Being Physically Active in Content Review

I am delighted that this week’s #slowchathealth blog post comes from someone who has had a tremendous influence on my teaching, and yet I still have not met him in person. Mike Kuczala & Traci Lengel’s The Kinesthetic Classroom: Teaching and Learning Through Movement shaped my professional goal for the 2015/16 school year and encouraged me to investigate creative ways in which to naturally incorporate movement into my teaching space. In this blog post Mike shares two creative ways to review content, utilize the value of movement and “raise the interest, motivation and engagement of students during the review process.”

Every teaching professional uses some kind of rehearsal technique to increase the likelihood that students will remember and use what they’ve learned in class.  Rehearsal, the repetitive act of processing information, is critical for transferring content from working memory to long-term storage (Sousa, 2017).  Using movement or physical activity to review content is a form of elaborative rehearsal which often engages greater sensory input. Sometimes rehearsal takes the form of direct content review listed on a PowerPoint slide or it could be a simple question-and-answer session at the end of a lesson.

But simply reviewing content, whether displayed on PowerPoint slides or through questioning techniques, is not the most efficient way to help learners improve individual performance by retrieving and actually applying what they learn.  What content review is often missing – at least in my experience – is a balanced approach to using movement to engage the brain’s higher order thinking skills and, importantly, to make an emotional or sensory connection to the content.

Here are two examples of using physical activity in content review with a high degree of effectiveness:

Cardio Review   

  • This activity should be used for reviewing multiple-choice questions.
  • Choose a cardiovascular exercise for answers A, B, C, D. For example A might be jumping jacks, B box jumps, C squat jumps and D mountain climbers. You might also try less vigorous activity such as A being walking in place, B opposite knee touches, C upper body jumping jacks (waving of the arms), and D crisscrosses.
  • Make sure students know not to begin their physical answers until you have had an opportunity to read all the possible answers (A, B, C, D) and they say “go!”
  • Present the class with a review question.
  • Allow them to answer by performing the cardiovascular exercise or movement activity that represents their choice.
  • It will be easy to see which students know the correct answer.
  • Review the correct answer and move on to the next question.

Cardio Review has many built-in benefits.  (1) It gives the teacher the ability to quickly assess general knowledge in order to reflect upon their own teaching and what might need to be reviewed once again. (2) Students are out of their seats and reviewing content forgoing the need for a brain boost. (3) Too often students become disengaged from review.  This activity provides a way for all students to be engaged and feel safe about answering review questions in class.  If they’re not sure about the correct answer they can simply copy another classmate’s physical response (perfectly acceptable in this activity) or make their best guess.  (4) Students must think about which physical response goes with the corresponding letter, think about the correct answer, and then respond physically –  a brain/body experience.

The Trade Review

Before the activity begins students form a circle of chairs or desks.  They should have a writing utensil with them.  Hand each student a worksheet with a blank 20 -space grid on it (or whatever the number of students in your class is; for purposes here it will be 20) .  Each block in the grid should be numbered 1 – 20 (one number per block).  Finally, each student receives an index card on which a review question is written. Each card should also have written on it a number (1 – 20) that corresponds to the numbers on the grid. Make sure students are given the review question face down as they are not allowed to look at the question until you begin the activity.

  • Tell students that each card has a number. Say that once the activity begins, they must place the answer to the question in the appropriately numbered block on the grid.
  • Inform them that after answering the initial question (correctness is the goal but not necessary to continue on in the activity), each student moves to the center of the circle and exchanges a card with another student.
  • This is important – tell students they may not look at the new question (card) until they fully and completely return to their seats and if the question they got during the exchange is something they’ve already answered, they must get up and find another card.
  • This activity is done in silence (but can be adjusted to your preferences)! You can choose to have a penalty box of up to 1 minute if a student talks.
  • Once all students have their answer sheets and cards, begin the activity. The goal is to answer as many questions as possible before the end of the activity, so the timeframe is largely up to the teacher.
  • Once time is completed have each student read the card (number and question) with which they’ve ended the activity. This way each student will be able to do a self-check of correct answers.

The Trade Review also has many built-in benefits. (1) Students are active, on the move and silent.  It is a thing of beauty to observe in a classroom setting. (2) The constant sitting and standing (squatting and walking) is a bit more than many students are used to in an academic setting. (3) Again, everyone in the class is engaged in the review within a safe setting where no one knows if another student has answered the question correctly or incorrectly.  (4) Finally, you can once again forgo the brain boost as you are using physical activity as a tool for review.

Though there are many resources available that provide activities for classroom use, reviewing content using movement is only limited by your imagination.  It certainly is not appropriate for all review but can raise the interest, motivation and engagement of students during the review process.


Kuczala, M. (2015). Training in Motion: How to Use Movement to Create Engaging and Effective Learning, New York: AMACOM

Kuczala, M., & Lengel, T. (2010). The Kinesthetic Classroom: Teaching and Learning through Movement, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin

Kuczala, M., & Lengel, T. (2017). Ready, Set, Go! The Kinesthetic Classroom 2.0, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin

Sousa, D. (2017). How the Brain Learns, Thousand Oaks, CA.: Corwin

If you liked Mike’s blog post you’ll also like the following #slowchathealth blog posts:

More Movement in the Classroom – The immensely popular blog post in which I shared a creative way to infuse movement into a #healthed lesson on decision making.

The Kinesthetic Movement – Where it all started for me. I share my Top 5 tips for teachers looking to start incorporating movement into their teaching.


3 thoughts on “Being Physically Active in Content Review

  1. Pingback: The PE Playbook – March 2018 Edition – drowningintheshallow

  2. Pingback: More Movement in the Classroom – #slowchathealth

  3. Pingback: ‘Sticky Learning’ Strategies – #slowchathealth

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