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Leah Davies
The Teacher Counselor

Movement Activities for
Elementary Classrooms


Physical activity throughout the school day is necessary for children to reenergize themselves and be able to maintain focus on their schoolwork. 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 childrens 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. [content block]

  • When initiating an activity or game, explain the rules; when necessary, you will want to demonstrate the activity.

  • 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, and so on.

  • Have students march in place as they count by 2s, 5s, or 10s; recite the ABC's; say the multiplication tables; or perform some other rote memorization activity.

  • 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.

  • Have the students do two things at once. For example: tap their heads and rub their stomachs; clap their hands as they stand on one foot; snap their fingers and nod their heads

  • Have them do crossover exercises such as touching their left elbow to their right knee and then doing the reverse. Or, have 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; then reverse the action. For another exercise, ask children 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 those activities can be done several times.

  • 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

  • Have 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," and so on. 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 allow different students lead the activity.

  • Ask children to hold one or two thumbs at eye level. Have them move their thumb(s) up and down with their eyes tracking the movement. Then name various numbers or letters and have the children make them one at a time with their thumb as their eyes trace the movement. Or ask them to use their index finger to make large letters or numbers in the air.

  • Have children choose a partner. Have one student slowly print a current spelling word on his/her partner's back. The partner must guess which word was printed. Have the student pairs take turns doing this.

  • Have children name various ways they can move their hands, feet, arms, and bodies. They might say things such as stomp or tap their feet; snap, pat, or clap their hands; move their arms up, down, out straight, or around; move their bodies by bending, stretching, jumping, and so on. After making a list, arrange students into small groups and have them make up a pattern to do over and over such as two claps and three stamps or snap, tap, clap - snap, tap, clap or arm and hand motions such as arms up, hands on hips, arms up, arms down at sides. Have them perform their arrangement for the other children who will be expected to join in and follow their lead. Have the student leaders start very slowly and gradually increase the speed of the pattern. A variation is to have them make up a chant to go with their movements. For example, "Bend to the left, bend to the right, clap your hands with all your might."

    Movement Activity

  • Is enough space available?
  • How much time will be needed?
  • Does the activity involve all of the children?
  • Is the activity appropriate for the age of the students?
  • Are the children enthusiastic about doing the activity?

  • Have the children present a talent show for their class. Their act must be suitable to be performed at school and completed within a set amount of time (for example, 2 or 3 minutes). Provide children with an opportunity to plan their performance. It can be done as a solo, pair, or as a trio. Encourage students to clap after each presentation.


  • Games for Elementary Classrooms
  • Movement Activities and Games for Elementary Classrooms (Part 2)

    Article by Leah Davies, M.Ed.
    Reprinted with permission from the
    Kelly Bear Web site,