will be able to get moving and stay active during science time.

    • Take a Nature Hike: After learning all about the plants and animals in your environment, take the students outside the school for a nature hike. Come up with a list of the plants and animals you may expect to see. As you walk around the school grounds have your class keep track of the living things they can check off the list. Feel free to make a few laps around the playground or school area so that the students can look for new animals each time and you can get a few more minutes of movement in for your students.

    • Playground Simple Machines: Show your students some real-life simple machines on your school’s playground. Encourage the students to hunt for a pendulum (swings), inclined planes (slides, ramps), levers (seesaws), wheels and axles (merry-go-round), and even screws (spiral staircases or the spiral metal poles to climb and slide). Experiencing these simple machines in real life will help your students better understand how they work to make our lives easier. 

     

    Social Studies

    • Take a Walking Quiz: I love to create walking quizzes for my students to help review topics all across the curriculum, especially social studies. Begin by creating notecards with written questions relating to your topic of study. Go around the school before students arrive and tape the notecards to hallways, drinking fountains, doors, and anywhere else you feel you can take students during class. Provide students with clipboards and paper for recording their answers to the quiz. Then, during class time, quietly guide your students as they explore the school in hunt of quiz questions. When you arrive at a question, have a volunteer read the question aloud and give all students some time to write their answers on their clipboards. This is a fabulous way to take a routine assessment and make it more fun and physically engaging.


      Students make maps of the school.

    • Map the School: Put those map skills to use by asking your students to draw a map of the school. Give your students each clipboards, blank paper, and pencils and set them loose (well, under teacher observation) to walk around the halls and create a map of the building. Remind them to include a map key explaining the function of each room as well as a compass rose to provide directions. You can save the maps and use them for practice in class as your students create questions for one another about how best to get from point A to point B.

    • Make an Assembly Line: While your class is learning about workers and production of goods, why not create your own assembly line? I like to plan this activity around our school’s supply drive for a local homeless shelter and have my students work together to prepare care packages with snacks and toiletries to donate. The students spread out all around the room, creating an assembly line with a specific job for each student. By making our assembly line fill the classroom, the students also move around, walking their part of the package from one person to the next. We all get active and help our community at the same time.

    Have your own suggestions for class activities that get students moving while learning? Leave them in the comments below. I always love hearing from you!

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