Easy Ways to Add Movement (aka raise blood flow) to your Deskbound Classes

Easy Ways to Add Movement (aka raise blood flow) to your Deskbound Classes

By: Kevin McCaughey & Think Tank Staff

Introduction by Movable Class advocate Kevin McCaughey. Read his article.

A few million years as hunter-gatherers have ensured that our bodies were designed for movement. Even if movement doesn’t help us think and learn better (which it very likely does), it’s much healthier than sitting around without a break. I’ve been involved in many workshops where teachers in Africa and Europe found great joy in getting active with English, even when it’s silly. (But those who don’t feel comfortable with “Simon Says” shouldn’t be forced to play.) The fact is, any activity—your favorite activity—can be re-thought and re-designed to incorporate standing or movement. The Think Tank activities below should give you inspiration.

– Kevin


(Blue entries have the highest recommendation)

  • Standing Pair Work: Have students stand up while they do pair or group work. Do it in your conference presentations too. (Curtis Kelly)
  • Walking pairwork: Create a walking circuit in the classroom and get the students to walk as they talk to each other. (Amanda Gillis-Furutaka)
  •  Leaning Interactions: Standing student pairs put toes together, hold each others’ arms and lean back as far as they can, while doing an interaction. (Marc Helgesen. See his site for more.)
  • No More Passing out: Don’t Pass out papers, quizzes, or worksheets and don’t walk around collecting them. Have students come to the front to get or turn in papers themselves. Easy peasy. (Curtis Kelly)
  • Dyadic Circles or Parallel lines: Students paired up in lines or inner-outer circles, where they do some verbal exchange. At the teacher’s signal, everyone in one line of circle moves one partner to the right and they do the interaction again. Superior for language learning too. (Author unknown)
  • Ball throw: Learners stand in a circle. One, holding a ball, asks or says something. That learner tosses the ball to someone else who follows suit. (time-honored technique)
  • Multiple Choice Corners. Instead of circling their preferred option, students go to a corner of the room. Corners designated A, B, C and D. Can be done with True-False too. (longstanding technique)
  • Circle Greet. Students stand in a circle. Teacher tells them to turn to the person to their right and greet them in English. Chaos ensues. (Stephen M. Ryan)
  • Roll Call Wall: Put the attendance sheet on the wall and, midway through the lesson, have learners go to it to sign in. (Kevin McCaughey)
  • Stretch Breaks: Between activities, especially before and after tests, have everyone stand up and stretch arms, legs, back, and shoulders. Teacher too! 1 or 2 minutes will do it, and I set a timer. (Julia Daley)
  • Online on Your Feet In these days when students are sitting through online classes all day, advise them to make a standing computer option for bonus points. (Tim Murphey)
  • Online Stand Up, Sit Down: A lot of the questions we ask the entire class can be done as a stand up, sit down fashion. “Everyone stand up. If you couldn’t get number 5, sit down.” Works in traditional class settings, but especially useful in online classes. (Curtis Kelly)


  • Find someone who: Students walk around, asking questions to find one person that fits one criterion in a list “Find someone who a) was born in October, b) has two sisters, c) got a haircut this month, d) who likes dogs more than cats, etc. (Marc Helgesen)
  • Unscrambled Sentences: Give each student a card with a word to a sentence on it. They look over and discuss what word each has so they can line up in the same order as the sentence. The sentence should have only one word-order. (Author unknown)
  • Mover-Imitator Game: The mover starts repeating some action, like jumping up and down. The imitator does the same action for a while and then crosses arms in front of chest. The pair switch roles. About 2 minutes of this is enough to get hearts pounding. (Marc Helgesen)
  • Survey: Students stand up and move about to ask other students survey questions. (traditional activity)
  • Poster Session: Can be used for any kind of report, famous person, great city, favorite recipe, school club, and so. (traditional activity)
  • Vocab Stabs: Push all the chairs to the back of the room and stand in three lines facing the whiteboard. Write about 20 words on the board and give students marker pens. I then simply call a word and they need to run to the board and be the first to circle it if it is there. I enjoy teasing them by saying words that almost sound like the words on the board. (Simon Humphries)
  • TPR (Total Physical Response): Teacher tells learner to do something physically and they do it. “Go to the window and open it.” Great for kids. (James Asher)
  • Scavenger and Hidden Treasure Hunts Learners give a list of TPR instructions that lead to a hidden treasure. “Take 20 steps. Turn right. Find a yellow sign…”. (great for kids) (Skye Playsted and Curtis Kelly)
  • Wall dictation. Teacher puts a text on a distant classroom wall. Students in pairs: one runs to the wall, reads the text, runs back, dictates; the other writes, asks for clarification. (Mario Rinvolucri)
  • Find the Thing. Announce that you have lost some small item: an eraser, an almond, an earring. Students all rise from their desks and search for the thing, with the winner receiving an award. (Kevin McCaughey)

Kevin McCaughey is a Regional English Language Officer with the U.S. Department of State, currently with the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia. Kevin comes from California. In his spare time he records his own music–including an upcoming collection of movement songs.

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