Creative Movement Activities for All Ages

 

Introduction

Movement is essential to our body and our well being. Developmentally, infants and toddlers explore the world through movement before language is developed. All of us need to learn through movement but some people learn primarily through movement. These people are considered to be predominantly kinesthetic learners. Kinesthetic learners rely heavily on motor memory and body to enhance their learning. Up until 3rd grade students are heavily kinesthetic learners and are generally eager and uninhibited about trying movement activities. For adolescents, using a mask or a prop may make them less inhibited. Below is a list of activities that stimulate kinesthetic learning and may be useful to use in your classroom setting.

Chair Dance

Have your students sit in a chair where they have room to reach forward with their arms and legs without obstruction. Sit facing your class, or sit in a circle with them. Begin a series of slow, relaxed motions and ask the class to follow each motion. Flow smoothly from one motion to another; include arms, legs, feet and trunk. Include gentle stretches by reaching to touch the floor, or as far as you can up in the air: straight, diagonally or sideways. Include suggestions to breath deeply when reaching up, and exhale deeply when reaching down. This relaxation exercise stimulates the circulation, increases alertness, calms the mood in the room and prepares students for learning. This activity can take 5 minutes or less (one or two!).

  Name Ball Toss  

Have your students form a circle. Have 4or 5 medium sized, different colored foam balls ready, placed behind you in the circle. Begin by explaining that a ball will be tossed to one student who will catch it and then throw it to another student while saying the person’s name. That student will throw to a 3rd student etc. until everyone has caught and thrown the ball. The last student will throw the ball back to you. Repeat the ball toss, having the students throw to the same students in the same order, again saying the name of the person to receive the tossed ball (this time they need to remember the original order!). When you get the ball back tell them they will repeat the ball toss, same sequence but without saying the name of the recipient (who will have to anticipate it is coming to them without a verbal cue!). The next progression would be to add a second ball of a different color after the 1st ball has been passed to 4 or 5 students. There will be 2 balls moving around the circle in sequence at once.  To make it more challenging yet, add more balls as the students get better at tracking the balls. You end the activity by putting the balls away behind you when the ball reaches you at the end of a sequence, one at a time.

  Brain Gym

This is a specific activity set created by Paul E. Dennison. It is an “action oriented educational program for whole brain learning”.  Information on this program may be accessed at http://www.thebrainstore.com

  Name Line

Instruct your students to stand shoulder to shoulder in alphabetical order by first name without talking, and all facing the same direction. They can sign to each other but not “place” each other by leading someone to a spot. Tell them to do this as quickly as possible.

Letter Writing/Name Writing

Have students stand in a circle. Tell the students to use a part of their body to write a letter (i.e.: an elbow or knee or foot).

  Planes of Space  

Explain the planes of space to your students (horizontal, vertical, sagital). Have them write their names in the plane of their choice. Repeat having them use a different plane.

Name Stories  

Have each child tell a short “Pride” story about how they got their name.  This can be done in partners, small groups, or as a whole class. If the student does not own a story about his name, he can make one up. At the end of sharing the story the student will give a gesture that reflects his name. The group will come together in a circle and demonstrate the gesture one at a time going around the circle. Do this several times until the gestures flow into one another and a progressive “dance” is created.  The students can initially say their names with the gesture, and then it can be done silently.

  Gallery Dance

Have your students find a partner. Provide your students with colored crayons or Cray pas (each with one color). Tell them to draw their name gesture (see above) on a large sheet of paper such as butcher-block paper. They will do this with their partner who will be drawing their own name gesture at the same time on the same paper. They should fill up the space, and can repeat the gesture drawing as much as they want.  After 2-3 minutes ask them to stop, and to look at their product. Explain that they will work with their partner to create a moving sculpture or dance that depicts their drawing.  Then divide the class in half, keeping the pairs together. One half will be the audience while the other half performs their movement sculpture--all at the same time (they will need to be spread out!).  The audience half of the class will move in between the dancing sculptures in the “gallery” that has been created, and walk around to view from all angles the variety of performances. This can be tiring for the performers so limit the viewing time. The 1st and 2nd groups exchange performer/audience roles.

Up-Downs 

Ask the children to stand up if they relate to an activity, then sit back down. They remain sitting if they don’t relate to the named activity.  Example: Stand up if you like to ice skate.

Crepe Paper Dance

Have students pair up and hold onto 1 end of an 18” piece of crepe paper. Explain that they will move in relation to their partner by following how the crepe paper moves, that they must share the lead roll and they can’t change which hand they hold onto the crepe paper with. Use music to start/stop the activity. Music like “hoedown music” is suggested.

