Promoting Movement in the Secondary Classroom

Make your class more engaging by using strategies that require students to move around. They will LOVE it! #teachingstrategies #secondaryela #activelearning #teachingbestpractice #movement #middleschool #middleschoolelaOur new middle school ELA chairperson was clearly not familiar with middle grade kids.

"They certainly are...wiggly... aren't they?"

Then his eyes widened in mock horror as he leaned over to whisper, "And they pass quite a lot of gas."

Yep. My middle schoolers are wiggly and stinky.

And ornery. And sweet.

Simultaneously. Which is why I love them. 💓

There are plenty of days when we have to teach kids self-control. So I try to let them work out their "wiggles" by incorporate movement when possible. It can be very simple.

While I wish these methods would fix our middle school flatulence problems, I can't make that promise. You're on your own with the gas. ;)

Easy and Quick Ways to Incorporate Movement

Rotating Trios

This method can be used in any subject area. It's an easy way for kids to move a bit and exchange ideas with others. 

1. Start by composing a variety of questions about a current, recent, or future topic of study. Use questions that don't have a right or wrong answer. 
  • Which historical figure deserves his or her own national holiday? Why?
  • Why do young people enjoy dystopian literature?
  • Should students choose between art and music education, or should both be required?
2. Divide students into groups of three and arrange the trios in a circle. Ask the trios to assign a number of 1, 2, or 3 to each member.

3. Have each group answer the same question. Suggest that each member takes turns answering. 

4. After a few minutes, tell the groups that all #3 students will stay where they are. First, all #1 students will rotate one trio clockwise. When they have finished moving, all #2s will rotate two trios clockwise. 

5. Now that you have all new groups, you can introduce a new question, or have the new group discuss the same question.

Random Switching

Sometimes, we'll be writing on our Chromebooks or taking guided notes and I'll notice a little squirming. So I'll ask for some random seat-switching. I'll ask all kids with an "a" in their first name to switch seats. Or all kids with summer birthdays; any random reason will do. 

The kids enjoy it because it gives them a chance to move and it gives them a new physical environment. It also gives the entire class some fresh perspectives when we do a Turn & Talk or a Think, Pair, Share.

Fun Review Games

Figurative Language Review Game for middle schoolers. Add movement to your figurative language review as kids play a game that matches specific moves to figurative language. Perfect for a sub day! #middleschool #figurativelanguagegame #figurativelanguage #literarydevicereview #middleschoollesson #middleschoolelaFigure It Out! is a fun figurative language review game that only requires me to turn on the PowerPoint slideshow. 

All I have to do after that is watch the kids play. 

Imagine! It doesn't get better than that! The kids are engrossed and moving. And I'm just watching! Heaven.

Watching actually gives me a very good idea as to how much they know about figurative language. So it's a win-win.

After a few slides reviewing figurative devices such as metaphor, simile, hyperbole, and personification, the game begins. Kids have to read a sentence that may or may not include a figurative device. To identify the device, they have to perform a movement. For example, to identify personification, they have to dance. For a metaphor, they have to jog in place. 

Kids love this because it's so much fun to get a little silly. I love the game because the figurative language review is disguised as silliness. 

Who can't use a little silly in their life? 

Engage students by adding a little movement during the lesson. Escape room, like this plot elements breakout, are a perfect way to get kids to buy in to a lesson. And the team building aspect can't be beat! #middleschool #escaperoom #breakout #plotescaperoom #teachliteraryelements #teachplot #plotelements #middleschoolbestpractice Movement Ideas that Require a Little More Planning

Escape Rooms

I've written about how to create escape rooms here. And I wrote about the benefits here.

Are you thinking I'm a huge fan?

If so, you would be correct! 

I really cannot say enough good things about them. Not only do they encourage movement, but they also allow for team-building growth, speaking and listening skills, and so much more.

Station Work

If your students think they don't like writing poetry, you've never tried using poetry template stations! My middle school kids love moving around the room and trying different poetry methods. #poems #writing #stations #poetrylessons #movement #writinglesson #middleschool #poetrytemplates #middleschoolelaStation work is easy to set up and requires movement throughout the period if set up properly.

Arrange "tables" and set up each one for a different purpose. Each station can be for a different question, or each station can be set up for a different task related to the topic or lesson. Students move from one station to the next, completing different but related tasks at each one.

I love to use stations on days when I know that my kids will have a tough time staying calm. Because they have specific tasks at each station, they remain focused. But they don't have time to get bored, because they move on to another station before that happens. 

I chose to use poetry stations when I was being observed after several days of state testing. I knew that it was going to be a tough day for the kids to get through, so the stations worked out beautifully. I wrote about it here.

More Ideas!


  1. I, too, love stations. I am definitely going to try the rotating trios. Thanks for the suggestion.


  2. Thanks for the awesome ideas--I especially love the idea of random seat changing. What a clever way to keep them on their toes!

  3. Thanks for these ideas! I love the trios. :)

  4. I really like the the trios idea - I think I may have to try that one out very soon!

  5. I love your idea about questions that don't have a right or wrong answer, and the seat changing with randomness is great. Thanks for the ideas!

  6. I love the random switching idea! Thank you for all the wonderful ideas!