For Teachers

Are you thinking about incorporating more movement into your lesson planning and daily class routine? Here are a few reasons why you should:

“Movement can be an effective cognitive strategy to” (Jensen, 2005, p. 60)…

1.  Strengthen learning
2.  Improve memory and retrieval
3.  Enhance learner motivation and morale

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by LShave

Yes, it may take extra time at first to plan. And yes, it will take precious time away from covering content, but the results will be more engaged students, participating in deeper learning (Jensen, 2005).

What can you do?

Demonstrate that you value physical fitness  – “Teachers can, for example, show enthusiasm by asking questions about activities in physical education classes and sports programs at school and in the community, and by brainstorming ways for all students to start an exercise routine at home by simply walking or bike riding” (Steele, 2011, p. 73). Talk about what you do to stay physical fit and active in your own life and participate in body breaks, physical activities and movement activities when possible. Remember, the students are looking at you as a role model!

Incorporate movement into breaks and lessons – “All teachers, rather than just physical education instructors, can play a key role by incorporating even small amounts of movement whenever possible and appropriate into their courses” (Steele, 2011, p. 73).

Susan Griss is a seasoned teacher who has been incorporating movement into her lessons for years. She notes a number of different applications for movement learning:

  • Increased comprehension – “Interpreting a concept through physical means (like the lesson on sound waves) helps children — especially at the elementary level — to grasp, internalize and maintain abstract information” (Griss, 1994).
  • Whole language – “Because it is expressive, informative, and analytical, creative movement can heighten these language arts” (Griss, 1994).
  • Multicultural insights – “Dance provides a wonderful way to explore both the universality and particularity of human cultures”  (Griss, 1994).
  • Affective education and social skills –  “Trust, communication, cooperation, discipline, persistence; introspection, creative thinking, problem solving; observation, analysis, criticism — all are part of the process of creative movement” (Griss, 1994).
  • Disruptive energy made creative – “Simply providing an opportunity to express pent-up physical energy often produces surprising amounts of concentration and focus” (Griss, 1994).

Other considerations:

  • Vary the area of health-related  fitness (ie. flexibility) or the skill-related fitness (ie. coordination) that the activities target (Reilly, Buskist, and Gross, 2012)
  • Make sure the activity and the environment is safe (Reilly, Buskist, and Gross, 2012)
  • Decide if the activity fits the space you have to work with (Reilly, Buskist, and Gross, 2012)
  • Think about your time frame, some activities will take more time than others (Reilly, Buskist, and Gross, 2012)
  • Think about classroom management, will your traditional strategies work with a movement activity?
  • Asses your comfort level with the activity (Griss, 1994)

    Suggestions for movement integration during lessons:

  • Assign a related movement to a specific figure of speech, ie. simlie (move your arms around in circle movements at the same time), read a passage to the students and have them perform the movement when they hear the figure of speech.
  • Demonstrate angles with body (show me an obtuse angle, show me and acute angle)
  • Practice map skills by orienteering either outside or in the school
  • Have the students make up movements that represent the poetry they have read or written (Boswell and Mentzer, 1995).
  • Play a clapping game that incorporates memory, concentration and attention before a test.
  • “To help with fractions, children can make complicated rhythm charts that govern the timing of their dancing — for example, eight runs take the same time as four skips or two body swings, or one circle ending in a pivot turn” (Griss, 1994).
  • The solar system can be “mapped” through the creation of a dance piece involving spinning: The child who is Venus will be the only one rotating clockwise; Mercury will revolve around the Sun four times faster than Earth” (Griss, 1994).
  • “Slap counting (Dennison and Dennison 2010) involves moving the hands and arms across the midline of the body, an activity that can help coordinate the right and left hemispheres of the brain” (Reilly, Buskist, and Gross, 2012).

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Dylan231

Suggestions for movement integration during breaks:

  • Have a jumping jack contest, the winner can be line leader or tech specialist for the next class
  • Start a walking tradition, after the students have their snack, everyone does one lap around the school
  • Start games when you are on supervision at lunch recess, play tag, bring a soccer ball, throw a frisbee, challenge a student to a game of basketball 21 — the students love playing with their teachers, you will get them moving and build rapport at the same time!
  • Have students perform a stretch before they re-enter the classroom — post a stretch poster outside in the hallway

Check out these websites for useful information, tips and more!


Griss, S. (1994, February). Creative Movement: A Physical Language for Learning. In Educational Leadership. Retrieved from

Reilly, E., Buskist, C., & Gross, M. K. (2012). Movement in the Classroom: Boosting Brain Power, Fighting Obesity. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(2), 62-66. doi:10.1080/00228958.2012.680365.

Steele, M. M. (2011). Health and Fitness: An Issue for High School Teachers and Students. Clearing House, 84(2), 72-74. doi:10.1080/00098655.2010.516778.


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