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 www.ilt.co.za or write to us at info@ilt.co.za.


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