20 Movement Activities and Games for Elementary ClassroomsBy Leah Davies, M.Ed.
Physical activity throughout the school day is necessary for children to reenergize themselves and to be able to maintain focus on their school work. Being involved in movement positively affects children both cognitively and physically.
Movement activities can be initiated by teachers throughout the day and especially during classroom transitions. Using songs and rhymes that reinforce lessons improve children’s listening and memory skills. Activities, games, seat-changes, role plays, and dance actively contribute to children developing basic timing, balance, coordination and concentration.
Educators have noted fewer behavior problems when children are provided with many opportunities to move.
When initiating an activity or game, explain the rules and demonstrate when necessary. Thoughts to consider:
Is enough space available?
How much time will be needed?
Does it involve all of the children?
Is it appropriate for the age of my students?
Are the children enthusiastic about doing it?
1. When children seem restless, have them stand and do exercises. Ask them to stretch slowly, do arm circles, sway, touch toes, hop, bend, jump, jog, etc.
2. Have students march in place as they count by 2, 5, or 10, recite the ABC’s, say the multiplication tables, etc.
3. Have a contest between the girls and boys. Ask the children to follow you as you run in place. When you stop, see which group of children stops first (boys or girls) and name them. Then begin to run again, stop running and comment on which group was the first to stop.
4. Have the students do two things at once. Examples: tap their heads and rub their stomachs, clap their hands and stand on one foot, snap their fingers and nod their heads, do jumping jacks, etc.
5. Have them do crossover exercises such as: touch their left elbow to the right knee and then do the reverse. Or, have your students hold their arms out in front, cross arms at the wrist area, turn their palms down and in toward each other, clasp fingers together, pull clasped hands under and up through their arms in front of their chest and reverse the action. For another exercise, ask them to put their right index finger and thumb on their nose, and touch their right ear with their left index finger and thumb. Say, “When I say ‘change!’ reverse the position of your hands.” Each of these may be done several times.
6. When children transition to their chairs, have them pretend to swim, prance like a horse, hop like a bunny, move like a turtle, walk like an elephant, etc.
7. Have the students stand by their chairs or in a circle. Have each of them turn sideways with their right hand on their right hip. Ask them to write words or numbers in the air using their right elbow. You could say, “Write (or print) your name,” “Write the name of your favorite food,” “Write your address,” etc. Then have them turn and put their left elbow on their left hip and continue the activity. Ask the students for ideas of what to write or have different students lead the activity.
8. Ask the children to hold one or two thumbs at eye level. Have them move their thumb up and down with their eyes tracking the movement. Then name various numbers or letters and have the children make one at a time with their thumb as their eyes trace the movement. Or, ask them to make large letters or numbers in the air with their index finger.
9. Have the children choose a partner. Have one student slowly print a current spelling word on his/her partner’s back. The partner guesses which word was printed. Have them take turns doing this.
10. Ask the children to stand up. Explain that when you say, “I spy,” every child needs to stop what he/she is doing, listen, and respond with, “What do you spy?” Say something like, “I spy children dancing in one place,” or “I spy a rock star silently playing a guitar.” The students act out that idea until you say, “I spy.” Then all the students stop what they are doing and respond with, “What do you spy?” The game continues with you suggesting other ideas such as, “I spy children waving their arms.” After playing awhile, say “I spy students sitting down quietly.” Students may be chosen to lead the activity.
11. Have the children sit or stand in a circle. One student, –“It” — stands in the middle of the circle and covers his/her eyes while you choose a leader who stays in his/her place. Once the leader is selected, “It” can open his or her eyes. Then the leader starts the game by nodding his head, reaching his arms up, or making circles with his hands and everyone follows his lead. Caution the children not to look directly at the leader or to indicate who the leader is when “it” uncovers his/her eyes. The child who is “It” turns slowly around, trying to figure out who the leader is. The leader should try to change actions when “It” is not looking at him. “It” gets three guesses. If “It” does not guess correctly, the leader becomes the new “It.” If he guesses correctly, choose two other children to be the leader and “It.”
12. Play “Simon Says.” Stand at the front of the class and give commands. Carry out all of the commands, but tell the children to obey only the ones preceded by “Simon says.” For example, if you say, “Simon says: hands on your hips,” everyone does it. But if you say, “Run in place,” no one but you should be running. A variation is to say “Do this” or “Do that.” “Do this” means that the children should move like you are moving, while “Do that” means for them to stand motionless. Those who do not listen and move at the wrong time must sit down and wait two turns before playing again. [Continued on page 2]