Adding movement to science lessons could be the key to unlocking student engagement and performance.
Using movement to enhance student learning has been a big deal in education for years, and with good reason. Research shows that when teachers incorporate movement into their lessons, student interest and motivation increase (Vazou et al, 2012). There are also measurable improvements to content knowledge (Browning et al, 2014).
As a teacher, I can see when my students are losing mental stamina during a lesson. Their bodies start to wiggle, their feet swing under their chairs, or they might even start to engage in side-conversations. It is a clear sign that they need to get up and move.
Here are some easy ways to get students out of their seats and focused on their learning.
Ask students a question that has options for answers and assign each answer option to a specific body movement.
Discuss the answer options and body movements with students and tell them not to respond until you say GO. Example: Is an iron nail an electrical conductor or an insulator?
- Conductor: Pretend you are a traffic officer and use your hands to wave cars through an intersection.
- Insulator: With fisted hands, repeatedly cross and uncross your arms in front of your face, making an X.
In addition to giving students a chance to engage their body and mind muscles, this strategy also provides you with an opportunity to formatively assess the entire group in a way that is low risk for the students.
Scoot (Solve the Room)— with a twist!
This strategy has a lot of different names, but the basic idea is that you post individual questions around the room for students to answer as they move around the classroom. My recommendation is that you post the questions on the wall instead of putting them on desks.
My favorite place to do this activity is in the hallway. Students get so excited about working in a different environment. Post the questions up high enough that it would be inconvenient to sit down because then they wouldn’t be able to the the question anymore. By keeping the questions in one hallway, you can keep an eye on all students while working with small groups to provide extra support.
Mingle and Discuss
Students love to talk, so why not use this to our advantage?! Provide each student with a Science Discussion Card and have the move around the classroom until you tell them to partner up. You can also play music and have student partner up when you stop the music. Be sure to set behavior expectations so that students are not only partnering with their friends. To mix up the conversations, have students trade cards after they have finished their discussions.
Use this activity when you have a few extra minutes of time or for an extended block of time during a unit review. Here are a few Science Discussion Card sets that we have available. They are easy to prep and can be used in a variety of ways to get your students up and moving. Use this link to see them all.
Body Modeling — perfect for adding movement to science lessons!
This is a student favorite! Actually, it is probably my favorite as well. Students use their bodies to model a scientific concept.
We have done them for lots of concepts, including:
- creating circuits
- moving electrons
- states of matter
- traveling sound energy
- energy flow in food webs
- rotation and revolution
- Sun, Earth, and Moon relationships
- Sunrise and sunset
Check back here often! We will be adding blog posts that detail these body modeling activities.
In science, models are fantastic supports for helping students to ‘see’ concepts that are otherwise hard to understand. When having students model concepts, it is important that each student has a part to play because they need to DO in order to LEARN.
Do you have any favorite strategies for incorporating movement into your science lessons? I would love to here them and perhaps add them to this list. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Instagram @twoteachingtaylors.
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.
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.