Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Activate! Student Engagement Through Movement, Games, and Activities

Lindsay Hawkins, Lindsay Williams | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center

Essential Questions

  • What are possible outcomes when students are actively engaged in learning?

  • What does active engagement look like in the classroom?

Learning Goals

  • Participants will engage in a lesson incorporating movement and academic games/activities.

  • Participants will identify instructional strategies they can use in their classrooms to promote active engagement.

  • Participants will identify the benefits of actively engaging students.

  • Participants will create a resource to link specific tools and strategies to support the Design Question Five, specifically components 25 and 27 of the TLE (Teacher and Leader Evaluation) from Marzano.

Materials List

  • Presentation Slides (attached)

  • ACTIVATE! Agenda (attached)

  • Four Corners Topics (attached)

  • Instructional Strategy Note Sheet (attached)

  • Jensen texts (attached; pp.133–136 & pp.139–142)

  • ABC Graffiti (attached)

  • Poster paper with the ABCs written in columns (one per group; see attached ABC Graffiti Poster Example on 8x10 paper)

  • Poster paper for the presenter to record team names and record score during the ABC Graffiti game

  • Poster markers (one per group)

  • Pens/pencils (optional)

  • Scratch paper for 3-2-1 (optional)

  • Google Form (copied, edited, and updated for personal use at site)

  • PowerPoint (link must be updated for Google Form link)

  • Google Response Sheet (accessed through the Google Form)


Welcome participants, and briefly introduce yourself and the professional development session using the attached Presentation Slides.

Go to slide 3, "Four Corners." Inform participants that, in a moment, they are going to move to the area that corresponds with the one statement they predominantly believe is true. Read the question on the slide: Which of these is a possible outcome of activating student engagement? Then, read the four choices: "Increased Student Attendance," Increased Student Performance and Learning," "Increased Positive Behavior and Participation," and "Other Outcomes."

Allow participants a moment to move to the area they choose. There, they will briefly discuss with others who gathered in the same area why they decided it was the best possible outcome of active student engagement. They may believe that more than one answer is appropriate, but remind them that they can choose only one for this activity. Once participants have had an opportunity to share with those around them, ask a few people from each outcome statement to share out what was discussed among their group. The discussion should determine that, by increasing active student engagement, these outcomes also will be positively affected.

After participants have shared, ask them to return to their seats. Transition to slide 4, "Instructional Strategies." Inform participants that several new instructional strategies will be introduced to them throughout the session and that the last activity, Four Corners, was one of them. Explain that these strategies are tools to support higher-order thinking in an authentic way.

Make sure each participant has a copy of the attached Instructional Strategy Note Sheet, and encourage participants to use it to jot down their ideas for personalizing a strategy to be used as an instructional tool in their classrooms. Once all the new strategies are modeled, the presentation will allow time for participants to reflect on how to use these strategies.

Allow a moment for participants to write about the Four Corners activity they just participated in. Ask them how they might adapt it for use in their classrooms.

Go to slide 5 and briefly share the session objectives. This will provide a road map of where you will go together during the session and let participants know what to expect from the session.


Transition to slide 6, "ABC Graffiti." Explain that participants will be engaging in this instructional strategy, which is used for brainstorming. Participants will work in small groups to brainstorm words or phrases that connect to the question. First, have groups create a team name and ask one person from each group to volunteer to be the recorder. This person will write the team name on the presenter's poster at the front of the room and will record the group's score after each round.

Click the slide again to display the question: "What does active engagement look like in the classroom?" Within their small groups, participants will use this question to generate words or phrases that connect how and what active engagement might look like in the classroom.

Click the slide again. Explain that groups will have three rounds to brainstorm and, after each round, they will rotate to the next group's paper. Each time a group moves, they will take the marker they were originally provided with.

Go to slide 7. The same question is displayed at the top of this slide. Click the slide again to show the "Round 1" arrow. Again, clarify the directions on the screen as needed. Provide participants with 3–5 minutes during Round 1 to fill in their alphabets. Participants may not use any other resources or materials to generate words, ideas, or phrases. They may only use their own prior knowledge and experiences. It is meant to be a challenge.

When enough time has passed, call time and ask groups to stop writing, cap their markers, and count how many letters they used. The recorder from each group will quickly go to the presenter's poster and record their team's total.

Click the slide again to display the "Round 2" arrow and the description. Instruct groups to rotate to the next table (for each set of three tables, move groups as follows: table 1 moves to table 2, table 2 moves to table 3, and table 3 moves to table 1). For the second round, groups read through the list written by the previous group and then use the time provided to add new words or phrases to the alphabet list.

Clarify instructions as needed. Allow another 3–5 minutes for groups to generate new words and phrases.

After time has expired, ask groups to stop writing, cap their makers, and count how many of the alphabet letters their group used this round. Recorders for each team will add this number to the previous score, creating a new total for each team.

