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Learning and the Body

Updated on August 3, 2012

The Mind Body Connection and Learning

We learn to move and we move to learn

Mens sana in corpore sano (A sound mind in a sound body)

Believe it or not, the part of the brain [the cerebellum] that processes movement is also responsible for processing learning (Jensen, 2005). In fact, exercise fuels the brain. When we move, the brain is oxygenated, neural pathways are formed and cognition is enhanced. Therefore, it is important to make kinesthetic learning a key component in your classroom ---all classrooms, regardless of age.

Hop to Letters and Make Words
Hop to Letters and Make Words

The Importance of Play

Today, amid the oppressive backdrop of state assessments, the element of movement and learning have been downplayed. Passive rather than active learning has been seeded into the curriculum along with blocks of test prep. Even funding for adjunct programs like the arts or recess have been minimized and typically viewed as fluff.

When children are home, they are generally sitting in front of a television screen or a computer, they are passively receiving information rather than actively building a knowledge base. Play is essential to human growth because it helps us to develop creativity, empathy, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, reasoning skills, literacy and helps us to make meaning to things we experience in our world. The capacity to play is a survival skill (Linn, 2008).

Learning via Play-Primary

Some Fun Ideas to Implement into Your Classroom for the Primary Group

1.Hop to Letters to Make Words

Based on Hopscotch, essentially, students can be teamed with hopscotch mats per team and they must hop on a letters to create words. Each team generates as many words as they can.

Another take on this, create long and short vowels and have students jump on a letter and shout out a long or short vowel word.In both cases, the team with the most words wins.

2.Word Family Scavenger Hunt

The challenge here is for the first team to figure out all the answers to the questions provided. After completing all tasks, the team can put "their team name" on the finish line drawn at the front of the room.

Tasks are as follows:

1. Write 4 words from the "ice" family

2. Write 4 words from the "end" family

3. Write 4 long "e" words

4. Write 4 long "a" words

5. Create a page from an alphabet book using any letter you want. Use the model in the classroom. Have an alphabet book or books hidden around the room (a little challenge to find them and get the work done). An alphabet book is a literacy strategy:-0)

You can create a sheet to be given to each team and at the end have--See You at the Finish Line!

3. Long "O" and Short "O" Hula Hoop

1. Have students jump through the hula hoop as they call out long and short "o" words.

4. Musical Ball and the Body

Have students sit in a circle. Put music on and have students pass a ball around as the music plays. When the music stops, the student with the ball must name a body part and spell it.

Learning via Play Upper Elementary

Some Ideas for This Group

1. Dramatizing the Alphabet

1. Using the alphabet from A-Z, assign action words (verbs) to each letter (done in teams)

2. When you have come up with a word for each letter, you are ready to assign a dramatic role to the word you need to perform.

3. Performance should include practicing the letter sounds for each letter in your chosen word and then dramatize the action it represents.

Exemplar: Letter T- TAP-Maybe you might tap someone on the shoulder? Sound out TAP

2. Punctuation Dance

Movement that conveys a message and must end with some form of punctuation. The other students guess the message and form of punctuation.

3. Yarn Letters

1. Create a letter using yarn

2.Form your bodies like this letter (in teams to coordinate this form)

3.Create an alliteration statement using the chosen letter

4. Literacy and the Jump Rope (Intermediate)

Hip Hop Poetry as you jump

First, create a short hip hop poem and then jump to it. Students hold and swing the rope as others perform. Can be done in the gym or outside.

5. Bouncing Ball Rhymes

Create rhyming poetry and then play the historically beloved game of passing the ball under a risen leg as it bounces and as the rhyme is recited.

Word Wall Idea

Create a word wall for words created using any of the games. You can also do a technological parallel using

Exit Card

Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence. ~~Abigail Adams

1. How can we as educators unite movement with memory?

2. How can these lessons further our goal in teaching these important skills rather than the pedestrian method that is more passive rather than active?

3.Inclusion: How can we invite our kinesthetic learners to the table, supporting the multiple intelligence of "body smart?"

Weighing In

How useful do you think play is in the classroom?

See results

Materials to Assist You

Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the brain in mind. Virginia: ASCD.

Linn, S. (2008). The case for make believe. New York: The New Press.


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