Five More Strategies to Get Students Moving

A year ago, I wrote I my most popular post yet “Five Movement Strategies in the High School Classroom.” Since that time, an adapted version of the post has been featured on TeachThought, and some teachers in my district and I were interviewed for an Education Update piece. It seems that many educators are dedicating themselves to meet the need for movement to enhance learning.

In the last year, the connection between movement and learning has become even clearer. There was the amazing Alexis Wiggins post that showed that students sat for nearly 90% of their class time and that all that sitting was actually exhausting. Donna Wilson’s Edutopia post described how movement increases oxygen flow to the brain (which enhances learning), as well as altering neurotransmitters and the structure of the brain. The idea of brain breaks has increased, especially with the rise of GoNoodle in elementary grades (for some ideas for brain breaks with high school students, check out my colleague, Kathy Bonyun’s page).

Recently, I was listening to Dr Michael Trayford’s Train your Brain podcast, when I learned about an organism called the sea squirt. The sea squirt is a creature that moves through the ocean until it attaches itself to a rock. At that point, it never moves again, and, literally digests its own brain and spinal cord. Just think about how this relates to learning in humans. Although our physiology would not allow digestion of the brain from lack of movement, we certainly lose neural connections from lack of movement. Our brains have evolved to relate movement and learning.

With all that said, people have been asking me for more movement ideas, so without further ado, here are five more strategies to get students moving.

  1. Four Corners

This is a simple way to have students move while crafting arguments. Ask your students a question and provide four choices for responses.I find that the best questions do not have a discernible “right” answer. Each response is posted in a corner of the room.  Ask students to move to the corner that correlates with their response. Then , I often have students work in their “corner group” to write an argument justifying their choice. Once students have crafted an argument, we have an informal debate.  Sometimes after all students have presented their arguments, I allow them to switch corners if their ideas have been influenced by other teams’ arguments.

Don’t worry about it always being four choices. I often use “three corners” as well. For example, when students had trouble determining whether a propaganda technique is an example of pathos, ethos, or logos, I asked them to use Three Corners to build an argument. Another example is an upcoming LDC earth science lesson, where students must suggest which alternative energy source is the best investment for our state: solar, wind, or geothermal.

2. Carousel Brainstorming

Carousel brainstorming is a little like the gallery walk strategy I discussed in my last movement post. The difference is students are asked to generate ideas at a piece of chart paper (or whiteboard, etc.). After a certain amount of time, I ask student groups to rotate to the next chart paper. Each group must then add new ideas to the previous group’s work. For example, I recently taught a word study lesson where I asked three groups of students to generate words that were morphologically related to the words concussiondecline, and sensitivity, all vocabulary from a recent Newsela article they were going to read.  Each group generated words for about three minutes before moving to the next chart to add new ideas to other groups’ lists.

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After rotating through all three charts, they checked off words that they believed related to the meanings of the morphemes con, de, and sens.  Then, students looked for the word patterns in their reading using Newsela’s highlighting feature.


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3. Take a Stand

Take a Stand is a great first step for those experimenting with more movement in their classrooms. It’s pretty simple. The teacher asks a yes-or-no question to a group of students. For instance, I will often begin a social studies lesson with a compelling question, like “Were the Dark Ages really that dark?,” or “Are freedom songs still necessary in our time?” Students who believe the answer is “yes” will stand up. It is a great strategy for polling the room or assessing background knowledge. It can also easily integrate movement into the traditional anticipation guide strategy. Class discussion could center around asking students why they stood or stayed seated for the question.

4. Scavenger Hunts

Who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt? You can either (1) create different locations in the room to gather information, or (2) make it a “true” scavenger hunt by leaving a string of clues that tie together in a pre-determined sequence. For option 1, consider using QR codes that link to texts, videos, maps, and charts that support students learning the content.


For the 2nd option, create a string of clues. Here are two examples from brilliant teachers I work with. One math teacher creates cards with solutions on the front and problems on the inside. Students must solve the problem and then search for the solution on other cards to determine their next location in the sequence!

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An amazing biology teacher created a task where students analyze a DNA sequence for transcription, and then they must find they correct sequence using the codons for transcription. There are endless possibilities for this.


5. Trading Cards

Trading cards is a vocabulary strategy that works well with new vocabulary words. Each student is assigned one word. On an index card, the student writes the word and a definition on one side; then he or she draws a picture that correlates with the meaning of the word on the other side of the card. Students make two lines (an A line and a B line). In the line, they should be directly facing a student in the other line. Each student in Line A goes first teaching the student they are facing the definition of the word and explaining their picture. Then, Line B goes. Here is the neat part: I then ask students to trade cards, and I have Line A physically shift one person to the right. Each student is now responsible for teaching the word  that he or she just learned from the original partner. I really enjoy this strategy because it places the accountability of learning the words on students because they then have to teach each word to their classmates. One caveat for using this strategy is that you will need to create multiple groups of lines in larger classes. I tried to create two long lines with a class of 34, and students couldn’t hear one another or me when I asked the lines to shift.

I hope that these suggestions will provide you with some ways to infuse more movement into your classroom. If you are looking for more ideas, check out my original movement post.


1 thought on “Five More Strategies to Get Students Moving

  1. Pingback: Five Movement Strategies in the High School Classroom | Kenny C. McKee

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