10 ways of getting kids moving more in the classroom

July 12, 2017 11:12 am Published byAzesta

Hits: 1500 So hot off the back of a lot of press coverage on how UK office workers need to stand up for at least two hours per day for their health and wellbeing, came a load of news about how our children are obese, don’t spend enough time at school doing PE and are too sedentary. Having always been a great believer in getting kids moving not so much for their health but for their engagement in learning, I thought some of you might appreciate a few ideas, many of which I used to use when teaching in middle school.

1. Chuck away the chairs!

OK so don’t throw them in the bin, but for goodness sake do not let kids come in, slump down and stay in their chairs until the bitter end of the lesson. Make sure you set up some activities on tables with no chairs around them. These activities could be discussion based, could be sorting exercises e.g. sort these characteristics as fast as you can into whether they describe adaptations of predators or whether they describe adaptations of prey or could be creative e.g. jointly develop large scale picture incorporating everything we learned last session. Use chairs only when doing individual written work, the rest of the time, stand up!

2. Use line ups or huddles to get students into different groups for activities

Get them all on their feet and ask them to line up according to how far they live from school, how easy they find this topic, where their birthday falls in the year and then number them off. Or ask them to huddle with other students with the same number of siblings, pieces of jewellery or the same colour underwear!

3. Physical points of view

Ask students to show how they feel about a particular issue by using their body. For example standing up if they agree, sitting down if they don’t, using their hands to demonstrate their level of confidence in a particular area or their feelings about how a project is going.

4. Take them outside!

Whatever the subject, with a bit of advance planning sections of lessons can work much better outside. Send them on a short paired walk around the grounds to discuss something or set up a sorting exercise to be done in relay format.

5. Use the walls!

Put pictures, images or quotes and ask students to go and find their favourite and explain it to a classmate, or choose a picture which they think says something about a particular character in a novel and explain or for giving feedback on your session. Emotion cards are great for this. For more ideas, look at my article on 10 ways to use picture cards.

6. Deciding line

If you want children to come up with a good idea (e.g. for a charity event), or decide their viewpoint on an important issue (e.g. for debating) then put a line (with masking tape, rope or something) down the middle of the room. One side is for deciding, one side is for when you have decided. Start with individuals thinking about their point of view and when they are clear they go to the decided side, grap a partner and bring them back to the ‘decding’ side where they discuss their different opinions and come to a consensus. Decided pairs then cross to the deciced side and grap another pair to discuss with. Keep the process going until there are only 1-3 groups and find out the results!

7. Use circles

In any classroom, move chairs and tables a little so that the class can stand around the edges of the room. Use a round where each person speaks very briefly and then allow them to sit down again. Subjects for the round can be anything eg…

What I’m finding challenging about this subject…

What really interests me about this book…

Keep it snappy especially if you have a large class!

If you have space or can go outdoors, for even more impact get the students standing in ‘The Band’.

8. Use experiential learning tasks

This one had to be in there somewhere! Use experiential learning tasks that get everyone physically involved and provide a great introduction into a teaching session or a concept. Here are a few examples available from Metalog.


Tower of power – teams physically build a tower in which they have to order numbers, key concepts, put a cycle in order, anything!

Systeam – a great introduction to teamwork, leadership or in physics, fulcrums and levers!

Leonardo’s bride – use in DT to introduce self-supporting structures.

Heart selling – use as an introduction to basic accounting.

Culturallye or Strangeword – use to introduce an exercise about understanding a different culture and how cultures develop.

Catapults – use in science as an experiment looking at how changing variable affects trajectory.

Soapbox – use in DT and ask students to design, build and race their own go-kart.

Complexity – use to look at process improvement or simple mathematical concepts.

Team navigator – encourage groups to draw collectively or to put process or cycle steps into an order.

Ecopoly – use to reinforce environmental messages or simple mathematical concepts.

9. Whole class timed challenges on any subject

Pre-make cards that have an answer on and a question which relates to an answer on another student’s card. The subject could be anything you are studying e.g. the periodic table, sums, historical facts, questions about a book being studied etc.) Have everyone stand up and somewhere someone reads out a question. Everyone else looks at their card to see if they have the answer. If they do, then they read out their question and everyone searches their card for the right answer.

Time them to see how quickly they can do the whole challenge (i.e. every question answered and everyone has had their turn) and allow them to sit down when it’s completed. When I used to teach a long time ago in New Zealand I used to have them stand on their chairs for extra focus though I’m not too sure on the health and safety rules on that currently!

10. Look through your lesson plans

Have a look through your lesson plans for where you can get students creating rather than absorbing the learning. Any creating is best done stood up using large laminated cards, images, drawing on large flipcharts, rearranging things on large pre-glued boards etc. Make sure students are standing up and moving for at least a quarter of your lesson. It’s not just their health that will benefit but their learning too!

Have fun!

Shirley Gaston

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