When you want to get students moving in the classroom, it can be tricky to come up with ideas. We’ve all been in a professional development meeting where we had to sit and listen to speaker after speaker.
Think back on one of those times. Were you willing to do anything to be able to get up and move around? Were you fighting sleep? Do you even remember what they were talking about? I usually excuse myself to the washroom and sometimes even go for a walk around the building.
Most teachers probably have the same answers to those questions; naturally, the students in our classrooms may have the same thoughts during our lessons. There are articles upon articles about how movement helps students learn.
Yet, some classrooms are still structured where students sit and listen while the teacher lectures for 45 minutes to over an hour (depending on how your school is designed) rather than designed to get students moving.
I have a feeling that if you’re reading this, you’re not one of those teachers – or you are, but you want to change and grow! Good for you! Let’s explore some ideas to get our students up and moving. If you’re looking for even more teaching strategies to work with your students, you can read this blog post: 18 Effective Teaching Strategies.
I want to preface these ideas by saying that you know your students, and you know what ideas will work and what won’t. Middle school students are different from any other, and you have to adjust and accommodate how you see fit. What works with one teacher’s students may not work for yours, and that’s okay – you know what’s best for your kids.
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Now, let’s explore 11 fun ways that you can get students moving in the classroom during lessons.
11 Fun Ways To Get Students Moving
One: Four Corners
Before you begin, label each corner: Agree, Disagree, Strongly Agree, Strongly Disagree.
- Ask a question, quote, or statement.
- Give students about 15 to 30 seconds to think about their answers.
- Let students move to their corner, make sure they commit to the corner!
- Let students discuss with their classmates in their corner why they chose that answer.
- After a couple of minutes, go around and ask a spokesperson for each corner to explain their decision and have a class discussion.
To challenge your students, you could assign each student to a specific corner. This will force students to think of different perspectives and allow for some higher-level thinking.
Two: Fold the Line
With this strategy, you’re going to start by forming your students into a line using any parameters you like, such as line them up by birth date, etc. Have the ends of the line walk towards each other to “fold the line” in half. This should put each student with a partner.
Now, you’re going to present the students with a statement or question. Let them discuss their answers with their partner. You can then have everyone shift down one, re-do the line, or present another question.
After you complete this, students can either have a class discussion about the topics or they can write a reflection on their answer and their partner’s. You can also set up a new parameter, form a new line, and have students answer another question.
Stations can be used for any subject and can be structured to best fit your topics. You can use stations to practice a skill, learn new content, review content, expand on lessons, and more. Stations are a great way to get students moving in the classroom.
- Set up stations spread out throughout your room
- Have enough room for students to work and are not crowded
- Each station should be something different but related to your topic
- Put students into groups
- Set a time limit at each station
There are so many ways to design stations; you pick which works best for your kids! For some ideas, you can check out this blog post: Learning Stations and Centres in the English Language Classroom.
The blog, Write On with Miss G, also has a series on stations and best practices for your classroom.
Four: Scavenger Hunt
Students love scavenger hunts, and they are the perfect activity to get students moving. To start, place posters or papers around the room about a specific topic. Give your students a fillable worksheet. Students will then “hunt” for the answers around the room. Students can be seated once they have found all the answers.
You can also use this as a silent activity so students aren’t sharing their answers with one another.
Five: Escape Rooms
Most people enjoy escape rooms, and there are many different ways you can do this activity. Here is one suggestion.
Put students into small groups (3-5 people) or let them work individually. Give students the first decoding sheet and let them solve it. One student from the group will bring the teacher their answer to check if it is correct.
If correct, the teacher will give the student the next page or the next “key” to solve (If incorrect, the student goes back to the group and tries again). The first team to solve all 5 puzzles wins 1st place! Give everyone else time to solve and try for 2nd, 3rd, etc. You can decide if you want to give prizes or extra points; sometimes, middle school students like the satisfaction of winning just as much as any prize!
Of course, if you use my resources, you’ll know that I love to use digital escape rooms with my students. They are easy to use, require no prep, come in a variety of topics that can be used in ALL subject areas, and they are great when you want to get students moving. You can find 2 Peas and a Dog digital escape rooms on Teachers Pay Teachers USD or Shopify CAD.
