How Can I Incorporate Physical Activity into Student-Centered Learning Module 3 Unit 2 Activity

What student-centered approaches or techniques include physical movement as a central element?

I examined and created a wiki page on  this topic by myself for a student-centered teaching collaboration project.

When you think of students at school, what do you think of?

Got it? Did you conjure up desks in your mind? What about chairs?

Most people imagine students sitting studiously at their desks frantically taking notes while listening to a lecture… but is this really in our students’ best interests?

One really important component of student-centered learning is incorporating movement into our lessons. Why, you might ask?

Well, there are a couple of reasons:

1. Some students learn best with kinesthetic methods of instructions. If you eliminate movement from your English classroom for example, when are they ever getting their needs met?

                                                                                                                    (TEDx Talks, 2015)

2. For learning purposes, it’s better to have multiple modes of instructions at once. This way our neurons are able to form multiple connections to a concept (Kelly, 2012)

  • For instance if you hear about a concept using auditory, visual, and kinesthetic methods, that’s at  least three different connection to one concept that will make recall of the concept much easier because you have multiple connections that can trigger recall.

3. Your memory better encodes and separates memories when there’s a physical location change.  So, if you have a 40 minute lecture, you should change locations every 20 minutes to both re-focus students and to allow better memory encoding which lets the students` learn more (Kelly, 2012).

  • This isn’t always possible. For instance during a standardized test, you are allowed quick breaks but no location change. So students’ should practice sitting in one location periodically, but if a concept is particularly hard or broad, your students might benefit from changing location since this should allow better memory formation/recall.

But what are some examples of movement activities in the classroom?

Every classroom is different, but I’m going to provide you with some strategies that will hopefully help your class.

First, let’s focus on the challenges for different learners. Preschool-Elementary learners should move a lot. These learners because of their developmental age have less self-control; and therefore, they need to be refocused in various ways throughout the school day. An easy way of doing that is to incorporate movement and fun activities into their daily routine (Davies, 2017).

But what about middle school and high school learners? 

With the more intensive curriculum and the pressure being much higher in middle school and high school. It’s no wonder many teachers axe movement activities from their curriculum. There’s just no time. Or…is there?

Let’s discuss some awesome movement activities below.

1. You can have students create things with their bodies like phonics letters or shapes (Staff, 2017). 

  Example activity: Learning your shapes!

  1.  First, you introduce the concept of shapes to students making sure to discuss each shape name and what it looks like.
  2. Second, model how you can create a shape or phonics letter with your body using volunteers from the classroom.
  3.  Provide students a picture reference and ask them to create a shape like a triangle or a letter like c. Make sure the first shape created is easy, so they don’t get frustrated. This provides them an opportunity to collaborate with one another.
  4. Bonus: You can snap a picture of them creating the shape or letter and then post it on your wall. They’ll have so much fun looking at the shapes they created with their bodies. And because most of us are ego-centric, they’ll want to look at the shapes because they’re in them. This might even motivate some of your reluctant learners.

*** If you teach really young learners like (1-3 years old), I would recommend using tape to sketch out the outline of the shape or phonics letter. Because of their developmental age, some of these students won`t be able to imagine making a shape and will get quickly frustrated resulting in a general divide in understanding throughout the class. Don`t let them get frustrated, think ahead. 

Bonus Round Activity: For middle school and high school, you can still take the opportunity to model things with your body. For instance, population density can be modeled by having the students get super close to each other, and then they move apart to indicate a shift from a densely populated area to a more rural area.

2. Students can sculpt with modelling clay or write problems on the whiteboard (Staff, 2017)

  • This activity provides an interesting movement challenge to what could be a boring rote memorization task like learning your times tables. Plus, it’s fun, and we learn more when having fun.
  • Many students who might be frustrated by math or spelling exercises actually become motivated because the physical task of modeling something from clay or writing from a white board is exciting to them.
  •  High school and middle school learners can use these whiteboards to do investigation tasks, where they’re given a question and the data to solve it such as a math word problem. They work together practicing collaboration a valuable skill in the student-centered environment before presenting their work to the room.

3. Use tools like a child tunnel or bounce and catch ball games to give students a quick physical reward for answering a question (Shawley, 2014).

