When I was teaching elementary students, the day after Halloween was not my favourite day. Kids (and teachers) were tired and either on a sugar high or having a sugar crash. These conditions do not make for optimal learning, to say the least. I found that incorporating movement and music into lessons and routines really helped to provide both an outlet for sugar energy, and an energy boost for tired students. This week my studio teaching day fell on the day after Halloween, so I was deliberate about including a movement activity in our warm-ups which was a marching, call and response rhythm exercise.
In his book, Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Eric Jensen reminds us of the importance of movement to learning. He notes that “the part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain that processes learning”. So it’s no wonder we zone out when we’ve been sitting still for a long time; our ability to learn is enhanced when our bodies are in motion. You might remember a CTV news story back in January of this year about the positive effects of music on Parkinson’s patients. This also affirms the connections between movement, music and building neural pathways for learning.
Chapter 4, Movement and Learning of Jensen’s book can be found at the ASCD website:
And if you are interested to learn more, the CTV news report about music and Parkinson’s disease is here:
One easy way to add some movement and energy to your practice is to sing together. Here is a group of girls in Ghana singing Che Che Kooley on the school yard. This is a traditional call and response song. The words instruct singers to tap along on different body parts – head, shoulders, waist (or tummy), knees and ankles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWClksHTzLY.
I have taken this traditional call and response song and modified the actions so as to touch upon some of the acupressure points used in EFT tapping. When we touch or tap on these points while singing and moving we not only recharge the brain for learning, but also calm and regulate the body’s nervous system. I have used this in the classroom – great to fill in 5 minutes when you are lining up at the door; in the studio – great for pitch matching and warming up the voice; and in workshops with adults – as an energizer after a lunch break, for example.
Here is a video teaching the song in stages: song first, then actions, then put together
And here is a video with 2 repeats of the song once you know it already, more like a performance.
I think that if we can have a bit of fun with our students and colleagues, then learning and retention increase because we are engaged in building meaningful relationships, rather than just transmitting information. Maybe you’d like to try adding some music and movement to your classroom or workshop too?