If you’ve ever sat through a long extended faculty meeting or a 100 slide PowerPoint presentation, you know that passive learning can really be monotonous and coma-inducing. No matter the grade level I’ve taught, I’ve found that movement encourages students to connect and retain information, and it actually helps students to maintain their focus. Sure, having students move around the classroom can seem chaotic and loud, however, a quiet and still classroom can be deceiving. Really, we all need to move! Therefore, I’ve devised some strategies to get students up and moving. I’ve included five of my favorites below.
1. “Read and Rotate” new texts
Sometimes, I have my students read through a new piece of historical text. I might want them to learn some new information or dissect a particular historical event. I’ve found that students move at extremely different speeds if they work individually. A speedy student will finish in five minutes, while another student might require twenty or thirty. When I pair them with a partner, the first five minutes might be productive, and then their attention to the task might slowly wain as the minutes pass.
Therefore, I often employ a “read and rotate” policy. Students might read one section of a text with a partner, and then summarize that section of the text. Sometimes, we will review that section of a text as a class. Other times, I might check in each group or partner pairing to make sure that students are clear. Then, for the next section of the text, students will move to a new location. You can assign students a classmate to follow, and then tell them to rotate. This process means that students are out of their seat and moving, and they don’t have the same partner for the full class. You’ll find that students maintain their focus on the task much more easily – just by moving locations.
2. Have students spend the first five minutes of class working cooperatively.
When I have my students complete a bell ringer, I’ll often make the task interactive. I’ve found that students quickly grow tired of writing down a bell ringer
3. Take some large construction paper, and take up some questions around the classroom.
The questions might relate to a primary source, they might be argumentative and require students to take a stand, or they might be simple review questions that students answer on a worksheet for review. Maybe the task is self-paced, or maybe the students are timed. In any case, the students will be moving throughout the class period.
4. Stations, Stations, Stations…
I’ve you’ve been around my blog for any amount of time, you know about my professed love for station activities. With stations, students can be interacting with all types of historical materials and all types of questions. Students might be evaluating a certain historical event, collecting evidence from primary sources, or watching a video resource. I’ve created a series of comprehensive stations, however, they can be much simpler if desired. When my high school students start a new DBQ, I might post each of the documents around the room. Then, with each document they visit, the students might discuss a different historical skill.
5. Four Corners
This is a particularly nice way for student to break down a controversial issue without having a more formal debate. The teacher might present students with a topic, and then some general pointed statements regarding that topic. For example, if the topic was westward movement, I might have students look at the following statements.
- Moving westward represented progress.
- Those who claimed the land first were those who deserved the land the most.
- Some people had good reasons to move westward, and others didn’t.
- Taking land for the purpose of expansion is unjust.
This can work with almost any topic, however, students should have some familiarity with the issues and ideas.
Have corners of the room labeled with cards that state – fully agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree and fully disagree. Then, present each statement separately, and have students move to one of the four corners.
There are many options for you once students have reached those corners. They might discuss their opinion as a group, and then share collectively, or you might call on one of the students to share why they feel the way that they do. Maybe them might respond on paper, or they might have to have a conversation with a students who has landed in another location. There are many options and each one keeps students on their feet!
How have you increased movement around your classroom? Share your strategies in the comments below!