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Leah Davies
The Teacher Counselor

Games for Elementary Classrooms


As we discussed in a previous article (see Movement Activities for Elementary Classrooms), many educators understand the value in spacing a variety of short movement activities throughout the day to help students focus on learning. Games can be used the same way, as well as to reward students for exceptional effort. Below are some popular games that teachers can use.

Follow the Leader
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.

[content block] Follow the Leader
Have 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. Everyone else must follow the leader's lead. Caution 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."

Follow the Leader
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.

Follow the Leader
Sing or say, "Head, shoulders, knees and toes," as follows:

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.
Eyes and ears, and mouth and nose.
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.
Have the children touch each body part as it is named. You can substitute names of different body parts for the third line, such as, "neck and hips and knees and cheeks." Start off slowly and increase speed as you sing the verse over and over.

Note: You can locate lyrics and music to many singing games -- such as "Hokey Pokey," "The Farmer in the Dell," and "A-tisket, A-tasket" at (Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences).

Follow the Leader
Play "Concentration" in pairs. To play this game, pairs of children face each other at arm's length and take turns responding. One child stamps twice and says,

Concentration (both children clap 3 times)
No hesitations (clap 3 times)
Or repeats (clap 3 times)
I'll go first (clap 3 times)
You will follow (clap 3 times)
Category is (clap 3 times)
Names of states [or countries, colors, animals, pets, flowers, fruit] (clap 3 times)
Then the other child must say a word that fits the category. For example, if the category is "Names of states," the child must say the name of a state; then both students clap 3 times. Then the other child (the one who started the rhyme) must say the name of a different state; then both students clap 3 times. The game continues until someone is unable to name a different state. Another category is chosen by the winner and the game begins again.

Follow the Leader
When children have to wait patiently in line, lead them in a silent "follow the leader" activity to five counts -- two slow and three fast. Begin by clapping the beat to get their attention. Other motions to the five beats could be a combination of some of tapping shoulders, snapping fingers, patting legs, raising hands, tapping fingers together, turning hands around, patting head, nodding head, tapping toes, rubbing stomach, patting knees, and so on. The students must follow the leader in silence. You may want to choose a child to be the leader. (See 25 Ways to Gain Children's Attention.) This activity can also be done in the classroom. Invite a child to the front of the room to lead the class in several silent moves. Then let that child choose another to take his/her place.

Heads Up, Seven Up
For this popular game -- also sometimes referred to as Seven Up/Stand Up -- choose seven children to come to the front of the classroom. The other students put their heads down on their desks with one thumb up. The seven chosen children pick one student each by touching a child's thumb. After a child is chosen, he/she hides his/her thumb. After the seven players have each touched a child's thumb, they return to the front of the room. At this point, say "Seven Up, Stand Up" and all children sit up. The chosen children stand up and take turns making a single guess as to who touched them. If they guess correctly, they get to replace the one who tapped them. If they miss, they wait until everyone has guessed and then they are told who picked them. If a child peeks, he/she is out of the game. A variation is to ask each chosen child a question like a math fact, a spelling word, or any information they should have memorized. If the child answers correctly, he may replace the one who tapped him.

Four Corners
Number each of the four corners in the classroom. One child is "It." He/she closes his eyes and counts aloud backwards from ten to zero. Meanwhile, each student tiptoes silently to any one of the four corners of the room. Everyone must be in a corner by the time It says "zero." At that point, It calls out the number one of the corners. Children in that corner are out and return to their seats. The other children redistribute themselves and "It' counts again. Play continues until one child is left; he/she becomes the new "It."

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

Last updated 09/22/2008