Six: Big Event
You can name this anything you like! You can tailor a “hiring” event to any topic (Gatsby’s Big Event, Laboratory Big Event, or a holiday theme). To start, you’re going to set up all your numbered question cards in one area.
Put students into groups and have students choose jobs within their groups (Answer Keeper, Designer, Runner, Team Spirit, etc.):
- The answer keeper will bring answers to the teacher.
- The designer will fill in the colouring sheet.
- The runner will run to get each card.
- The team spirit will encourage and keep everyone on task.
Assign what number each team will start with. For example, Group 1 starts with 1 and does odd numbers, Group 2 starts with 2 and does even numbers, Group 3 starts with 19 and does odd numbers backwards, and Group 4 starts with 20 and does even numbers backwards. Then, everyone will go the opposite direction once they reach the end of their numbers – so, when Group 1 reaches 19, they will go to 20 and then do even numbers backwards, etc.
To play, the runner will run and get the first card and bring it back to their group. The group will work out the answer, and the answer keeper will bring the answer sheet to the teacher. If the answer is correct, the answer keeper brings the answer sheet back to the group, and the runner puts that card back and gets the next card, and so on.
Each time the group gets the answer correct, the designer colours in that number on the colouring sheet. The first team to finish wins first! Just like the other activities, you can decide what kind of prize – if any – to give to each place.
The blog, The Rigorous Owl, has some great ideas with a similar activity to get you started with this idea!
Seven: Gallery Walk
For your gallery walk, you’re going to set up the room (or gym/cafeteria) like a gallery. You can use your own posters or have students’ work hanging around the room.
Hand out worksheets for students to fill in. This can be set up with a fillable worksheet or have students find specific facts from their peers’ work. Students will rotate throughout the room, answering the questions on their sheets from the “gallery” images/posters.
Another way you can do this is by setting it up like musical chairs, which can really get students moving. Have music playing, and when it stops, students answer questions about the poster they are closest to. Repeat this until students have visited all the posters.
For more information on this, check out the blog post: Gallery Walk Teaching Strategy.
Throughout your lesson, throw a squishy ball to random students to answer a question. This isn’t a difficult activity and doesn’t require any setup, but it keeps students engaged and ensures they are paying attention throughout the lesson! These types of balls are soft and are great for this activity. Here is another ball option. You could also use a beach ball.
This strategy to get students moving is kind of like speed dating but with learning! You’re going to start by listing questions on the board (around 15-20). Have students write their answer to #1 on a piece of paper.
After students have written their answers down (or after a time limit), have them leave their paper on the desk and switch seats. They will check the answer and mark it right or wrong. Students will then answer the next question. Repeat this activity, continuing to have students switch seats until all questions are answered.
Ten: Act It Out
This can be done in many different ways. Students can act out certain processes (math or science), characters in a novel (ELA), maps (social studies), or terms/concepts. This can be done as a whole class to help students remember the topic.
You can also act out concepts or topics in the form of charades as a game! For example, students could act out a career, and their team has to determine which career cluster it is from. Learn about Career Clusters in this Middle School Career Exploration blog post.
Eleven: Trash-ket Ball
If you’ve taught middle school for any amount of time, you know how much students love to throw things in the trash like they are on the basketball court. This activity gets students moving and allows them to do that!
In this strategy to get students moving:
- Students answer a question on a piece of notebook paper.
- If it is correct, they wad it into a ball and try to make it into the trash can.
It’s not the best game for the environment, but it’s a lot of fun for students! If you want to save your paper but still get students moving, give each student a foam ball – something that can reach the trash can but won’t hurt other students – and when students answer the question correctly, they can throw their foam ball into the trash can (preferably a clean trash bin, or a large bucket). You can also use GOOS paper. Learn more about good on one side paper here. After all the balls have been thrown, students can then retrieve their foam balls from the trash, and you can continue with your questions.
There are so many ways to get students moving in your classroom. Plus, you can adapt any of these activities to best fit the needs of your students and the subject you teach.
Every activity is not going to work in every class to get students moving, and that is fine.
You know your kids better than anyone, and trust your instincts on what will work best for your room. If you’re looking for more teaching strategies, you can check out this blog post: 18 Effective Teaching Strategies.
I would love to know how you implement these ideas and what ideas you’ve come up with to get students moving. Connect with me on social media (Instagram: @2peasandadog) and share your ideas!