Click the slide one last time to show the "Round 3" arrow and description. Explain that participants will read one or both of the two provided Jensen texts. All participants can read each text, or participants can split the two readings among their group members, then share the information they gathered with the rest of their small group (dividing the reading is best if the session is short on time). Participants will use the ideas learned from the text to complete Round 3 of ABC Graffiti; this time, teams will add new words or phrases that are influenced by their reading of the texts.

Call time and have each team report the number of letters they added to the list during the third round, thus creating their final team totals. Then, have groups return to the first table they were at when they began the ABC Graffiti activity.


Once groups have returned to their original seats, allow them time to reflect and process what was written on their ABC Graffiti poster paper. Go to slide 8 to provide instructions for the following synthesis activity. Instruct small groups to create a summary statement that synthesizes the information constructed from their ABC Graffiti list. They will share this statement with the whole group.

After statements have been shared, facilitate a brief discussion asking participants to reflect on the summary statements and ABC list detailing how the information gained might impact their teaching (style, planning, content, etc.), student engagement (learning, interest, etc.), and overall classroom climate.

After a short discussion, ask participants to use the Instructional Strategy Note Sheet to reflect on the ABC Graffiti strategy. Transition to the next activity.


Go to slide 9 to display Marzano's TLE Learning Map of Domain One. Explain that every school has a structure and program in place to evaluate their teachers' practices and progress. Marzano's Learning Map is just one of many that have been designed and shows specific areas of evaluation.

Click the slide twice as you talk through the following: This session is focused on Design Question Five—specifically, component numbers 25, "Using Academic Games," and 27, "Using Physical Movement."

These remind us that we can use movement, academic games, and activities as intentional tools to engage students while exploring new concepts and ideas. The strategies can also be used to activate prior knowledge while supporting the other Design Questions and components of learning.

Transition to slide 10, "Google Form Example." Explain that, in a moment, each participant will have the opportunity to submit movement, games, and activities they have implemented in their own classrooms that increased active student engagement. Participants may also include movement, games, and activities they have not yet implemented but are willing to try with their students. For each new strategy, participants must submit a new response.

Briefly, highlight that each submitted response will require the following:

  • "Email address" (to easily contact one another)

  • Select "Movement" or "Game/Activity"

  • "Your Name" (can require first and last name)

  • Select all the content areas that apply to your movement, game, or activity

  • Write the "Title and Lesson Topic" or standard it covers (may include a brief description)

  • URL (optional)

  • Required amount of time to complete in a class setting

Transition to slide 11. Explain that each participant will use the link shown on the slide (make sure this is the link to your copy) so they can access the Google Form. They will complete each item blank before submitting their response. The URL is optional. The data submitted will create a shareable document resource for all staff at the site. Participants will add strategies and tools they have used to get students actively engaged through movement, games, and activities.

Provide time for participants to open the Google Form using your link.

Allow participants at least 15 minutes to fill out the Google Form and submit the strategies involving movement, games, and activities they currently implement in their classroom to engage students. For each new strategy, they will need to submit a new response.

  • After a few minutes, go to your Google Form and click on the "Responses" button. You can show participants how the information is sorted.

  • Then, locate a green and white icon in the upper-right corner of the form. When you mouse-over the icon, a box should say "Create Spreadsheet." Click on the green and white "Create Spreadsheet" button.

  • A box will pop up.

  • Make sure "Create a new Spreadsheet" is selected (this will be the top area of the form), and to the right of that, you have a chance to rename your spreadsheet.

  • Click "Create." A new spreadsheet will open that is already filled with the participants' submitted responses.

  • Share the link to the Google responses sheet with participants. With this link, they may access this file for later use.


Transition to slide 12, "Keep Calm and Evaluate."

If you do not have access to TREK, ask participants to reflect on the session. Participants will write a paragraph synthesizing summary statements, the ABC list, and engagement strategies they currently use. The paragraph should detail how the information gained might impact their teaching (style, planning, content, etc.), student engagement (learning, interest, etc.), and overall classroom climate.

Finally, ask participants to reflect on their Instructional Strategy Note Sheet. Ask them how they will use these strategies in their classrooms.

Research Rationale

Student engagement is something all parents, teachers, and administrators want to see in the classroom. Students want to learn and explore content that is relevant and connects beyond the classroom. Imagine classrooms full of students who are excited about learning and who retain knowledge constructed with context. That is an aspect of an ideal classroom. Research has established a strong relationship between student engagement and student achievement. Students who are actively engaged in learning increase their own knowledge and learning (Hattie, 2009). Knight (2013) explains that when students are actively engaged in an intentional activity, they are happier and more likely to do their best, thus creating an ideal learning experience. Other researchers, like Csikszentmihalyi (1996) and Loehr and Schwartz (2003) have found, through their studies, that the primary reason people are unhappy or find little reward in what they experience is because they are disengaged with the world around them. We do not want to develop decision-making citizens who believe it is okay to disengage in the world; we want our future to be filled with critical thinkers who are happily engaged in society. It begins in the classroom, when teachers create experiences and use strategies to actively engage students in the world of learning and knowledge (Knight, 2013). If students are engaged, then learning will transpire in a meaningful way.