Sunday / June 4

3 Brain-Friendly Movement Strategies to Try Today

Using movement in various learning contexts is a dynamic, brain-based way to engage and motivate students, differentiate instruction, create implicit learning opportunities, and enhance classroom management at all grade levels and in all content areas. It has been shown to positively impact academic achievement, student behavior, and the learning environment itself.  In Ready, Set, Go! we proposed a framework consisting of preparing the brain to learn, using brain breaks, supporting exercise and fitness, creating class cohesion, reviewing content, and teaching content. The framework is flexible, and in the hands of each individual teacher becomes a way to maximize student engagement.

The following are three high impact strategies from the framework that provide brain breaks, create class cohesion, and review content. With some modification, these strategies can be used in most classrooms across content areas.

Finger Snatch

Finger Snatch should be used when students have been seated for a prolonged time and need a quick, impactful break from learning and sitting. Students should stand facing a partner. Each student puts their right hand out in front of them (palms up facing the ceiling) and puts their left pointer finger in the palm of their partner. When the teacher yells “go” each person simultaneously tries to grab their partner’s pointer finger and pull their own pointer finger out of the palm of the other person. Try it out several times with your class. Variations include standing in a group circle with palms out to the right and pointer fingers in the palm of the student to the left; and in a circle with right palms crossing the body and left pointer fingers crossing the body in the palm to the right. This break will provide laughter, fun, blood flow, and a brief cortisol burst – all good for returning to learning with increased attention, engagement and motivation.

Balloon Tap

Balloon Tap can be used to create community, teamwork, and communication. Equal team members (6 to 12) should form a circle and take hands. The teacher throws a balloon into each circle. Teams must stay linked together while making the balloon stay in the air. Team members can use any part of their body to keep the balloon up. After each team is given a few minutes to practice with the one balloon, one or two more balloons can be added to each circle.  If a balloon starts to drift away from a team, the entire team must stay linked together as they all move to get the balloon and keep it popping. This activity should be timed at the teacher’s discretion. It’s also a great discussion starter before group cooperative learning strategies are implemented.

The Trade Review

The Trade Review is a physically active silent review game. Students should sit in chairs in a circle with a writing utensil in hand. Each student will be given a blank chart that contains 20 square blocks numbered 1 through 20. Content review questions, listed one question per one index card, should also be handed to each student facing down. There will be a numbered question that corresponds with each numbered block on the blank grid. At the signal, participants will turn their card over, read the question and write the answer in the appropriately numbered square. For example, if the card is labeled #1, the answer should  be written in the grid’s box #1. If the answer is unknown, the student will leave it blank.  Upon finishing a question, students move to the center of the circle to exchange questions with another student. Student cannot look at the new question until they are at their seat and fully seated. Once the student sits back in their chair, they can check to see if they know the answer to the new question. If it’s a question they’ve already had, they must get back up to make a new trade. The game progresses until time is called.

The goal is for students to get as many answers as possible before the end of the game. The game’s length is up to the teacher’s discretion. As noted, this is a silent activity. Anyone talking will be placed in the penalty box for a twenty-second time-out. If a student receives a second penalty, the time-out will be increased by ten seconds. At the conclusion of the game, the instructor can have students check their own sheets or exchange sheets with a partner.

Physical activity is critical to engaging and motivating classrooms. It is not a matter of “when” but “how” and the ideas are limitless. Remember: “Learning doesn’t happen from the neck up; it happens from the feet up.”

Kuczala, M., & Lengel, T. (2010). The Kinesthetic Classroom: Teaching and Learning through Movement, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin

Kuczala, M., & Lengel, T. (2017). Ready, Set, Go, The Kinesthetic Classroom 2.0!, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin

Written by

Mike Kuczala is a bestselling author, Director of Instruction for an educational consulting firm, and adjunct professor of graduate education for The College of New Jersey. He regularly delivers keynote addresses and professional development across the United States on topics related to best instructional practice in the classroom.

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