Anatomical Robots

I invented this game to help my students learn about the movements at each joint, view pill and how to use anatomical language to describe movement.  I eventually want to make an interactive game for the blog, but thought some of you might enjoy this as it is.  As a teacher, I typically will be the robot first, and the students each take turns programming.  I start kneeling, with my left index finger touching the ground , and my right hand shaped like a cup on the right thighas the start, and my left index finger in the cup as the finish.  Then I have my students work in pairs. I troubleshoot any problems or errors my students make, and answer questions as they are working through. Let me know if you have any suggestions about how to make it better, or if you come up with other variations.

You can use this PDF (Joints Categorized by movement) as a guide to what movements are possible at each joint. The GetBodySmart website has excellent resources to help you learn more about these movements, but they focus on the level of muscles, rather than the joint. I hope to eventually provide a more simple explanation.

Have fun!

Anatomical Robots:

Get the robot from the start position to the finish position


  1. Divide into pairs. One person is the ‘programmer’, the other is the ‘robot’. You can also have more than one programmer, and during ‘programming’ the programmers will take turns.
  2. The robot demonstrates a starting posture and announces “This is the start”, then demonstrates a finishing posture and announces “This is the finish”.[1]
  3. The programmer then tells the robot to move, one joint at a time, ONLY using anatomical language, for example, “Flex your left elbow”.
  4. The robot will then move the joint in the appropriate manner, i.e., flex the left elbow slowly.
  5. When the position for that joint is satisfactory, the programmer says ‘Stop!’ If the robot moved too far, the programmer(s) must correct the over-movement on the following turn.
  6. If the programmer uses incorrect language, for example asks the robot to ‘Flex your arm’ (not a joint), or to ‘Abduct your elbow’ (not a possibility at that joint), then the robot must tell the programmer ‘I’m afraid I can’t do that. Dave.’ and the programmer must revise the command.
  7. The programmer continues until the robot reaches the finish position.
  8. Switch roles: the programmer becomes the robot, the robot becomes the programmer.

Vermont Rules[2]

  1. The programmer decides the start position for the robot, and does not tell the robot the end position. Surprise!


[1] It is very important to choose postures that can be held for a long time, since programming can be challenging. It is equally important to not choose postures that require shifts of center of gravity, since these moves are very difficult to execute one joint at a time: your normally make many changes at once when shifting weight.

[2] Invented at a retreat by some of my students from Vermont.

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