When I was a student teacher, one of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to “keep the students moving”. It didn’t seem profound at the time, it’s served me well throughout the years.
As a teacher, I was always interested in adding as much movement as possible in my lessons. Not only for my kinesthetic learners, but also because it seemed like common sense. Kids like to move, therefore, we shall move! All of my lessons, transitions, and even my own mannerisms reflected this focus. I rarely stood in one spot, and my students rarely did either.
Incorporating movement into lessons is trickier than it seems. I learned early on that not just any movement will do. For example, if I told my students to “pat the beat on their legs”, they would pat for about eight beats before growing restless. It was my job to create movement that was both meaningful and fun.
- Borrow some medium-sized balls from your P.E. teacher and ask students to bounce the ball to the steady beat. You might try this with your older students first, as it takes a lot of hand-eye coordination!
- Ask students to keep a beat on their bodies, then tell them they have to change where they keep the beat each time you give the signal (try using a slide whistle). Hand the slide whistle or other instrument to a student volunteer once the class has the hang of it.
- Have students stand in a circle. Choose a volunteer to sit on a chair in the middle with their eyes closed. Tell them to keep a steady beat using their body, but their eyes must stay closed! Then, the person in the middle can change how they keep the beat. However, they can only do this after the class is following them accurately. I always use the analogy of popcorn popping to describe the sound that we don’t want to hear. Setting guidelines like this will prevent the student in the middle from changing their movements too quickly and will also help to develop listening skills. The rest of the class will be encouraged to find the beat quickly because they know they won’t be able to change movements until they’re on the beat!
- Gather several classroom instruments in front of you, such as a guiro, triangle, clave, and so on. Then, place a picture of a hand/foot/mouth/stomach in front of each instrument. Tell students that each time you play that instrument, they must keep the steady beat with the corresponding body part. Once they’ve grown comfortable with this, have them turn around so that they can’t see the instruments. Now they’ll have to change their movements based on the timbre of the instrument they hear. This activity combines timbre, movement, and improvisation.
- Take a cue from Christine over at Elementary Etudes and try using “beat buddies”. She details several different ways you can use stuffed animals in your classroom. Try searching Oriental Trading Company for cheap finger puppets and small stuffed animals. If you’re looking for an inexpensive DIY project, rhythm monsters can also double as beat buddies.
- Use these Free Movement Worksheets to help students practice all the different ways they can move!
Strong Beat/Weak Beat
- Place several large hula hoops randomly on your floor, enough so that all of your students are able to stand inside of them. Tell students to march around the room to the steady beat that you’ll be playing on a drum. When they hear the strong beat, one of their feet must be inside a hula hoop. For the weak beats, their feet should be outside of the hula hoops. If you stop drumming on a strong beat, they must quickly place both feet inside a hula hoop. If you stop drumming on a weak beat, they have to place both feet outside the hula hoop.
- As students become more comfortable, you can switch the drum out for a familiar piece of music or choose a student to play the drum. If you want to see how well your students understand the concept, you could try this activity with a new piece of music.