7 ways of getting students moving in your lessons

moving around classPuppies have boundless energy, as any dog-owner will tell you. Puppies who are under-exercised will use anything to help them release their pent up energy. Doors, chair legs, mobile phones, socks, skirting boards, carpets, curtains – all are objects which can be destroyed in the interest of  giving them something active to do. They need to be taken exercised regularly or they will vent their frustration in a less positive way. By the time they are older dogs they will be content to sleep for longer and longer times, and the need to move becomes less and less urgent.

In our classes we are still dealing, effectively, with puppies. So we force them to sit still at our peril. Choosing a task which involves controlled movement is a healthy thing for your students and your lesson. I’m not advocating letting students wander around classrooms at their leisure, but in the interest of working with a young person’s instincts rather than against them, including the opportunity for movement is helpful and can reinvigorate students within your lesson.

1. Reporters / Spies: Groups work on the same task. They have roles – perhaps scribe, presenter, reporter, researcher. The researcher looks things up in the book / on the internet etc; the scribe makes the work look attractive and clear while the others make contributions. Then the reporters will visit each of the other groups and they choose one idea from somewhere else that their group haven’t thought of. They bring that back to the group and tell the others. The scribe adds that new idea. Then the work is put up on the walls and the presenters remain to explain their thought processes and answer any questions, while the others all look at all the other work. This helps individuals play to their strengths and makes for a nice, buzzy atmosphere.

2. Survey:  We use this a lot in MFL, as it enables student to practise asking and answering the same question and thereby help them to learn vocabulary and structures, but it can be used in different contexts, wherever a student can usefully choose from a range of given options. In this way, students can become more aware that there is more than one shade of thought. Inviting students to choose what they believe is the most important factor in a history or geography lesson, or what their opinion is in PSHE or English. This allows students to circulate in a controlled way and gather data. Then they can resume their seats and make bar charts – cross curricular Maths!

3. Speed dating: This is useful in practising or rehearsing any knowledge. Opinions or facts or other responses to a question are prepared. Every student has a list of questions and their own responses. They are organised facing another student. They can be named something like “window side” and “door side”. They will ask and answer questions for a very short time, just long enough to complete the conversation, then all the window side will move one position and talk to the next person. The next lesson in which you use this technique the other side gets to move.

4. Circles within circles: As speed dating but for smaller class. The class is arranged in two concentric circles, who move in different directions until they are called to stop, when they talk to the person facing them. A larger class might have two pairs of circles. Can be done to music if you have the relationship with the class which will enable you to get away with it!

5. Yes / No walls: Ask a closed question and direct students to choose the Yes side or the No side. Add information and see what changes their mind. Or ask students on one side to introduce extra information or persuasion to try and get those on the other side to cross the floor. Excellent for building persuasive vocabulary and structures.

6. Different tables – different questions: Linked but different questions are written large on A3 or flip chart paper. Every student has to go around the room and answer each question on the paper. The papers are stuck to the walls and everyone goes around to read all the shades of opinion, and then return to their places for a whole class discussion of the questions. Excellent for getting students to consider other points of view and therefore develop their own responses.

7. Arrange yourselves on the spectrum: Name two different points of the classroom as extremes of a point of view. Read a statement and ask students to place themselves on the spectrum. When they are arranged, ask them to talk to people either side of them to ensure they are in the right place. They have another chance to move.Then ask individuals to justify why they are where they are, possibly referring to the individuals on either side of them. Excellent for getting students to focus on the smaller details of an issue.

The essence of all these exercises is that they should be crisply delivered, with very specific time limits, which shouldn’t allow for too much off-task behaviour. A countdown timer on the screen is a useful way of focusing students’ minds. And a teacher circulating and listening t discussions, ensuring that everyone is on task and swooping down to praise any really good contributions and note them on the positive side of the board keeps everybody on track.

When in doubt, keep these activities too short rather than letting them lose energy. There should always be purpose in the movement. When sending them back to their places, if necessary warn them that you are going to count down from 10 or 5 or 3, and that everybody needs to be back in their place by the time you get to zero.




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