  Human Knots

Have a group of about 6 students stand in a circle holding hands. Have them make a “knot” by going under another person’s arms in the circle. They may not switch hands or break the handhold. They should continue making the knot until they can’t form any more knots, and then they should reverse the process and unknot. No talking allowed! It is fun to have music on during this activity.

Progression of Human Knots

Do the same activity as above but require that the students must always keep their feet in motion while they are doing the activity. No talking allowed!

Melt Downs

Have your students stand. Explain that you will count down from 10 to 0. They will time their bodies to let it  “melt” down to the floor in the allotted time. However they want to end up on the floor is fine. Then count up to 10 while they come to standing. They should take the full time allotted to achieve the final position. Then tell them they have 8 seconds to do the same thing, then 6 seconds, etc. until they have 2 seconds to get down and 2 seconds to get up.

Human Statues

Have the students work with a partner.  One partner should “mold” the person into a statue position representing a feeling. Switch roles. Join several Statues together to form a sculpture.

Create a Tactile/Sensory Environment

Instruct your students to create with their hands (by miming) an imaginary environment or home on all “levels of space” and in all 3 body planes. Have them invite someone in, and have that person explore the space also.  Remember, no talking!

Shape, Movement, Shape

Play some music. Instruct the students to walk around and create shapes with their bodies to the music. When the music stops, hold that shape as a sculpture.  Then try it with the students walking and forming shapes during silence, and holding the “sculpture” shape when the music plays.

Rhythm Clapping Dance 

Pair up students to learn the clapping part of this dance. Students will clap their hands together in a palm up, palm down fashion (i.e.: right hand held palm up in center of their body, left hand claps it palm down where it is). After the clap the student slides their hands apart maintaining the palm up, palm down position. They will “flip” their hands over so the right hand becomes palm down and the left becomes palm up.  The counts are as follows:

(Clap)   (slide hands open)   (clap)   (slide hands open)   (flip hands. over)

   1                2,3                    4              5,6                         7,8

 When the students have learned the clapping sequence add moving feet (by marking time).  Start with 2 kids working together, then form a group of four (small circle), then combine the groups of 4 and keep adding groups until everyone is in 1 large circle. When in the circle (either at 4 or beyond) you can have the students move sideways as they mark time, and add a “dip” as they flip their hand over and move sideways/forward.

Exploring the kinesthetic quality of stretch:  3 activities with 3 types of equipment.

1.     Rubber tubing (in a cloth cover) that forms a circle of about 5’ diameter when relaxed. Have the students hold the tubing with their hands gripped on top of the tubing. Have them all take a step backward; continue to step backward one step at a time until tubing is stretched as far as it will go. Have various small numbers of students around the circle move a step or two forward while the rest maintain the stretch, this will form different shapes. Have all students go back to the stretched circle.  Play a “name game” like: all the students wearing pink, or if your name starts with G let go of the tubing. Have all the students return to holding on. When it is at the maximum stretch have all of the students release the tubing at the same time (on the count of 3…) to see what will happen.  It will collapse back into itself; will not zap anyone. This is an exercise for trust building!

2.     Small diameter bungi cord, a loop of about 4’in length.

Have the students put the cord around their ankles and spread their legs apart too play Chinese jump rope. 

Form several small groups of 4-6 students. Ask them to form shapes with the bungi cord…a triangle, a square, an octagon. Have them work together to go from a 2 dimensional shape to a 3 dimensional shape.

3.     Make a Lycra tube from 7’ of 60” wide medium weight Lycra. The circle (or tube) is made with 1 seam of 3 zigzags holding the cut ends of the Lycra together. Have 8 people move to the inside of the Lycra tube circle. Try these exercises with them: ask them to lean as far back as they can into the Lycra. Then have them all walk sideways to their right while leaning back in the Lycra. Then have them “run” sideways while leaning back in the Lycra.  Warning: this is a strong vestibular sensation, like riding on a merry-go-round or a ride at a fair. If a child says he needs out, pay attention! Too much stimulation of this sort makes some people sick to the stomach, but most kids love it!

  Stick Dance

Have your students hold a piece of 4’ long, ½’’ doweling with both hands. Play music, have the students dance by moving the dowel in relation to their body  (body still, stick moves). Now have them move their body in relation to the dowel (body moves, stick stays still).

English Moor Sword Dance 

You will need 4’ long dowels that are 1/4-1/2 inch in diameter, one for each student. You will tie 1 scarf about 2 inches from the end of each dowel. 

