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Building a word bank: Body parts

This is an excerpt from Teaching Movement Education by Karen Abels & Jennifer M. Bridges.

Building a Word Bank: Body Parts

Begin by selecting the body parts category card and placing it in the pocket chart. Depending on the developmental stage of your students, you may choose to create and place element cards for each of the body parts being covered in a lesson in the pocket chart, too. Learners at a higher developmental stage may not need this specificity. In that case, you may choose to bypass placing these element cards in the pocket chart and concentrate on providing a multitude of activities that use body parts.

The activities on body part identification are most appropriate for children at the initial or early elementary stage of development, for children whose first language is not English, or for children with learning differences.

Activity 1: First Activity for Body Part Identification

Topic: Body parts

This activity is appropriate for children at the initial stage of development who are learning to identify body parts. It may also be useful for children whose first language is not English. Have children sit inside their hula hoops and let them know that this is their own self-space.


Hula hoops (one for each child)


  1. Everyone find a hula hoop and sit inside that hoop. We are going to learn an element (term) we will cover later, but for now, I want to call this your self-space. Pretty soon, we won't need to use hoops to identify our self-spaces.
  2. Raise your hand if you think you know the names of the big parts of your body. See how quickly you can place your hands on the body part I call out. [Call out belly, chest, shoulders, back, hips, knees, feet.]
  3. How about other body parts? [Call out nose, ears, mouth, wrists, fingers, ankles, toes.]

Activity 2: Second Activity for Body Part Identification

Topic: Body parts

This activity is a continuation of activity 1. It is fun for children to see how quickly they can identify body parts and lets you create a fun gamelike activity.


Hula hoops (one for each child, if desired)


  1. How quickly can you put your hand in front of your head?
  2. How about in back of your neck? [Call out others such as in back of one shoulder, in back of the other shoulder, in front of your belly, in back of your legs.]

Activity 3: Body Part Identification:
Partner Fun!

Topic: Body parts

Once the children at the initial stage of development have learned the words that match each body part, you can ask them to do this activity individually or with a partner. Working with a partner will make this activity much more fun. Make sure you have discussed how to work with a partner. In addition, you can introduce a problem-solving approach by asking children to identify body parts on their own. How many body parts can they identify? Can they create a list of body parts to match with a partner? Some examples are provided for you. Children at the initial and even elementary stages of development may want to write or draw the body parts they are identifying and then do the actual movements.


Hula hoops (one for each child, if desired)


  1. Everyone sit in your self-space. I am going to call out combinations of body part words. When I do, see how quickly you can perform the movements asked.
  2. Show me your very quickest and safest way to match the body parts.
  3. When you are working with a partner or small group, can you move safely in your own space?

Chin to chest Wrist to ear Foot to leg

Nose to knee Elbow to leg Toes to heel

Hands to hip Wrist to ankle Head to knee

Ear to shoulder Arm to leg Thumbs to toes


These are only examples of possible combinations. See how creative you can be with other body part combinations, or even ask your students to create combinations.

Building a Word Bank: Body Shapes

Place the category card body shapes in the pocket chart with the element cards of straight, wide, round, and twisted underneath. Explain that in this category the students are learning about four general shapes the outline of the body can make when moving or still. Shapes of the body are related to actions of the body parts (which is the next category). As noted in the final category, an action of the whole body such as stretching might yield a movement of a wide or stretched body shape. Similarly, a whole body action of curling would result in a curled or rounded body shape.

Within the body shapes category, you also want to introduce children to the idea of moving and stopping. For young children, being able to move and come to a stop, whether to completely stop prior to moving again (maintaining stillness) or merely change direction, is critical in learning how to manage their body movements. Often, young children have difficulty completely stopping movements, so a gradual cessation of body movement may be helpful (Maulden & Layson, 1965).

More Excerpts From Teaching Movement Education