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Emily Redding

Christiansburg High School

Movement is crucial to learning. We see “brain breaks” and increased recesses among elementary schools; however, what about the secondary classroom, specifically the math classroom? Often, math classrooms have historically been viewed as quiet, desk-sitting locations where students do math with paper and pencil. However, think about our “hardest-to-reach students.” These students come from a background of trauma, both emotionally and academically. These students enter secondary math classrooms often feeling defeated before the first day of classes. Therefore, movement is crucial to support our students who struggle by providing opportunities for them to release nervous energy and feel more comfortable in the classroom. This workshop was designed to encourage secondary teachers to intentionally use movement in the classroom through activities, fidget supports, and environmental modifications.

The “Movement in Secondary Math” Workshop was created for secondary math teachers who are interested in incorporating more movement into their classrooms. The workshop provided an introduction to movement in the classroom, an investigation into why movement is important, a discussion of how to set up movement in the classroom with supplies, and collaboration to discuss what movement can look like in each classroom, including both individual and group movement. Throughout the workshop, the presenter modeled a variety of classroom movement activities, and participants had opportunities to ask questions.

To begin the workshop, participants logged onto the workshop website, which contained the outline for the workshop, research, and Padlet links for collaboration. To make sure each participant had a voice and to better provide direction for the workshop, participants completed the first two sections of a K-W-L Activity, recording what they already knew about using movement in the classroom and what they wanted to learn. The comments in the “Know” section included: “movement keeps students engaged;” “stagnation is extinction;” and “helps students get out energy and focus on learning.” Participants’ comments in the “Want to Know” section included: “how do you make it happen and keep students on task;” “how to encourage high school students who prefer worksheets;” and “how to manage all the activity during teaching.”

Following the K-W-L activity and discussion, the participants engaged in the first of a variety of classroom movement activities, always followed by discussions on how to best implement each activity in the classroom. The first activity was a Number Line Introduction Activity. Numbers 0-9 were placed throughout the room, and questions were asked such as number of siblings, number of cups of coffee you drink in a day, on a scale from 0-9 your love of summer break, and scale of 0-9 your love of math. Participants learned how they could use this activity in their classrooms, using random questions to learn more about their students. For example, using strategic questions, such as “number of times you’ve moved,” can help the teacher better understand a student’s background.

Following the Number Line Introduction Activity, the “Why” movement section modeled another movement activity called Egg Hunt. Participants were put into small groups along with a number, and each group had to search for their corresponding number written on a plastic egg hidden somewhere in the room. Upon finding their egg, groups discovered research-based movements used in the classrooms. Each group discussed their research-based movement and then shared it with the whole group. Participants then wrote down how they use movement   in each of their classrooms. To encourage participation and movement, the participants joined in a game of Musical Chairs. Participants walked around the room with their paper, bouncing to music and mingling. When the music stopped, each participant would partner up and discuss what he or she had written down. After this activity, the whole group came back together to share what they learned. The participants already had a great foundation of movement ideas in the classroom, which provided a rich foundation for the workshop.

Next, participants transitioned into “How” to set up movement in the classroom. Upon entering the workshop, participants had opportunities to interact with a variety of fidget supports on the tables: homemade stress balls made from pool noodles, homemade sparkle bottles, sparkle balls, sequence pillows, building blocks, and kaleidoscopes. On the floors, participants could stand on balance boards for movement or place their feet on the balance boards while sitting. During the “How” to support movement section, they learned more about these individual fidgets and the classroom expectations for using them. The Padlet for this section was open to all participants, so participants could add their own sections, such as “stamps and stickers” and “cartoon band aids” that have worked for them in their classrooms.

To break up the sections in this session, a brain breaks of “Would You Rather” allowed the participants to move from wall to wall answering their “would you rather” question. Questions were both general (Would you rather teach the same math class all day or different preps?) and math-specific (Would you rather solve systems of equations with substitution or elimination?).

Following the brain break, the final section of the session focused on the “What” movement in the classroom can include, individually and as a group. Participants first discussed individual movement that may include fidget supports or flexible seating. The participants used a Padlet to contribute their own suggestions, such as flex tangles, circle balance boards, and beanie babies. For group movement, the participants discussed a variety of activities that were demonstrated in the workshop, along with additional activities such as trash ball, graphing on the floor, scavenger hunts, and in-school field trips to explore math on school property. Participants collaborated further in a shared Padlet, contributing ideas such as speed dating, puzzle rooms, and using sidewalk chalk to graph.

At the end of the workshop, participants completed an Exit Ticket, answering three questions on a 10-point scale, with 0 being “not helpful at all” to 10 being “extremely helpful.” For the question, if the workshop was helpful in giving reasons to why to incorporate movement, the response average was 9.7. To the question, was the session helpful in providing different ways to incorporate movement, the response average was 9.8. For the question, how helpful the presenter was in guiding the conversation of movement in the classroom the response average was 9.9. The Exit Ticket included a section for comments. The comments included: they liked how activities were modeled and then explained, how the workshop affirmed their current classroom practices, how to enforce movement rules appropriately, and how to use quiet fidgets effectively in the classroom.

The “Movement in Secondary Math” Workshop provided participants practical tools and guidelines for implementing movement, including the research that supports the importance of movement, strategies that enhance instruction by incorporating individual and group movement, and examples of movement in secondary math classrooms in Virginia.

Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics
PO Box 73593
Richmond, VA 23235 

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