Useful ‘movement moments’ for Primary School classrooms


These movements appeared in the Teacher’s Net Gazette, June 2017, Vol 14 No 2 and were suggested by Leah Davies, M.Ed.


In the last post, the benefit of planning short ‘movement moments’ during lessons was shared.  Here we are sharing some ideas for the types of activities that may  both children and teachers to create classrooms with a good learning atmosphere.


When children are able to engage in some physical activity during the school day, it helps them to raise their energy levels and maintain focus on their work.  In addition, we hear from teachers around the world that introducing short activities and other opportunities to move helps to improve behaviour.  It really is worth trying.


You will want to make sure that the activities you choose are age-appropriate for your learners, that all the children are involved and that they enjoy them.  Try a variety of activities and then make a note of the most popular.  They can become a regular feature of your classroom.


  1. Whenever the learners show restlessness, have them stand and so some stretching and other exercises. They can stretch slowly, do arm circles, sway slowly from side to side, touch their toes, hop, jump and run on the spot.
  2. When children are learning to count, have them march in place as they count in 2’s, 5’s and so on. They can march in place as they recite the alphabet, spell out words, say their multiplication tables and so on.
  3. Divide the class into two groups (e.g. boys and girls, or otherwise those on the left side of the class versus those on the right). Ask the children to follow you as you run on the spot.  When you stop, see which group of children stops first and name them (“The boys stopped first!”).  Then begin to run again, stop running and comment on which group was the first to stop.  If you don’t want to run yourself, then tell them to run while you continue to clap your hands.  When you stop clapping, they stop running.
  4. Have children do two things at once – e.g. tap their heads and rub their stomachs; clap their hands and stand on one foot; snap their fingers and nod their heads; snap their fingers while they do jumping jacks.
  5. Let them do crossover exercises. They can raise their left foot behind their bodies then touch it with their right hand; they raise their left knee and touch it with their right elbow; they can jump and while in the air, cross their right foot over their left ankle, landing on crossed feet. They reverse the cross on the following jump and continue in this way.  Make sure very young children are able to do this difficult series of jumps – you don’t want them falling!
  6. Ask the children to hold one or two thumbs at eye level. Have them move their thumb up and down with their eyes tracking the movement.  Then name various numbers or letters and have the children make one at a time with their thumb as their eyes trace the movement.  Or ask them to make large letters or numbers in the air with their index finger.
  7. Have the children choose a nearby partner. Have one child slowly print a spelling word on his/her partner’s back. The partner guesses which word was printed. They take turns doing this.  Or you can call out the word to be printed and the child who feels the word on his/her back has to say whether or not it was spelled correctly.
  8. 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.”

The children touch the 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/say it over and over.

  1. 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 the words “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 they stand motionless.  Those who do not listen and move at the wrong time must sit down and wait a turn before playing again.
  2. Play “I spy.” 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?”  You respond with “I spy children dancing in one place,” or “I spy a rock star silently playing a guitar.”  The children act out that idea until you say, “I spy.” Then all of them stop what they are doing and again respond with “What do you spy?”   Ideas include “I spy children waving their arms,” or “I spy children standing on one leg with their eyes closed.”  After playing for a little while, say “I spy learners sitting down quietly.”


Of course, you can choose children to be the leaders of these activities, giving you a little time to sit back and observe.


If you would like to learn more about the value of movement and understand the types of movements that are so important for brain development and function, you might want to consider a course with Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT).  Read more about this on the website or write to us at


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Helping children with Learning Disabilities (LD)

Over the last few years there seems to have been an enormous leap in explanations for Learning Disabilities (LD).  There is talk of genetic predisposition, drug therapy, processing times (e.g. slow auditory processing), brain imaging techniques and findings, quantified EEGs, brain biofeedback, sound therapy, light therapy, and many others. Each new avenue quickly gains a following of professionals offering help. 


In the midst of all this, one might wonder if the ‘old-fashioned’ belief in movement programmes is outdated.  With all the computerized programmes, new therapies and drugs that speed up processing times being more and more widespread, can we motivate the belief in the power of movement programmes?  Why does Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) still achieve such good results, even though the approach does not rely on technology or sophisticated equipment?


The answer lies in the simple truth that LD is not just a cognitive (intellectual) deficit.  A really close look at children identified has having LD will show that they also have significantly high deficits in several motor (movement) areas.  This was supported by research in England, which suggested that very refined, accurate tests of balance might be a quick way of screening for LD[1].


Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) finds that movement training is wonderfully beneficial.  It refines and speeds up kinesthetic (feeling of movement) processing as well as auditory processing, visual processing and the integration of all three to produce balanced, calmer individuals who become more proficient in reading, spelling, maths and writing.


ILT sees that the learning problem is in the brain of children who have difficulties – not because of lack of intelligence.  The brain ‘wiring’ is faulty or incomplete, leading to neurological disorganization.  Look at the behaviour of a child with LD.  They reflect the disorganized neural networks in their brains with their disorganized ways of trying to learn and cope with the demands of home and school.  They are struggling with information that is not getting through from skin, body, ears and eyes to the brain, or they are processing the information too slowly, or it may be scrambled along the way.  Some children may be hearing only part of a word or sentence and, to make matters worse, what they do hear may be processed slowly and is confusing.  They don’t hear full instructions from teachers and parents.  Others can’t use their eyes to learn because vision might not be supporting them – even though optometrists declare their sight to be normal.


