The Body Learns
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius
When you read a title like this, you might wonder: can the body actually learn a foreign language? You know that when we learn something, we use our brains, but what about our body? Is it possible?
You can’t possibly imagine how many different kinds of people there are around us! Some enjoy learning by exposing themselves to music, some prefer to categorize the things they learn, some are just a natural talent in acquiring language, and others, like me, are totally kinaesthetic.
What does kinesthetic mean? This is actually a Greek compound word, which derives from “κίνηση” (movement) and “αίσθηση” (sensation, feeling). As kinesthetic learners, we have to actually feel the word and we can’t restrain ourselves on a chair or behind a desk during the whole lesson. We lose interest, we get bored, and eventually we stop paying attention. Using movement in our classrooms cannot only benefit kinesthetic learners, but the other types of learners as well.
First of all, it is fun to do different things than to do grammar and vocabulary exercises all the time. Students remember the fun they had and in this way they do get to remember what they have learnt better.
When we are happy, our brain releases the so-called happy chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphin. As a result, when we learn with pleasure, our body seeks to create these chemicals. This is definitely a win-win situation for both the teacher and the students.
What can you do to bring movement in your classroom? You can do a lot of simple as well as complicated things, depending on the students, the space and the time available.
You can use TPR (Total Physical response).
Play pantomime to consolidate vocabulary: You have a bag with word-cards. It can be anything, animals, professions, adjectives, a combination of adjectives and nouns, verbs.
Have them create a story, using movement, describing things in
detail using their hands and going around the room!
Use running dictation. Instead of the boring dictation of words or a text, stick a sheet of paper on the classroom door, or even outside and have a competition – which team is going to finish first the text correctly.
Hide objects and give hints to the students, so they can find them or make a treasure map.
Use a ball to make the students speak. The student who has the ball has to talk for a specific time, let’s say 30 sec or a minute about a subject. Or you can use it as an ice –breaker / introduction in the beginning of the school year.
Use Can Use Music
Use songs to practice vocabulary or act out stories based on the song.
Use songs to teach adjectives. I use the song Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and have my students mine the meaning of the adjectives.
Have students choose a song and have them create a whole performance based on it – playing a little sketch, dancing, drawing, or even combining all these together. This would be a great show for an end-of-the-year event!
You can use Yoga
Give simple Yoga instructions to students while demonstrating the exercise so that students can learn movement verbs and body parts.
Use Yoga breathing techniques to calm your students down at the beginning of your lesson, especially if you work with young children.
What can you do to bring movement in your classroom? Whatever you do, do it, and have fun yourself first. The fun you have will be contagious.
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