Warm Ups for Paper & Pencil Work

UDL 5.3

Physical warm up activities immediately before writing by hand, keyboarding or other fine motor tasks are designed to optimize physical and attentional readiness for tabletop work. Examples range from finger circles and clapping to tossing bean bags and dancing. Benefits of utilizing physical warm up activities include: waking up the postural system to encourage the best position for using both vision and the arms and hands, stimulating the muscles in the arm and hand to support efficient manipulation of the pencil, and supporting an alert and calm arousal state for focus and on-task behavior. Many of these exercises are quick and can be done in chairs. They are great in the younger grades, when students are still forming habits of how they sit and handle writing utensils. Older students also benefit from movement breaks before sitting down for tabletop tasks, but stretch breaks or a quick yoga pose may be more age-appropriate than exercises used in the lower grades.

Implementation Tips

Power of Routine
Warm ups can be executed with the whole class, small groups or individual students. They are most effective when they are embedded into the existing classroom culture so that students perceive them as a regular and engaging part of the instructional process.
Try incorporating warm ups as a break in the middle of longer tasks such as creating written drafts or completing a test.
Student Leaders
Let students take turns leading the warm ups.
Lower Elementary Tips
Check out [[ | these ideas]] for fine motor activities from Handwriting Without Tears that would be great for lower elementary students.
Refer to OT
Check with your OT, who should have lots of ideas for incorporating warm up activities into your classroom.


Lower Elementary
Teachers can take advantage of the transition to the table from lessons on the rug by having rhythmic stomping and clapping and animal walks (crab, bear, donkey). Lower elementary teachers can also utilize seated chair warm ups including: sitting with bottom all the way back in the chair and arms raised above head, tapping alternating feet, twisting the trunk from side to side, chair push-ups (ask the OT), shoulder circles (always front to back to promote open chest and upright posture), vigorous clapping or finger circles (opposing tip of thumb to tip of each finger in sequence). Try to include something that addresses whole body/posture as well as arms and hands/fingers.
Upper Elementary
A yoga posture or two (a good sequence is Sunrise and Sunset), exercises such as wall or chair push-ups, jumping jacks, a very short Zumba-like routine (there may be a dance form that is culturally relevant to the students that would work well), or tossing weighted beanbags or balls can serve as engaging and effective warm ups for upper elementary students. Teachers can also include seated chair warm ups such as rhythmic clapping, squeezing stress balls or "flicking" finger circles.
Middle and High School
Teachers that are working with older students can incorporate quick exercise or dance routines, capitalizing on what is most engaging and culturally-relevant to students. A round robin of basketball shooting (if there is a hoop in the room), or balloon volleyball can also fun for older students. Teachers may also utilize seated chair warm ups such as chair push ups, stretching or twisting, rhythmic clapping, squeezing stress balls and "flicking" finger circles.

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