Movement fuels interaction and aids comprehension. Movement increases blood flow and helps more oxygen reach the brain, which in and of itself enhances a student’s ability to engage in class and retain information. Beyond the biological justification for movement in the classroom, specific movement activities also create unique opportunities for students to work together and provide distinct ways to consider information. Movement activities also give students more agency over when they act and how they participate, and can create a more equitable classroom for students who face obstacles in written communication.

Classroom Applications

  • human barometer (used in the workshop and the zoning lesson plan)
    • present a debatable statement and have students position themselves on a spectrum of answers. Have students explain and elaborate. Invite students to reconsider and reposition. Great for starting and ending classes.
  • tableau (used in the workshop and the zoning lesson plan)
    • when fostering engagement with visual sources, have students act out the image. Great for close looking.
  • gallery walk (used in the workshop and the zoning lesson plan)
    • distribute textual or visual sources in different locations around the room and have students circulate, rather than each student or small group of students having a full set of materials in front of them
  • fish bowl and dynamic discussion strategies
    • have a smaller subset of students sit in a circle with the rest of the class in an outer circle. Outer circle listens, inner circle talks. At designated times students can elect to replace someone in the inner circle.
  • soliciting group responses
    • have a hand gesture or physical response students can make if they agree with what another student is saying
    • include knowledge checks addressed to the whole class (“thumbs up if you have heard the term ‘zoning’ before”)
    • have students physically add their answers when asking a class-wide question, i.e. adding post-it reactions to images you present in a gallery walk; coming up and writing reactions/responses on the board
  • cross the circle if…
    • a simple but physically engaged way to measure student beliefs, experiences, and opinions. (“Cross the circle if you speak more than one language…”) Typically used for ice breakers but can be adapted for other classroom purposes.
  • elbow partners
    • Students touch elbows with a person with whom they have something in common. (“Link elbows if you live in Brooklyn”) They then continue this process until the entire class is linked. Also typically used for an ice breaker but can have potential as a content activity. Helps foster student interaction with each other.

Further Reading

  • Grenier, R. S., “All Work and No Play Makes for a Dull Museum Visitor.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, (2010): 77–85.
  • Jensen, Eric, Teaching with the Brain in Mind. Assn for Supervision & Curriculum: Alexandria. 2005.
  • Lanser, Susan Sniader, “The Narrative Act: Point of View in Prose Fiction”
  • Shoval, Ella and Boaz Shulruf, “Who Benefits From Cognitive Learning With Movement Activity?” School Psychology International (2011), 68.