  •   Sometimes, you need to quiz your students. Using an activity with a kinesthetic reward will help keep them from building up too much energy and becoming restless. Restlessness is the downfall of many a young learner particularly male learners who learn better when movement is incorporated anyway.
  • This type of activity is also quick and requires little explanation. There’s just not always enough time to do certain really cool kinesthetic activities. But adding just a little bit of movement might motivate some of your more reluctant learners

4. Using learning stations

  •  Learning stations involve changing location and are therefore an easy way to re-focus student’s lack attention (McKee, 2017)/
  •   Also, you can use different modes of learning from one station to the next. For example:
    •  The first station has you read a short passage and write down your thoughts.
    • At the second station, you listen to a recording of the passage and write down your thoughts.
    •  At the third station, practice underling and highlighting different words and what you know and don’t know
      • Each of these stations provides a unique experience plus the student is moving during this time, so there is a kinesthetic component to this.
      • The stations can also relieve issues with boredom due to necessary rote-memorization practice like division problems or spelling practice.
      •  Also, learners that might not learn well at one station about a concept might learn better at another station because the concept is the same but the mode they’re receiving the information in is different.
        • For example, some students do better when given auditory instruction but others do better with visuals and still others do better by simulating the process. Learning stations involve movement also simultaneously allow you to teach to many different types of learners.


(Stock, 2011)


Bonus Activity: You can use this same activity with high school learners. These aren`t age specific techniques after all. A really interesting amendation for this lesson is having them scan QR codes to access new activities digitally like programs that model what they`re studying (climate change for example) as well as videos or interactive info-grams. Not only are they learning more, but they`re also learning about technology and how to use it- a necessary skill for the future (McKee, 2017). 


5. North and South Pole (Mckee, 2017)

  •  This is actually a quick movement assessment task. The students get to move for a second, but you learn something  important. An example would be:

1. You ask your students, “Do you think you understood this poem?”

2. Students move to the North Pole if they did.

3. Students move to the South Pole if they didn`t.

  •  This activity lets you know whether you might need to review the activity in a different way to ensure understanding perhaps setting clearer goals for understanding the passage
  • And/or you learn who might struggle with the new task that will build on their analysis of the poem. Since you know what learners will probably struggle, you can make sure your next lesson uses some methods of instruction that will help clarify/ motivate them to participate in something that they feel rather unconfident in.

*** Caveat: Some students will think they understand the poem, but they actually have the wrong idea about it. That`s okay, but it will quickly become apparent during the next activity whether this is the case. 

6. Take a brain break! 

After explaining a new concept or vocabulary to your students, you can set up a brain break

  • For a brain break, you can use an activity like dancing to music or throwing a ball for a set amount of time like 2 minutes. When you stop the activity, you ask a quick question. After the question is answered, the activity resumes.
  • Do this again about 3-4 more times. After 4 times, it`s advisable to end the activity. Students begin to lose focus after about 3-4 repetitions (Davies, 2017).

Bonus Round Activity: Instead of you quizzing the students, you can have them talk or debate with each other about a question- letting them build their ideas off one another via collaboration (McKee, 2017). 

These are just some of many movement strategies you can use to create a student-centered learning atmosphere in your classroom. To learn about other strategies to promote student-centered learning, click the link Student-Centered Learning.


Davies, Leah M. (2017) 20 Movement activities and games for elementary classrooms. Retrieved from

Griss, Susan. (2013) The power of movement in teaching and learning. Retrieved from

Kelly, J. (2012) Learning theories. Retrieved from

McKee, K. (2017, July 23). Five movement strategies in the high school classroom. Retrieved September 25, 2017 from

Shawley, Jessica. (2014) Increasing differentiation & choice in physical education. Retrieved September 24, 2014 from

Staff, T. (2015, November 05). 5 Movement strategies that get students thinking. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from

Stock, Jeremy. (2011, April 17). Stations (kinesthetic learning) – A real class example. Retrieved February 13, 2018 from

TEDx Talks. (2015, April 22)The Kinesthetic Classroom: Teaching and Learning through Movement | Michael Kuczala | TEDxAshburn. Retrieved February 13, 2018 from


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