Using Classroom Themes to Promote Movement Across the Day!
– Written By Dr. Timothy Davis –
As we head into winter, I often see teachers dreading the long cold days when children may
have minimal opportunities to play outside. However, creative minds can keep a classroom
fresh and lively simply by transforming the classroom space with a theme. As a PE teacher, I
often utilize classroom themes in my lessons - not only to reinforce key STEM, math, and
reading concepts - but it keeps me connected to what my children are learning outside of my
classroom (the gymnasium).
Incorporating K-3 classroom themes into physical education can make the learning experience
more engaging and enjoyable for young children.
It can also provide an opportunity to turn an abstract concept into something more concrete for young learners to understand. Whether you teach young children or middle school aged children, themes are a great way to engage all learners no matter what their ability level. Below are fun thematic ideas that promote movement in schools.
Animal themes are definitely one of my favorites. Outdoors, I love to find and follow animal
tracks to discover what animals could have made them. But when stuck inside, It is fun to have children move creatively by mimicking their favorite animal. Creating animal movement stations where children mimic the movements of different animals is super fun! Create stations to jump like a kangaroo, crawl like a bear, or jump like a bunny (yes, bunny’s don’t hop - WHAT!? – they jump. Hopping is on one foot while jumping is on two). I have never witnessed a bunny hop on one foot! Use animal-themed footprints to create pathways in the hallway or in the gym! Dinosaur prints are cool too!
How cool is outer space! Space theme activities can simulate time and space travel. Have fun
watching your students moon walk or do space yoga using slow motion movements. Consider asking your students to move at the speed of light! Flashlight tag and freeze tag to light are always fun too! Add a rollout with a space theme or a map of the planets to encourage children to move around the “universe” in creative ways.
Under the Sea Theme:
Let’s go swimming, let’s go swimming … in the bottom of the ocean! How fun is the music by
Laurie Berkner when moving in the gym! Using the The Goldfish song or Under the Sea theme children can move like they are fish under the water or move their arms and bodies as if they were swimming. Students can even float on their backs and kick their legs (great core strength activity!). This is such a fun and creative theme. Consider using blue scarves as "waves"; for children to move and dance with too!
All kids love cars, trucks and road signs! Consider building an obstacle course that students
must “drive thru” using scooters! Add tunnels and cones to move in different directions (back,
forward, left and right) to keep the traffic moving! Have fun and create a traffic jam (e.g.
Strawberry – ha) and see if kids get it! I like using scooters to encourage children to move like
different modes of transportation (e.g., run like a train, fly like an airplane, dig like a dump truck, etc). So many fun ways that promote “transportation”!
Jungle or Safari Theme:
Create an obstacle course with jungle-themed challenges, like crawling under "vines" (limbo sticks) or jumping over "rivers"; (tape on the floor). Use stuffed animals or cutouts of jungle creatures as visual aids.
Design activities that encourage superhero movements, such as super jumps or power poses. I like using zig/zag patterns so students can show off their super-powers of moving from side to side or lateral movement. Or create a station where students have to leap as far as they can or jump to the top of a building (jump up onto different levels). Incorporating superhero-themed props such as capes or masks to enhance the imaginative play is fun too!
Shapes and Colors Theme:
Use a shape rollout or use colors to create shape-based movement activities (e.g., jumping to
different shapes or running to a specific colored markers). Play games that involve recognizing and moving to specific shapes or colors such as Copy Cat!
Remember to keep the activities age-appropriate, encourage creativity and imaginative play,
and ensure a positive and supportive environment. Learn what the themes are in the
classrooms and meet with the other teachers to share movement ideas! Even consider reading
a book during PE to promote movement e.g. Where the Wild Things Are (Max stomping with his
big feet! – a book by Maurice Sendak.
Integrating themes into physical education can enhance the learning experience for everyone!