Using Physical Movement Games to Teach Abstract Concepts

Using movement games to teach concepts is fun and beneficial physically and cognitively.

Here’s an example:

In third grade science students learn about solids, liquids and gases. Using water as an example, most kids can visualize water as a liquid, ice as a solid and steam as a gas. The next concepts of particles moving slightly inside of solids, even more in liquids as particles slide past one another and having great movement within gases is more difficult to comprehend. These particles are sight unseen. Here is a movement game that can help students “feel” these concepts with their whole body.

Solids, Liquids & Gas Particle Movement Game

Model:

To represent the particles moving inside of a solid, stand with feet planted together, arms tightly by your side and simply move your head slightly & slowly, perhaps rolling your eyes as if you are just about stuck. Share that “I am a particle inside of a solid. We are packed so tightly together that I can hardly move.”

To represent the particles moving inside of liquids, relax your arms and slowly slide around learners. Explain that “I am a particle inside of a liquid. I can move around a bit more than a particle inside of a solid. I can slide past other particles.”

To represent a particle inside a gas, move around at will pretending to bump into and bounce off of a surface every now and then. Repeat to learners “I am a particle inside of a gas like helium inside of a balloon. We are not packed together tightly and so I can move quite a bit. I do bump into surfaces like the inside of the balloon and it can send me bouncing.”

Once you have demonstrated these movement concepts to learners, you play a game modeled after Red Light, Green Light. Randomly call out “solids,” “liquids” or “gases” and let kids pretend to be the particles inside of each form of matter.

When learners use their whole body they can more easily conceptualize and remember ideas. I once observed a student who had played this game “sliding” his feet under the desk as he answered a test question about the movement of particles inside of a liquid.

This is just one specific example of using movement to teach abstract concepts. You can easily create unique movement games for a variety of concepts from any subject by modeling them after games kids already know and love like Red light, green light, Tag, or Simon Says at home or in the classroom.

Using movement games to teach meets the “I need to get out of this desk!” need that challenges children. Everybody wins with movement games that can increase activity, improve memory and make learning fun.

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