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5 Movement Activities in the Classroom

I know what you’re thinking- These kids are rowdy enough! Why would I include more movement activities in the classroom?

Well, scientific research has shown the average learner needs to move his or her body every 20–30 minutes. When students (or adults for that matter!) sit too long, it can lead to decreased oxygen flow to the brain, reducing the ability to concentrate or remember new information. Fortunately, incorporating movement activities in the classroom does not take a lot of time, space, or money. The list below includes ideas for getting students moving while exploring science content, but movement unrelated to content can be just as effective. During any type of movement, more oxygen flows to the brain, increasing cognitive functioning and even reducing stress! The benefits a student will experience from moving in the classroom have the potential to make teaching and learning much more efficient and effective.

Movement Activities in the Classroom

Movement activities in the classroom can help students:

  • Avoid information overload
  • Use both sides of the brain to promote learning
  • Have fun while learning
  • Actively engage with content instead of passively listening
  • Experience an improved mood and general sense of well-being
  • Reduce stress and increase their ability to focus on content
  • Receive input from multiple senses, making learning more memorable

Although movement is only one of the ways to create an engaging science class, I think it pays off in big ways. Here are some specific ideas on how to incorporate more movement activities into a secondary science classroom:

Movement Idea #1: Learning Anatomical Terms

  • Dance: Students come up with a repetitive dance move that models a movement term. A student would create a dance move that shows opposing movements- dorsiflexion and plantarflexion, for example. Teachers should divide the terms of movement among the class so all terms are covered. Students will need to model and share their moves with the rest of the class so that everyone can practice doing the moves. The teacher can play music and hold signs when it is time for each new move!
  • Yoga: Students can use yoga positions to identify bones, joints, or muscles involved in the moves while using correct terms of movement.
  • Bones & Joints Charades: Students pick a card with a movement on it and act it out. The rest of the class must identify the bones and joints used in the movement.
  • Hokey Pokey: Students can identify terms of movement, muscles, and bones used in each part of the dance.
Movement Activities in the Classroom- Student yoga

Movement Idea #2: Science Vocabulary Charades

Have students act out various vocabulary terms for their respective teams. A student from each team acts out the same word for his/her team and points are scored by the team that gets the answer correct first. This can be hilarious and students love the competition. Students must understand concepts and terms well enough to be able to communicate them to their peers. This can be used in all subject areas!

Movement Idea #3: Human Modeling

The use of models is a science skill woven through the NGSS standards. Models provide visuals of a system or concept for students to analyze. They can also aid in student communication and help to identify misconceptions about a concept. Although models can be made with many different items (clay, candy, paper, etc), students can also be part of the model themselves!

Anatomy Example: Sliding Filament Theory – Students use pool noodles and oven mitts to act out the movement of actin and myosin within muscle cells. When Molly Selba created this lesson, she even used a measuring tape to measure the sarcomere before and after contraction!

Movement activities in the classroom- Modeling

Biology Example: Protein Transport – To create the lipid-soluble plasma membrane, students stand in two shoulder-to-shoulder lines, facing each other. They can wave their arms out in front of themselves to represent the hydrophobic tails in the phospholipid bilayer. Students work together to figure out how they can use their bodies to represent the movement of molecules through the membrane. Students can model the movement of nonpolar molecules, diffusion gradients, large molecules passing through channel proteins, and active transport of molecules against the gradient.

Movement Idea #4: Science Games

Games can be another great way for students to move in the classroom. They also have the added motivation of fun and healthy competition among students.

Review games: Although there are many review game ideas available, it’s helpful to choose one that gets your students out of their seats.

  • Vocabulary Fly Swatting– Write all of the vocabulary terms for the unit on the board. Divide the class into teams and give one student on each team a fly swatter. My full-year Biology curriculum contains illustrated vocabulary words for each unit. Read a definition aloud and students must “swat” the correct vocabulary word that is being defined. You might want to clear some space for this one!
  • Modified Jeopardy– This is the review game I used for all my classes. Instead of a typical Jeopardy game, teams are given all the questions for a category at once on a piece of paper. After discussing answers as a team, the first team finished gets an extra point for running the answers back up to the teacher. It gets the students moving and thinking quickly and prevents the dozing off usually associated with review Jeopardy.
  • Protein Synthesis Competition: In this activity, small groups of students are given a few DNA sequences. After transcribing the sequences into mRNA, students race to find the correct codon cards from the back of the room to build a silly sentence. The first group finished wins a prize!

Movement Idea #5: Lab Stations

Many labs can easily be converted to stations, which get students up and moving. Station labs require a little more teacher preparation, but they are a great way to save on materials and time. Classrooms with limited scientific equipment are ideal for stations because each group won’t need its own set of tools.

Here are some station labs that can be found in my TpT store:

Movement activities in the classroom- science stations

Other ideas to get your students moving:

  • Interactive labs where students analyze their own body responses, like determining heart rate or testing muscle fatigue
  • Task cards for review so students can rotate to complete a study guide
  • Make up movements that connect with vocabulary
  • Speed dating activities in which students rotate around the room and share content with one another
  • Gallery walks in which students get up and walk around the room, analyzing materials or observing each other’s work
  • Getting outside and drawing with chalk –> ex) students could draw an anatomically correct heart and move to show blood flow through the parts

What are your favorite ways to include movement in the classroom?

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