Movement Activities for Teaching Listening Skills

By Connie Bergstein Dow, author of From A to Z with Energy! 26 Ways to Move and Play

Movement Activities for Teaching Listening SkillsHere are three playful dance games that reinforce listening skills, impulse control, and delaying gratification. In these activities, children listen for and recognize cues in three popular songs before they respond with specific movements. These games also help with vocabulary and sequencing, as children identify and react to specific letters and words in the songs. An additional benefit is the fun and lively movement opportunities interspersed throughout—which may feel especially important when we are sheltering in place and everyone is feeling a little restless.

1. The ABC Song

This activity is designed to be done with a group of young children. Begin with the children sitting in a circle. Sing “The ABC Song” together once or twice. Then assign three or four letters to each child, spread throughout the alphabet.

Everyone sings the song together very slowly. When children’s assigned letters are sung, they jump up, make the shape of the letter with their body, and then sit back down.

Repeat, singing and making the letter shapes faster, working up to singing and responding as fast as possible.

Try it again, assigning new letters.

Variation: Instead of making the shape of their letter, children jump up and do a movement that begins with that letter. For example, a child with the letter A might move like an ant. A child with B might fly like a bee. A child with C might do a cartwheel. A child with D might pretend to drive a car. A child with E might walk like an elephant. This can turn into a guessing game as the others try to figure out what each child is doing and how it relates to the letter.

2. Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

For this activity, stand in a circle. Instead of the usual tapping of each body part as it is named in the song, try these movements as you sing.

Head: Nod head up and down.
Shoulders: Lift and lower shoulders up and down.
Knees: Lift one leg with knee leading and leg bent, then the other.
Toes: Wiggle your toes while standing on both feet.

Eyes: Blink eyes.
Ears: Point to your ears.
Mouth: Stick out your tongue.
Nose: Scrunch up your nose.

Variation: Do this same activity with the song in other languages. Here is a version in Spanish: “Cabeza, Hombros, Rodillas y Pies.”

3. Boogie Shoes

Use this version of the song for kids, by the Glee cast.

Listen to the music and have children count the times the phrase “boogie shoes” appears in the song. (The phrase is repeated nine times.) When children hear these words, they will touch the floor and then jump in the air with their arms overhead. Practice this movement a couple times.

Play the song and have children dance freely to the music. Every time they hear the phrase “boogie shoes,” they should touch the floor, jump up with arms overhead, and then continue free dancing to the music. The last time they hear “boogie shoes,” they should do the same movement of touching the floor and jumping up with arms overhead, and then take a finishing position and freeze.

Have fun dancing together!

Connie BergsteinConnie Bergstein Dow took her first dance class when she was four years old and has been dancing ever since. After attending Denison University and earning an MFA from the University of Michigan, she danced professionally in the United States, Venezuela, and Guatemala. Connie has had a long career as a dance educator and has written two books for teachers about integrating movement into the early childhood classroom, articles for magazines and journals, and verses for Highlights. She shares her passion for dance by writing, teaching, volunteering, visiting schools and libraries, and offering movement workshops to early childhood professionals. Visit Connie at

From A to Z with EnergyConnie is the author of From A to Z with Energy! 26 Ways to Move and Play

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