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Lesson: The Body as a Conduit of Literacy

Updated on September 23, 2012
“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” ~~~~~~~Albert Einstein
“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” ~~~~~~~Albert Einstein

How Can the Body be a Conduit of Literacy?

In lieu of using oral communication, have you ever opted to flip someone the bird? Or think back to childhood, have you ever stuck your tongue out at anyone? Have I struck a nerve yet? MMM, I hope I have because communication of ideas comes in many forms.

What might the message be here?
What might the message be here?

Educators and Espoused Theories

As educators, we have espoused theories that we carry with us into the classroom daily. As practitioners, we take workshops and other professional development to enlighten us and move us to higher creativity, but we don't always put these theories into proper use. Some of us remain stuck or just get overwhelmed with the oppressive testing requirements that weigh on us and our students daily.

However, we must try to come away from workshops with experiences that will help to awaken us and hopefully transform our classrooms into thinking tanks, engaging our students in ways that will bring about achievement and increase the learning curve. Learning needs to be authentic and relevant to the students we teach.

Let's Practice

The following are a couple of warm-ups. I want you, the educator, to channel your inner child. You cannot come before a classroom of students without first being comfortable in your own skin. And, you can't ask students to do something that you aren't comfortable doing yourself, so, let's practice before you carry these exercises out with your students.

Warm-Up # 1 Pen and Pencil Improvisation

~Take a pencil and show the following:

a) affection

b) dislike

c) indifference

Warm-Up #2 We Are Sculptures

Now you will become a living sculpture that sends a message. First, think about the message you want to convey and then pose. Have a partner see if they can read your message without the use of words.

Warm-Up #3

Finally, you will view the following wordless books:

Banyai, I. ((1995). Zoom. NY: Puffin Books.

Banyai, I. (1995). Zoom. NY: Puffin Books.

DePaola, T. (1978). Pancakes for breakfast. FLA: Harcourt, Inc.

DePaola, T. (1983). Sing, Pierrot, sing. FLA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers.

Do a picture walk through these books (remember, you alone and then you with the students). Be generative and allow ideas to flow--think multiple perspectives. Become the author of the stories you see played out in pictorials. Be kind to yourself and the students because the beauty of this exercise and the ones precedent to this is that there are no wrong answers. And, isn't this a refreshing change to those horrific standardized tests that can only garner one right answer?

Some Questions to Pose

1. What do you notice about these books?

2. How can we gain meaning from these selections?

3. What tools will you use to help you understand each story?

Creating Your Own Wordless Story

In order to cultivate high order thinking, the educator must cajole the students by designing a fertile environment that invites creativity. Having said that, let's proceed with the elevation of the learning by producing our own wordless stories using a structured process.

a) Team students in pairs (a think pair-share)

b) Have them think of an action they were doing recently when suddenly another action caused them to stop the action they were previously doing. For instance, I was reading a book, when suddenly I heard loud music coming from my son's room and I stopped reading.

c) Have them jot down the experience.

d) Then, have them practice it once and then perform it for their partner without using words as descriptors.

e) Have each partner try and guess what is being conveyed.

f) Now, give out construction paper and scissors to each person.

g) Have each person in their paired teams freeze like a statue in the action pose that intercepted the previous activity they were doing. They are to become statues. As each partner poses, the other partner is to observe the pose and only using the scissors and construction paper, cut out what they see. That means, viewing the partner in the frozen image and without pencil, pen or crayon, cut the paper into the image they see. Alert them that perfection is not the game and that they need not have artistic abilities. However it comes out is perfectly fine.

h) Once that is accomplished--that each person has a cut out image, they are now to be teamed with two other students to form a team of four.

i) This newly formed team of four must use the four images that have been created in order to design a 3D wordless story. They will achieve this by being given more construction paper, rope, buttons, blocks, and any other art materials or utilitarian materials that can be used to create a set or stage or scene if you will, that will tell a story without the use of words.

j) When the work is complete, your students will engage in a literacy strategy called, A Gallery Walk. For this, you will need to set up what is termed, graffiti boards (boards that are posted at each team's station). Students are to be given sticky notes and are responsible for critiquing students' work in a positive way and posting the positive commentaries. However, first, they are responsible for guessing what the scene is communicating to them.

The 4 Cs Core Standards

The touchstone of learning today is the framework called the Core Standards. Our lesson provides the following:



Critical Thinking


Summing it all Up

The idea of an exercise or exercises such as these presented here today are to engage you, the learner, both teacher and student, in a way that enables you to make some unexpected connections.

Creative workshops and the lessons that are borne from these transformative experiences helps to awaken us from routines, becoming fresh to the students we teach. Espoused theories must become theories in use.

More importantly, we need to curtail the homogenizing process that is taking place across educational organizations today that only serve to sabotage the uniqueness of our student culture and the progression of innovation.

I owe my training in the arts, in part to Lincoln Center Institute.


Submit a Comment

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile imageAUTHOR

    Robin Grosswirth 

    6 years ago from New York

    Thinking outside the box is essential to survival, not just academics. However, creative lessons are more stimulating. Too bad that time management doesn't allow for a lot of it these days. Teachers have an economy of time to do fun lessons.

    Thanks for always stopping in.

  • shruti sheshadri profile image

    shruti sheshadri 

    6 years ago from Bangalore, India

    briliiant... It is so important to be creative in teaching isnt it?

    We learn so much! A great hub , voted up :)

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile imageAUTHOR

    Robin Grosswirth 

    6 years ago from New York

    TTombso8 Thank you kindly!

  • TToombs08 profile image

    Terrye Toombs 

    6 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

    Very interesting and thought provoking stuff, Robin! Voted up and shared.

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile imageAUTHOR

    Robin Grosswirth 

    6 years ago from New York

    Amy Becherer Thank you for the read, compliment and for the deep insight.

    Breakfastpop Thank you for the vote and for the generous accolades.

  • breakfastpop profile image


    6 years ago

    This is a fascinating and extremely important piece. It is a pleasure to read such an intelligent hub. Voted up, interesting and awesome.

  • Amy Becherer profile image

    Amy Becherer 

    6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    I'm not an educator, Robin, but I do observe and learn more from doing that than speaking. Whether we are consciously aware or not, body language has impact. The political debates have far more meaning in watching the candidates than merely listening to their practiced verbiage. One of my favorite TV shows was titled "Lie to Me", based on a real life psychologist who understood the interpretation of body language and used his knowledge of human behavior to help track criminals. The clues that are so much a part of human behavior are not an obscure mystery, but are evident for astute observers to see. Your instructive article and your comment regarding the generation of technology missing the importance of face and body language is an important one with great value. Thank you

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile imageAUTHOR

    Robin Grosswirth 

    6 years ago from New York

    teaches12345 It means a lot coming from educators. Thanks! Today, most people-gen x particularly, have their faces in the technology and don't read faces or body language and I felt this would help.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    6 years ago

    Well done, Robin. These exercises will get you to thinking and finding solutions.

  • RobinGrosswirth23 profile imageAUTHOR

    Robin Grosswirth 

    6 years ago from New York

    iheartkafka Thank you very much.

  • iheartkafka profile image


    6 years ago

    Such a fascinating subject! Voted up!


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