We all need to move more. Teaching kids to move throughout the day also encourages them to develop healthy habits that may stick with them through life. Most of us don’t get enough movement, and while there are certainly benefits of longer, more challenging exercise, even movement breaks throughout the day add up.
Kids particularly need to move. They need to release energy and figure things out with their bodies. But it goes beyond that. A study published in Pediatrics found that physical activity “improves classroom behaviors and benefits several aspects of academic achievement.”
You may have seen the effects of this in your classroom after phys ed activities, recess, or other movement breaks. So, whether you have phys ed duties with your students or simply want to get them moving to help them learn better, these phys ed ideas are sure to help.
15 phys ed or classroom movement ideas
I’ve put together some ideas that you can use right in the classroom and others that would benefit from a bit more space—like the gym, the playground, or even a hallway if you can use it without disturbing other classes.
1. Dance break
Give students a dance break as a transition between activities. You’ll get short bursts of energy throughout the day. You can call students to your meeting spot or have them remain by their seats. Remind everyone to be aware of their bodies and others around them. Then, simply turn on a school-appropriate song, and get moving.
2. Skip to the station
If you have students move from space to space throughout the day (for example from a meeting spot on the mat to their desks or between literacy, math, and other stations), have them skip instead of walk. Or give them a different movement each time—hop like a bunny, leap, slide sideways … Students can still transition quickly and quietly, but they can have fun and add in some different motions along the way.
3. Line jumps
Use a line in the gym or a piece of tape along the floor. Have students stand on one side of the line and jump back and forth over it as many times as they can in a minute. Take a break and have them jump again. Alternate going forward and backward or sideways.
4. Quick yoga flow
Yoga is a really useful tool in the classroom. Yoga movements help students stretch and strengthen. Some can be used to help calm down, but a flow sequence, such as a sun salutation, can really get you moving. You’ll need enough space between students for them to get into a plank position. Have everyone face you and follow your flow.
- Stand with feet together and bring arms up.
- Flow forward until fingertips touch the ground.
- Rise up half way looking forward.
- Flow back down and plant palms on the floor.
- Step feet back into a downward dog position (think of an upside down V).
- Keep hands and feet where they are, but move your body forward into a plank position.
- Lower your body slowly to the ground.
- Push up into cobra (raising shoulders and upper back).
- Move onto hands and knees.
- Stand up and come back to the beginning position.
- Repeat several times.
5. Jumping jacks
Start the day with a certain number of jumping jacks. Start with five and go up by five each week. Jump the number of days you have been in school. Give kids a morning math problem and have them jump the answer. This is just a way to get moving first thing in the day. You can also use jumping jacks any time after extended seated work or as a transition between lessons.
6. Hokey pokey
Like a dance break, the hokey pokey uses dance to get your students moving, but this one has built-in movements. Play a recording of the song or sing it with the class. You can get in a circle if you have a large enough area or have students do the motions by their desk.
You’ll need a larger space for this one—the gym or an outside area. Designate one or a few students as taggers. Students who are tagged can crouch until another non-tagger “frees” them. Alternately, students who are tagged can become taggers as well.
8. Find your partner
If you have a bigger space, this game can include running or more vigorous actions. In the classroom, you can use quick walking. Each student needs to find a partner. You could hand out different colored beads or paper shapes or give students academic matches to make depending on what you are working on. For example, give each student a number and ask them to find a complimentary number or give half the students a particular spelling of a vowel sound and others words that contain that sound, or states and capitals.
9. Classroom circuit
Set up stations around the classroom. For example, create a space where students can do jumping jacks, pushups, line jumps, and running in place. Divide students into groups and have them rotate through the circuit.
10 Simon says
Play this classic game to get kids moving and listening. Have anybody who is “out” go to their seat and march in place to keep them moving while other kids finish the game.
11. Obstacle course
This can be adapted for the classroom, though you’ll have more options and give kids more chance for big movements if you have a larger space. Think about obstacles that get kids doing a variety of movements—running between stations, jumping or climbing over things, slithering under things, balancing. You can also add carrying something through the course to add difficulty.
12. Jump rope
You’ll need a jump rope for each student and plenty of space, but jumping rope is a great activity for a quick cardio and leg work out. Challenge kids to see how many jumps they can get before they get tripped up. If you have room, have them try skipping rope as well as jumping.
13. Imagination movement station
Put your students through a variety of movements all from one place. They’ll need enough room to move arms and legs without interfering with furniture or other students. Then have them move their arms like they were swimming or crawling, run in place, field a ground ball and throw it, hit an imaginary speed bag, make a layup … any other actions you can think of.
You can play hopscotch anywhere. You just need chalk outside or a roll of colored tape inside. Students can toss a small object into a square and then move through the pattern of hops and jumps. Or simply use the hopscotch as an added movement within your classroom, hopping and jumping whenever you leave the room or whenever moving from a particular place to another.
15. Get moving Tic Tac Toe
Create tic tac toe boards with actions in each (5 jumping jacks, 5 push up, run in place for 30 seconds …). Whichever square students mark, they have to do the activity. You could make up cootie catchers (always a favorite with my students) with activities as the “fortunes” as well.
I hope these ideas help you and your class get moving, whether in phys ed or just throughout the day. If you need some more extensive ideas to fill your phys ed time and meet objectives, check out Physical Education Lesson Plans.
You get 35 plans to help you keep active throughout the year. The phys ed plans cover a variety of activities broken down by sections: fundamental skills, early morning fitness, modified sports, athletics, dance, gymnastics, and indoor games.
Each phys ed lesson includes:
- Warm up ideas
- Skill practices
- Suitable year level/s
And each lesson comes on a separate card to make it easy to take with you no matter where you’re located!
Purchase, download, print and get moving! Get the details and your phys ed lesson plans here.