Engaging Strategies for Fidgety Learners

This post is part one of the Fundamental Four Series! This series was created to help teachers tackle the four essential components of a successful school year. 

Spending 7 hours sitting inside of a classroom can be exhausting for not only students, but teachers as well! We all have those BRILLIANT kiddos that just can not stay still for longer than 10 minutes. I mean, who can blame them? I'm sharing 10 activities & ideas for making instruction active, engaging, and meaningful. Let's just say, at the end of the school year when my kiddos are asked to write about their "Favorite Third Grade Memories", the majority of these activities are on their list.

Cocktail Discussion

Don't worry, there no alcohol required for this. ;) This was actually a great strategy I learned at a CRISS training (I've you've never taken one of these trainings, I highly recommend it! Tons of engaging ideas.) It is very similar to a think-pair-share but with an active twist. I usually use cocktail discussions at a beginning of a brand new lesson just to see what students already know about a specific topic. They are a great way of introducing weekly essential questions.

I write the essential question on the board and circle it. Example EQ: How can we help make the Earth better? The students copy it down in their notebooks and create a web around it. I then set a timer for 2-3 minutes. The students must walk around the room and form a group of 5-6 members. The groups are usually formed on each of the four corners in the classroom. If the students walk up to a group that has already exceeded the amount of members, they must quickly go and find another group. At their groups, they discuss the topic. Students record information discussed amongst members or any new ideas. After the 2-3 minutes are over and the buzzer goes off, the students must walk around the room and form a new group. (Yes, some of the old members might overlap and that's okay! As long as it's not the exact same group as before.) The students brainstorm new ideas with this group and share any ideas gathered from the previous group. This process can be repeated 3-4 times. 
The activity is concluded with a whole-class shared discussion.

Musical Chairs

My kiddos loved this activity and begged me to do it everyday! I use this as a review for 2-digit multiplication, but it can be used to review any kind of skill. Here's how it works: I place the review sheet or activity on each desk. Once the music starts, the students move around the room ---dancing, wiggling, doing the dab.... whatever makes them happy. Once the music stops, they have to find an empty desk, sit down, and solve the first problem. The music starts again, they repeat the process and solve the next problem. I didn't take away any chairs like the typical musical chairs because that would leave kids without an opportunity to solve any problems. 
This is perfect for multiplication & division drills!


Scoots around the room are a great way to get your students moving. The best part is that scoots can be done with any kind of task cards and/or that you may have handy! Simply place the cards around the room (make sure they are numbered) and give each student a response sheet. I pick two numbers at random from my popsicle stick bucket and that determines the buddies that will be working together on the scoot. Each pair starts at a different task card placed around the room. They move around the room answering each card until they have reached their starting point. This can also be done using a timer, but it can be a bit stressful for those students that work at a slower pace.

Want to make it a silent scoot?
 I challenge my kiddos to see who can be the QUIETEST, yet most collaborative group. I tell them they have to find a way to communicate with their partner without saying a word. 

 Click below to grab a FREE 3-Digit Subtraction with Regrouping Task Card Scoot!

Vocabulary Charades

Every Thursday I give a group of 3-4 students a vocabulary word. (I whisper it in their ear so no other group can hear it.) The students brainstorm a mini skit (30 seconds-1 minute) that will help the rest of the class guess what word they are acting out. The kiddos get so creative with this and even incorporate props from around the room! It's a great review right before Friday test days.

Review Jenga

Review Jenga is the perfect way to get students engaged in their learning. I use these jingo games during literacy and math centers. Students have to answer the questions on the corresponding cards in order to move the game piece.
Math Review Jenga Game

Learning "Hut"

St.Patrick's Day happened to land on the week right before state testing this school year.I knew that my students only had a week to prep for the test, but I also wanted them to enjoy the holiday! I set up themed centers to review each of the skills that would be on the test. I did this for math and reading.One of their favorite centers was the "Leprechaun Cave". All I did was hang a green tablecloth over my reading corner to create a little 'hut'. The students worked on elapsed time in there with a student teacher. (I would recommend supervision in that center since you can't really see what's going on inside.) They had so much fun they didn't even realize they were really prepping for the test!

Bucket Scoot

This is very similar to the room scoots, you would just be using little buckets. Place buckets around the room (You may even want to 'hide' them for some extra fun!) The students must pick up the question inside, answer it, and move on to the next bucket.

Interactive Anchor Chart

I'm sure we are all huge fans of graphic organizers. I use them all the time-- especially during reading instruction. However, they do get a little repetitive and sometimes it's nice to just change it up a bit. I grabbed two hula hoops and created a life-sized graphic organizer. I had the students read a passage and typed up different character traits on pieces of colored paper. The kiddos had to compare and contract the characters in order to determine where each trait belonged. 
Engaging Ideas and Tricks for Students

Take it Outside!

I love taking learning outside. It's a nice change of scenery and it gets kiddos moving. I grabbed some picnic tablecloths and baskets and took out math review outside. I simply cut up the review sheet into strips, placed them inside the baskets, and had groups of four work together to solve them. We then debriefed the answers as a group while we enjoyed some popsicles. 

Flashlight Fridays

Every Friday morning, kiddos are encouraged to bring a flash light to school and grab a book! On Fridays, we ditch morning work and just spend some time soaking up a good book! The thought of reading in the dark sparks immediate engagement. 

Kids will be kids! We surely can not expect them to stay sitting in a desk 8 hours a day without acting up or getting off-task. I know I sure can't! I hope these ideas can help you spice up your instruction and get your kiddos MOVING. 


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