Issue 09/23

The moving classroom

Angelika Wiehl
Wolfgang M. Auer

The Moving Classroom requires a radical rethink: from the disciplinary seating arrangement to the variable arrangement of benches or folding tables; from children sitting facing the blackboard to learning in social forms, in or outside the circle with or without benches or tables, in the writing room facing the blackboard, in group tables or at a large table area for collaborative work and breakfast.

Movement as the basic principle of all learning requires not only flexible classroom furniture, but above all teachers who are enthusiastic about outward and inward movement. Successful lessons in the Moving Classroom in lower school start with a movement circuit, integrate rhythmical movement exercises or can also be organised as a movement main lesson with sports equipment in the sports hall. Anyone who experiences schoolchildren in and with movement notices their subtle social empathy, because in circles and free movement they perceive each other – including the moving teachers – in their entirety and are not obscured by school desks.
The Moving Classroom was created to give children starting school the opportunity to develop the skills they need to learn at school. These basic skills include attentiveness, calmness, impulse control, independence, perseverance, sense of time and social skills – the foundations for lifelong and sustainable learning.

In our own body

A person can be attentive when they have arrived at themselves, when they are at home in their own body. Cenesthesia arises through elementary tactile experiences of the texture of objects on the one hand, and through being physically touched on the other. Children who have often experienced their body and the boundary between inside and outside in a positive way feel at home in their body and feel comfortable and safe in it. They find it easy to listen to lessons with concentration.

In balance

Being able to endure a period of time quietly is a prerequisite for learning and working together at school. The restlessness of many children may have various causes. The vestibular system plays a central role because it registers movements in space and our relationship with gravity. In order to get a picture of the position of the body, it integrates the perceptions of the sense of touch and movement in every moment by itself. This enables us to hold ourselves upright and move safely, consciously experience everyday life and develop spatial awareness – a basis for writing, reading and arithmetic. If the vestibular system is not developed, the child has difficulty co-operating and has to move constantly. If you ask them to sit down, this creates stress. These children need physical balance, which they develop by swinging, balancing, jumping and climbing, especially on uneven surfaces.

Secure attachments

Independence requires the ability to form secure attachments. Children with insecure attachments are unable to leave the safe harbour of the caregiver in order to explore the world and engage with new situations and people at school. For this reason, the class teacher accompanies the class throughout the morning as part of the Moving Classroom so that the children can gain bonding experiences to strengthen their independence.

Rhythmical processes

The class teacher experiences the same daily timetable with the children, the weekly rhythm and, through organising the yearly festivals, the annual rhythm. Each lesson has its own rhythmical form through the alternation of active, quiet, absorbing and productive learning phases. In the morning, the class teacher looks at the tasks and subject lessons with the children, at lunchtime the important events of the school day are remembered and the tasks for the next day are set out. Through regular and rhythmical learning activities and the cultivation of looking forwards and backwards, the children develop a sense of time that makes it easier for them to engage in recurring exercises.

Perceiving one another

Anyone who experiences everyday conversations in the circle of a Moving Classroom will notice the qualities of an emerging classroom community that recognises the concerns of each child and social tasks. In lower school classes in particular, a table with a candle, flowers or a singing bowl fills the centre of the circle – as a haven of peace in the otherwise free circle area. In the morning discussion, experiences from the previous day are exchanged, exercises are done and in the closing circle at the end of the school day, events are resolved and everyone listens to a vivid story told by the class teacher. On the one hand, the circular form enables the teachers and children to perceive each other better and, on the other hand, to pay attention to proximity and distance – a quality that many people have to consciously learn.

Basic senses

The maturation and training of the four basic senses according to Steiner (sense of touch, sense of vitality, sense of movement and vestibular system) forms the basis for the integration of movement elements in the Moving Classroom. Every morning, the school day begins with a circuit of benches, cushions and other materials. Clapping and dexterity games, social games, or games for individual basic senses and certain behaviours, often devised for individual children, are also played during lesson time with all or alternately with half of the class.

Social and creative learning

From year one, the children practise social and learning skills by arranging benches and mouldable cushions in different ways. Each child takes on their own task or role. Most of the lesson time in the first years of school takes place in a circle. The frontal row formation is only used when it is necessary to look at the blackboard.


Few Waldorf schools have so far succeeded in realising this concept as a basic principle of variable social forms of learning also in higher classes and in developing new forms of learning for adolescence. Using the portfolio method, class plays, interdisciplinary and cross-class, intra- and extra-curricular learning projects and, above all, creating new and inclusive learning and meeting spaces – that would be one way.


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