The past few months as we have been developing The Kinetic Classroom with the THINK + “Spotlight” cognitive-motor activities you teachers can do in your classrooms, we’ve been test-driving them with students ages 5-12 and they love ’em! 

The research tells us: 

  • Acute bouts of physical activity are a promising way to immediately enhance children’s attentional performance (Hillman et al., 2011; Chang et al., 2012; Verburgh et al., 2014).
  • Student enjoyment while doing activities enhances cognition (Diamond, 2015).
  • Classroom physical activities that combine physical effort with cognitive demands likely produce effects beyond those of pure aerobic exercise, e.g., running in place (Diamond & Ling, 2016).
  • Cognitive-exercise likely primes the brain for learning and may enhance attention, on-task behavior, sequencing, and memory (Schmidt, 2016; Donnelly et al., 2016; Donnelly and Lambourne, 2011). More research is in progress.

When we THINK together in class we do 5-minute coordinative rhythmic cognitive-motor movement sequences, in between lessons to alert or calm our brains and bodies. The goal is to move 5 minutes every 45 minutes so that we are energized and alert throughout the day.Thinking while we move engages attention, memory, inhibition and cognitive flexibility.

As we move and think together, we teach the children some cognitive science along the way, increasing student interest, self-confidence, and engagement.

  • Rhythm, tempo, and timing are related to sequencing, an important cognitive skill needed for both reading and math.
  • Your brain and body work together like an orchestra, when you combine coordinated movement with thinking about what you are doing and how you are doing it, you improve important cognitive skills like attention, inhibition and working memory.
  • When you add a cognitive demand such as naming colors from memory in alphabetical order, on a specific beat as you do an automated movement such as marching, you increase the cognitive demand on your brain thus exercising your cognition.

Then we provide the children with some foundational movement sequences or patterns and ask them to add, change or elaborate on the pattern, as a team, in synchrony.

The result is amazing. The children are moving, thinking and working together. We all laugh and play as we practice sequences deciding what goes well together. Sometimes the children think up really complicated switch tasks where you say one thing but you do something else with your body.

You may also find many of our ball bouncing, cognitive and motor activities in 70 Play Activities and Musical Thinking.


Here are a few articles and resources you might value –

Cognitive Priming – Bruce Wexler, MD

Classroom-Based Physical Activity Breaks and Children’s Attention: Cognitive Engagement Works!

The Association Between School-Based Activity and Academic Performance CDC 2010

How Kids Learn Better By Taking Frequent Breaks Throughout The Day

Why Your Body Can Jog Your Mind




Diamond, A. (2015). Effects of Physical Exercise on Executive Functions: Going beyond Simply Moving to Moving with Thought. Annals of Sports Medicine and Research, 2(1), 1011.

Habib, M., Lardy, C., Desiles, T., Commeiras, C., Chobert, J., & Besson, M. (2016). Music and dyslexia: A new musical training method to improve reading and related disorders. Frontiers in Psychology, 1-15.

Haywood, H. C. (2013). What is cognitive education? The view from 30,000 feet. Journal of Cognitive Education & Psychology, 12(1).

Kamijo, K., Pontifex, M. B., O’Leary, K. C., Scudder, M. R., Wu, C. T., et al. (2011). The effects of an afterschool physical activity program on working memory in preadolescent children. Dev Sci, 14: 1046–1058. 

Leisman, G., Moustafa, A. A., & Shafir, T. (2016). Thinking, Walking, Talking: Integratory Motor and Cognitive Brain Function. Frontiers in Public Health, 4, 94. 

Schmidt, M., Benzing, V., & Kamer, M. (2016). Classroom-Based Physical Activity Breaks and Children’s Attention: Cognitive Engagement Works! Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1474.

Shoecraft, S. (2016). Teaching Through Movement: Setting Up Your Kinesthetic Classroom. Charleston, South Carolina: Chicken Dance Publishing.

Sibley, B. A., Etnier, J. L. (2003). The relationships between physical activity and cognition in children: A meta-analysis. Pediatr Exerc Sci, 15: 243–256. 

Statton, M. A., Encarnacion, M., Celnik, P., & Bastian, A. J. (2015). A Single Bout of Moderate Aerobic Exercise Improves Motor Skill Acquisition. PLoS ONE, 10(10), e0141393.

Vazou, S., Pesce, C., Lakes, K., & Smiley-Oyen, A. (2016). More than one road leads to Rome: a narrative review and meta-analysis of physical activity intervention effects on cognition in youth. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1-26.

Wexler, B. E., Iseli, M., Leon, S., Zaggle, W., Rush, C., Goodman, A., … Bo, E. (2016). Cognitive Priming and Cognitive Training: Immediate and Far Transfer to Academic Skills in Children. Scientific Reports6, 32859.