Get Kids Out of Their Seats!
It may seem counter-intuitive to some, but keeping students in their seats is not always the best way to get them to pay attention.
Giving students the chance to get up and move around increases their engagement, provides opportunities for them to interact, and gets their blood pumping and their brain cells firing!
Moving can also help make what they are learning easier to remember. My second year teaching, a student’s mom described how her daughter learned her multiplication facts by putting flash cards and walking up and down the stairs, answering the multiplication problem on each card as she moved from step to step. I tried variations of this with my students over the years, and it always impressed me how much easier it was for some students to focus and remember when they were moving.
Mid-afternoon slump? Have kids stand up and stretch. Even a small dose of physical activity can help reset their attention and refocus their attention on the lesson.
Here are five of my favorite strategies for getting kids out of their seats and into the concepts I wanted them to learn:
One of my all-time favorite strategies. It’s easily adaptable to the content and age group; I’ve used is successfully with both elementary kids and adults. I also love that it can be done at the spur of the moment, with no prep other than having sticky notes on hand.
Materials Needed: sticky notes, blank space on the wall or board
- Give each participant a stack of sticky notes (maybe 5-10, depending on the question being asked).
- Ask a question related to the content. The best questions are those that have multiple correct answers or that involve opinion.
- What do you think will happen when we mix these two things together?
- Which character in the story had to make the hardest decision?
- Which battle during the Civil War was most important?
- What would be your first step to solve this problem?
- Have students write ONE ANSWER PER STICKY NOTE
- Next, students stick their notes on the wall or board. You may want to have them spread around the room in small groups to ensure that everyone participates in the discussions.
- Have the students arrange their groups’ sticky notes by like answers. They might cluster the notes together that have the same answer or put them in a row to make a bar graph of responses. Answers that are unique can be placed on their own.
- Ask: Which response was most common? Why might this be a good answer? Are any of the less common answers better? Why/why not?
- You may choose to have students defend/explain their answers to each other. Give students the opportunity to change their answer if they can explain why (either following the discussion or possibly even days later after additional learning).
This is another one that promotes a lot of discussion among students. I kept the labels on my walls most of the school year so that I could use this activity any time there was a disagreement/debate/issue that I wanted every student to respond to.
Materials: Post signs that say: “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Disagree,” “Strongly Disagree”
Present students with a statement related to a concept or topic currently being studied
- Of the community helpers, policemen do the most important jobs for the community.
- George Washington was the most important U.S. President.
- The voting age should be changed to 16.
- Have students respond to the statement by moving and standing under the sign that represents their opinion
- Give the students 1-2 minutes to discuss with in their groups why they chose that place to stand
- Optional: Have students partner with someone from another side and try to persuade them to change their opinion
- Caution: This works best after some learning has already taken place around the concepts, possibly during the middle or at the end of a unit. Listen for students who are using inaccurate information to defend their ideas.
- Small groups for an activity can be formed by having the students work with the others who chose the same side or by taking one person from each side to create groups of four with differing viewpoints.
I first saw this one at work in my neighboring teacher’s classroom. She used is daily. It worked for any subject.
Basically, the idea is to make it easier to students to talk in small groups without too much excess noise and with the added benefit of standing up! This works especially well for students already working in small groups, especially if they are sitting at a table or cluster of desks together
- Present a question to the class. Announce “Heads Together!”
- Students stand up and lean in toward the others in the small group – literally heads together!
- In their group, students discuss answers to the question
- After a minute or two, announce “Heads Apart!”
- Students end their discussion and sit back down.
- Follow up with whole group discussion and continue with the lesson.
These take some prep time up front, but if you set up the clocks at the beginning of the year or the beginning of each quarter/semester, then they can be used anytime without additional prep. Students can quickly be put into small groups to answer a question and then return to their seats, or to remain in the small groups for an activity.
Materials: Clock Template
- Make a copy of the clock for each student. The names of other students go at each hour mark around the clock so that asking students to find their “1 o’clock” partner puts the students in pairs, for example.
- Allow students to choose partners for some times on the clock, but decide some of the partners ahead of time so that you know, for example, that the 2 o’clock partners are students with similar skills in reading or that the 5 o’clock partners have similar interests.
- 1 o’clock: Partner of student’s choice
- 2 o’clock: Partner assigned by teacher – similar reading level
- 3 o’clock: Partner assigned by teacher – similar math level (or knowledge of subject matter, etc.)
- 4 o’clock: Groups of three assigned by teacher – similar interest
- 5 o’clock: Groups of three chosen by students
- And so forth..
This is a fairly common strategy, I think. I like that it allows students to cover a large amount of content in a limited time. I used it most in the content areas, like to get through a text book chapter for social studies.
Materials: Reading material divided into 3-5 sections
- Put students in small groups, ideally with the same number of kids in each group. One student is each group is assigned to cover one of the parts of the materials. The student’s job is to become the “expert” on their portion of the material so that they can then share what they’ve learned with the rest of their group.
- Students read their assigned material independently.
- Students meet with those from other groups that read the same material to discuss what was most important and what needs to be taught to their groups. (optional)
- Students meet with their small groups and to share what they’ve learned with each other. Follow with whole group discussion of the most important points.
What’s your favorite way to get kids moving in your classroom?