21 Kinesthetic Reading Activities to Get Students Up and Moving

These ideas give active reading a whole new meaning.

Kinesthetic Reading Activites

Reading tends to be considered a quiet-time activity, where kids will sit still and focus on the book in front of them. But for kids who just can’t help but fidget, or those who learn better when they’re active, reading activities work best when they involve plenty of movement. These kinesthetic reading activities teach the ABCs, sight word skills, spelling, rhyming, and even reading comprehension. Every one of them gets kids up and out of their seats, giving them some much-needed exercise and a chance to move while they learn. 

1. Get a kick out of sight word soccer.

Kinesthetic Reading Activities Sight Word Soccer

Grab some cones and label them with your class’s current sight word list. Then have kids dribble the ball from one cone to the next, stopping to read the words along the way. You can also call out words for them to aim for.

Learn more: Coffee Cups and Crayons

2. Play hide and seek with animals and letter sounds.

What a fun way to learn letter sounds! You can play this one indoors or out. Hide small animal figures (or cards with animal pictures) around the room or playground. Write out the letters of the alphabet and send kids off to find the animals and set them by the correct letters.

Learn more: The Letters of Literacy

3. Look for letters and words on the go.

Help kids practice reading by observing the world around them. Mark letters (or phonics combos, or sight words) around the edge of a paper plate and cut between. Take a walk around the school and have students fold down each letter or word as they find it written somewhere.

Learn more: No Time for Flashcards

4. Make whole-body letters.

Kinesthetic Reading Activities Whole Body Letters

Anyone who’s ever danced the “YMCA” at a wedding knows how fun this is. Get kids to create letter shapes using their bodies. Then try putting them into groups to spell whole words from their spelling lists. Be warned, though: reading activities like this one are sure to bring on plenty of giggles.

Learn more: First Grade Smiles

5. Try the Spell-Your-Name workout.

Hit the link below for the free printable that provides an exercise activity for every letter of the alphabet. Then, challenge kids to do a workout by spelling their name or words from this week’s spelling list.

Learn more: 730 Sage Street

6. Host a StoryWalk®.

Kinesthetic Reading Activities Storywalk

This reading activity can benefit more than just your own class! In a StoryWalk®, pages from a book are spread out along a walking trail. Kids (and their parents) can take a walk and read the story as they go along. Communities have gotten into the act by providing permanent outdoor signs in parks, but you can do it on your playground with laminated pages stapled to stakes. Visit the link below to learn how to get started.

Learn more: StoryWalk® at Kellogg-Hubbard Library

7. Shoot phonics sounds with hockey sticks.

There are plenty of great reading activities for sports lovers. Use hockey sticks to shoot a puck (or beanbag) toward each phonics sound as it’s called out. This works for sight words too.

Learn more: Learn Play Imagine

8. Hop up a sidewalk word ladder.

Kinesthetic Reading Activities Word Ladder

Teach rhyming skills and introduce word families with some sidewalk chalk. As kids hop up the ladder (or jump forwards or backwards, or twirl, or any activity you like), they read the words out loud for practice.

Learn more: 123Homeschool4Me

9. Stretch and learn with Sight Word Twister.

Grab an old twister mat and label it with sight words (or letters or phonics sounds) and let kids stretch and sprawl as they try to get the correct hand or foot on the right word.

Learn more: Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas

10. Use a Spelling Spinner for vocab practice.

Spelling words over and over can get a little dull. Print the free Spelling Spinner from the link below to mix things up. Kids spin the spinner, then do the appropriate activity as they spell the word. If they get it right, spin again to spell the next one.

Learn more: Scholastic

11. Jump around on an ABC grid.

Kinesthetic Reading Activities ABC Grid

Create an ABC grid using sidewalk chalk, or make one indoors using painter’s tape on the classroom floor. As you call out letters or words, kids jump from one to the next, using a free space if they need a little help to get there.

Learn more: Buggy and Buddy

12. Have a running dictation relay race.

Kinesthetic Reading Activities Running Dictation Relay Race

Kinesthetic reading activities work with older kids too. Post a reading passage on one side of the room and break kids into teams. The first runner heads to the poster, reads the first sentence, then runs back and dictates it to a writer at the table. If they forget, they’ll have to run back and do it again! Continue on, giving each teammate a turn at all activities.

Learn more: The Comprehensible Classroom

13. Find and match the rhyming words.

Kinesthetic Reading Activities Find and Rhyme

On your next dollar store run, grab some hula hoops and paper plates. Write a series of rhyming family words on the plates, then hide them around the room or playground. Kids run to find them, bringing them back to the appropriate hoop.

Learn more: No Time for Flash Cards

14. Throw a guided reading beach ball.

Kinesthetic Reading Activities Guided Reading Beach Balls

You can find these pre-made inflatable balls and cubes online, or make your own. They’re fantastic for a variety of reading activities with both fiction and non-fiction books.

Learn more: Conversations in Literacy

15. Jump and grab sight words.

We all know kids love to see how high they can jump, so reading activities that incorporate the chance to do just that are sure to be a hit. Hang sight words from the ceiling on cards, coffee filters, or paper plates. Call out a word and see who can be the first to find it, then jump, grab, and pull it down.

Learn more: Hands On As We Grow

16. Weave a spelling web.

Kinesthetic Reading Activities Spelling Web

This one will take a bit of prep work, but kids will simply love trying to balance their way across the spider web lines as they grab the letters they need to spell each word.

Learn more: No Time for Flash Cards

17. Skip along on sight word hopscotch.

Play sight word hopscotch outside with sidewalk chalk or indoors with colorful cards. (Be sure to tape down the cards if you’re playing inside.) 

Learn more: Mrs. Kadeen Teachers

18. Bounce a ball and retell a story.

Bouncing a ball makes reading activities for comprehension a lot of more fun and interactive. Students review the main story aspects like setting, narrator, and plot as they bounce a ball along the path.

Learn more: E is for Explore!

19. Run an alphabet obstacle course.

We love using pool noodles in the classroom! Mount these alphabet “beads” on wood craft sticks stuck into the ground. Then send kids off to run them in alphabetical order one at a time. For early learners, keep the sticks in order. For older kids, mix them up and spread them out. Add to the challenge by having them yell out a word that starts with the letter at each, or perform an exercise relating to the letter (touch their ankle for A, bounce up and down for B, etc.).

Learn more: The Educator’s Spin on It

20. Dribble and learn with sight word basketball.

Here’s another reading activity for the sports enthusiasts. Dribble your way around from sight word to sight word as they’re called out, with a chance to shoot and score at the end.

Learn more: Coffee Cups and Crayons

21. Play word family ball toss.

Kinesthetic Reading Activities Ball Toss

Use ping pong balls and buckets to practice word families and rhyming. Kids will have a blast tossing the right words into the buckets. Make sure they’re reading them out loud before they throw.

Learn more: I Can Teach My Child

Want to inspire more readers? Try putting up one of these 25 terrific reading bulletin boards in your classroom.

Many schools are seeing the value of focusing on student wellness. Use our free Wellness Way printables to create a space for kids to move, recharge, and regulate their mood.

Looking for more ideas from teachers like you? Join the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

21 Kinesthetic Reading Activities to Get Students Up and Moving

Posted by Jill Staake

Jill Staake is a writer living in Tampa, Florida. She's spent most of her life teaching in traditional classrooms and beyond, from 8th grade English to butterfly encounters, and believes learning is a life-long process.

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