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10 Classroom Activities to Get Students Moving

Janelle Cox

Research has been conducted, and it turns out that you were right when you let your students get up and use classroom activities to get their wiggles out, or do a silly dance next to their seat. You have probably always known that your students needed to get up and get moving -- most likely because you were a student once too and remember how antsy and boring it can get sitting in a seat all day long. Studies are now showing that the more children use classroom activities to move around when they are learning, the better they are able to learn. Studies have also found that children that move about when learning, are better able to understand more difficult concepts, as well as pay attention more in school. Some schools are even implementing alternative seating in their classrooms, like standup desks and exercise balls. To help you get your students up and moving throughout the school day, we have come up with a few classroom activities. Here are 10 of them.

1. Classroom Activities: Alternative Seating

As mentioned earlier, many schools are now implementing alternative seating into their classrooms. If your school cannot afford this luxury, then you can get creative. Here’s how. Instead of purchasing a standup desk, then create a few of your own. You can place a large cardboard box on top of a regular-sized desk, then place a sturdy cover on top of that, or you can just have students stand up and work at their regular-sized desk. Another option is to make a few bean bags. To create this, all you have to is buy some fabric and stuff it. Then, students can use the beanbags to sit on the floor and do their work. Some students like wiggle cushions, which are essentially beaded or stuffed cushions that quietly allow students to get their wiggles out while at their seats.

If you are able to afford a few alterative seats, then you can purchase exercise balls with feet at the bottom, stand up desks, bungee chairs, bean bag chairs, or wiggle cushions. If you budget is really extensive, then you can even get a pedal desk, where students can bike and work at the same time.

2. Take a Walk

Get out into nature and let your students explore the school grounds. Instead of having students write in their journals at their desks, allow them to find a tree to sit next to, or a quiet spot on the grass to write. The sounds of the birds and the breeze can be relaxing. At the same time, just being outside and having the ability to move about can really give your students some inspiration for their writing.

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3. Create a Morning Motion Routine

Start off each day with some movement activities. An excellent example of this comes from a 2nd grade class in Buffalo, N.Y. Each morning upon entering the classroom, the teacher uses the first 10 minutes of the school day to have her students complete a few movement activities. On Mondays the students do yoga, on Tuesdays the students play “Follow the leader,” on Wednesdays the students get to choose how they will move, on Thursdays they use fitness dice to determine what movement they will do, and on Fridays they Zumba. It’s a great way to start the day and the students love it.

4. Play Fitness Friday

If you find that you are having trouble incorporating a specific block of time for movement into your everyday routine, then try having Fitness Friday. Every Friday, devote at least 30 minutes or your day to get your students up and moving. Students can choose from a variety of different ways to get fit, from doing yoga or Zumba to playing with fitness dice.

5. Create Moving Learning Centers

If you think that having students rotate for centers every 20 minutes is movement enough, then you are wrong. While it’s great that students have to get up and move during this time, that 20 seconds that it takes them to go from one table to the next is not enough movement. To get your students moving even more, you can create learning stations where students have to stand and do their work, bounce on an exercise ball, or even sit on the floor for an activity. Any of these ideas that involve movement will count.

6. Schedule Hourly Brain Breaks

Every hour on the hour, have students get up and move in some way. You can purchase or create your own fitness dice where students roll one die to determine what type of movement they must do, and the other die to see how many times they need to do it (4 jumping jacks, 8 push-ups, etc.). Research shows that just a few minutes of short bursts of exercise can really make a difference. So if you only have four minutes and you see that your students are getting antsy, roll the dice and have them get their wiggles out.

7. Use Legos or Blocks

Manipulatives and movement can go hand in hand. Have students sit on the carpet (where they are free to move about) and use Legos or blocks to build patterns or help them count. The carpet is a great space for students to be able to move around while learning.

8. Play a Giant Game

Have you ever seen a giant Jenga or Connect Four game? If you have, then you know how cool they be. If you do not have the funds to purchase one (they go for about $100), then you can create one of your own. All you have to do to create a giant Jenga game is purchase some wood and cut it into pieces. According to the Home Depot community, it will only cost you about $30. Giant games vs. traditional size games are much more fun because one, they are giant in size, and two, students need to stand and move about to play the game.

9. Play Rotation Seats

If you’re looking for an easy way to get your students moving while working on an assignment then you have to try rotating seats. For example, let’s say that you wanted your students to complete a set of math problems. You can have each student sit at their own desk to complete the first problem, then for the second problem you have them move to the seat next to them to complete the problem, then move to the set next to that for the third problem, and so on. Each time the student moves to another seat, they complete the next problem on the sheet at that desk. They must also sign their name next to the problem that they completed. It’s a fun and unique way to get your task completed. 

10. Category Clap

Something as simple and standing up and clapping for a few seconds can really help a child get her wiggles out. They next time you see your students getting antsy, call out a category such as ice cream flavors and call upon a student to stand up and say and clap as many flavors as they can think of in 20 seconds. Category clap is a sure-fire way to incorporate movement in a quick way. 

How do you incorporate movement into your school day? Do you have any other ideas that weren’t mentioned above? If so, please share your unique ideas in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.