Students use their muscles daily, but they don't often take time to consider their muscular system and the elements it contains. Studying the complex structures that make up the human muscular system can be a tedious task. After all, there are more than 30 muscles in the face alone. Teachers can make the learning of the muscular system interesting and engaging by integrating student-focused activities into their instruction. These activities allow students to gather interesting information about the muscular system and apply their newly acquired knowledge.

Muscle Web Quest

Allow your students to seek out some information on their own.
Allow your students to seek out some information on their own.

Before you jump right in to teaching your students about the muscular system, allow them to seek out some information on their own. This practice enhances their research skills and gives them practice in locating quality information on the internet and in print. As an in-class or homework assignment, charge each student with finding 10 facts about the human muscular system. Make the activity more exciting by telling the students that whoever finds the most exciting piece of information will win a prize.

Allow students to surf the web or look through books in the classroom, or visit the library and use resources available at home, to complete their lists. Collect the lists. Then provide each student with a highlighter. Pass the student created lists around the room and tell students to highlight any piece of information that they think is super interesting. Tell them use their highlighters sparsely, and to only highlight the extremely interesting stuff.

After students have highlighted, collect all of the lists. Type up a list of the highlighted facts and present the lists to the students the next day. Give each student a copy of the list of highlighted facts, and allow them to circle the fact that they think is the most exciting. Tabulate the results, and reward the finder of the most intriguing muscle system fact.

Muscle Match

Break your class up into groups and have them label muscles they've learned about.
Break your class up into groups and have them label muscles they've learned about.

After you have discussed several of the major muscles that make up the muscular system, allow students to identify the placement of these muscles, using their classmates as a muscle model. Before class, list all the muscles you have discussed on two sets of index cards.

Once students arrive in class, divide them into two groups. Ask each group to select a "muscle model" student volunteer from within that group. Then ask the group to form a circle around the model. Tell the groups that they are going to label the muscles they have learned about. Provide each group with one of the sets of index cards labeled with muscle names and a roll of masking tape. Tell the students that when you say "Go," they need to tape the cards onto their model as quickly as they can.

Allow the teams to race to identify the muscles. Once one group has finished, stop both groups and check the labels. If some are incorrect, continue play until one group has successfully completed the match up.

Voluntary vs. Involuntary

List voluntary and involuntary muscles on index cards.
List voluntary and involuntary muscles on index cards.

Some muscles are voluntary, or move only when we tell them to, like muscles in your legs that contract as you walk. Other muscles, like those in your heart, have a mind of their own and move at their own accord. Help students recognize which muscles they control and which they don't through the completion of this muscle categorizing activity.

List a variety of voluntary and involuntary muscles on index cards. Then create a T-chart on the board, labeling on side voluntary and the other involuntary. Hold the card up one at a time, reading the muscle written on the card. Ask student volunteers to come tape the card in the correct column. Continue until all of the cards have been placed, creating a complete categorization of the body's muscles.