To add insult to injury, their two brain hemispheres may not be working together.  You can see signs of this in school-aged children: they don’t automatically know their left from their right, they can’t do more than one thing at a time, handwriting and producing written work is tedious and really hard because they struggle to organize themselves or their work.  Not surprisingly, they become frustrated with the daily effort and may have meltdowns.  Simply put, LD children are usually working much, much harder than their more ‘learning ready’ classmates.

The good news


The good news is that we can speed up the rate at which information reaches the brain and is correctly processed.  Brain networks can be reinforced to be more stable – and we do this with the knowledge that the brain is plastic and in a constant state of change throughout our lifespans.


As is true of other countries around the world, it is unlikely that our South African government will increase resources to help those with learning difficulties in the near future.  We do, however, have resources in the form of trained people who can help introduce movement and perceptual training into school programmes.  Several schools around our country use ILT as part of the school day to help – and the amazingly successful results speak for themselves.  If you’re interested in knowing which schools these are, contact us at


ILT practitioners around the country help individual LD children but the ideal would be to have programmes in the schools.  Schools should be the place where immature children are given the chance to catch up.  Appropriate exercises can be done daily in the classrooms.  With the right attitude, schools can use these professionals and helpful parents to improve the learning of LD and other learners. 


This is why we offer courses to empower teachers, parents and other helping professionals to share the knowledge and acquire the skills needed to implement such programmes.  If you are a parent of an LD child or teach LD children in your classroom, then the first step towards truly helping would be to study what we know and have been successfully implementing for nearly 20 years.


More information can be found on the website or write to


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[1] Angela Fawcett, in Pheloung, B. Help your class to learn. Manly: Australia.

Reasons why moving in a classroom helps learning

Even though we know a lot more these days about how the brain develops and how it functions, many teachers lack useful knowledge about the role of movement in learning.  Movement is responsible for developing the brain in the first place (through the primary reflexive movements) and remains central to efficient learning during the early years of growth and schooling.  Without knowing how to recognise signs that a child may have signs of neurodevelopmental problems (meaning that the nervous system with all its component parts), we concentrate rather on the psychological problems of the child, or the socio-economic environment. 


A far better approach would be to ask the question, does the child have the equipment she needs to succeed at the educational level asked of her and the methods imposed on her?


The answer is related to the fact that there is often a physical basis for learning disabilities.  Not physical in the sense of body growth or health – often children’s physical development is good, yet the foundations on which learning is built and made strong are weak.  This results in them struggling to succeed at school.  Indeed, some do succeed, but they have to put so much extra effort into their learning and performing.  This can continue until adulthood. How many of you know of a colleague who is really good at what he or she does, but pays the price through extreme fatigue at the end of every workday?


So the approach of Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) is to evaluate a child for possible neurodevelopmental delays and other adverse conditions arising from the environment and then helping them.  The tools used are largely movement activities.


While this works for children with learning disabilities or learning difficulties, using movement in the course of learning can benefit all children.


Here are three evidence based, very sound reasons why children can thrive in a classroom where the teacher introduces regular periods for a little movement:


  1. Movement helps to increase learner interest, motivation (Vazou et al., 2012), and learning (Braniff, 2011).
  2. Movement improves content knowledge, skills, and test scores in core subjects such as mathematics and reading fluency (Adams-Blair & Oliver, 2011; Erwin, Fedewa, & Ahn, 2013; Browning et al., 2014).
  3. Movement may help children meet the recommendation to complete the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day.


Do consider the significance of these research results.  It is difficult to introduce movement into crowded classrooms, to avoid children becoming disruptive and finding it difficult afterwards to settle down.  The key is to have short, quick ‘movement moments’ as an integral part of the school day from the lowest grades.  This teaches the children that these are part of school and they become so used to it that they don’t see it as an opportunity to get out of hand.


In future posts, I’ll be including some ideas for short ‘movement moments’.  If you would like to learn more, consider enrolling for our Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) courses.  They are accredited with SACE so will earn you CPTD points while you’re enhancing your knowledge and skills.  Read more on or write to us at




Adams-Blair H., Oliver G. (2011). Daily classroom movement: Physical activity integration into the classroom. International Journal of Health, Wellness, & Society, 1 (3), 147–154.

Braniff C. (2011). Perceptions of an active classroom: Exploration of movement and collaboration with fourth grade students. Networks: An On-line Journal for Teacher Research, 13 (1).

Browning C., Edson A.J., Kimani P., Aslan-Tutak F. (2014). Mathematical content knowledge for teaching elementary mathematics: A focus on geometry and measurement. Mathematics Enthusiast, 11 (2), 333–383.

Erwin H., Fedewa A., Ahn S. (2013). Student academic performance outcomes of a classroom physical activity intervention: A pilot study. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 5 (2), 109–124.

Vazou S., Gavrilou P., Mamalaki E., Papanastasiou A., Sioumala N. (2012). Does integrating physical activity in the elementary school classroom influence academic motivation? International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 10 (4), 251–263.



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