Have students form a circle, then turn to their right so they are facing the back of a person ahead of them. They will start by holding the dowel in their right hand at their right hip, with the scarf dangling in front of them on the end of the dowel (they must space themselves appropriately). They will walk forward and move to a count of 8 beats as follows:

          8 steps forward starting with right foot, dowel at right hand hip

8 steps with dowel over right shoulder, tilted down toward the person behind-who   reaches up with their left hand to hold on for the last 4 counts.

4 counts switch dowel over head to left shoulder

4 counts move forward and diagonally in toward the center of the circle and point stick in so all sticks meet (waist height)

8 counts switch dowel to left hand, move out and forward again to full circle

6 counts tap stick on ground

 count 7 place both hands on stick

 count 8 bring stick back to start position (right hand, right hip).   Shout Hey!  Start sequence again

Remember to set firm rules about using the sick for it’s intended purpose prior to handing them out!

  Lycra  Sculptures

Equipment needed is 3 or 4 Lycra bags of various colors (bags can be made from 60” wide medium or lightweight lycra—so they are like a potato sack).

1.Students create poses inside the bag to create a colorful sculpture.

2. Start with one student crating a lycra sculpture, then add other lycra sculptures one at a time to the existing sculpture, making sure each sculpture touches another in at least one spot to create a large colorful sculpture.

Add -A -Person Sculpture

This is a progression from the Lycra Bag Sculptures above. 

Start with one student who begins with a movement, then poses. Students add to the sculpture one at a time until there are 5-6 participants who are touching in some way to connect the sculpture. Another set of 3-4 students will enter into the “negative space” created by the 1st sculpture. A second sculpture will be created by adding the 4 students 1 by 1 in the negative space, with these students connected to each other by touching in at least 1 spot. The 1st person from the 1st sculpture will then remove themselves from the sculpture and watch as 1 by 1 the students leave the sculpture in the order that they entered. This is a positive then negative shedding process.

Interpretation Sculpture 

Tell your students that they will be making an interpretive sculpture of a theme, and that you do not want a literal pose, but an interpretive pose.  The 1st person who starts a sculpture names an abstract topic or theme (like freedom). Have the 1st student form an abstract  pose to show their interpretation of the theme or topic ( if they are having difficulty with the concept of “abstract pose” you could give the example of: if freedom were the theme then of  posing like the statue of liberty would be a literal, not abstract pose). When one student has posed for 30 seconds (or whatever time is appropriate) the student will sit down and another will give their interpretation in sculpture form.  Remember—the form has meaning not your facial expression!

 

Another variation on the above Interpretive Sculpture is that no theme is named out loud. One person forms a sculpture and then others follow based on what they interpreted the theme to be. Then the group (class) says what they thought the theme was, and the 1st person tells what her/his idea actually was.    This is a diversity and group cooperation exercise and there is no right or wrong. It demonstrates diversity in interpretation.

  Pass the Rock Game  

This is a traditional movement game and song from the Akan people of Ghana. You can learn more about it from Let Your Voice Be Heard: songs from Ghana and Zimbabwe by Abraham Kobena Adzinyah et. al.  The children sit in a circle and pass a stone counterclockwise in a particular rhythmic pattern along the ground. It is a game of precision and accuracy in rhythm and motion. Start by having your students sit in a circle close enough to place their hand in front of their neighbor. Each student is given a stone. You should remind them to look carefully at their stone so they can identify it later.  Have the students practice the motions and rhythm without a rock initially. They will say and do these motions:  tap, tap, and pass: tap, tap, and pass: tap, tap, and pass. OR an easier one initially is: grab, pass, grab, pass, grab, pass OR:  grab, tap, pass; grab tap, pass.  When the rock is passed it should be place as far as possible in front of the neighbor it is passed to, and in the same place each time.  The words to the song are: O-boo asi me nsa na-na   O-boo asi me nsa   Oboo asi me nsa na-na  Oboo asi me nsa.  It sounds like: Oh- bwah see mee sah nah-nah.  The group can practice by passing only 1 rock  but every one does the rhythm motions until the rock comes to them, and then they pass the rock. When the students are comfortable with that then each will start with a rock and begin passing at the same time, so that everyone taps and passes (or grabs and passes) a rock at the same time. The game stops when the student gets his own rock back, or in the case of passing one rock, when it returns to the leader.

  These activities were adapted from Joi Gresham.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making an effort to increase student learning by integrating  movement will help children gain meaningful context to their lives.