by Steve Reifman, Monthly Columnist
As frequently as possible, I add movement to my instructional lessons to engage students, enliven the classroom environment, and increase the likelihood that quality learning will occur. The easiest way to incorporate movement is through simple rhythms and chants. While this kinesthetic dimension positively impacts all children, it has a particularly strong effect on English language learners and is consistent with the well-known Total Physical Response approach that seeks to aid learning through the use of hand and body movements.
Using Movement in Lessons
Let me share an example. One of the most critical reading comprehension skills that children learn in elementary school involves making an inference. To arrive at an inference, children need to combine a piece of information from the text they are reading with their own knowledge. The diagram below presents the three parts of an inference as a mathematical equation that provides kids with a basic definition of the term. The novelty of seeing an equation involving words, rather than numbers, captures students’ attention.
Story Clue + My Own Knowledge = An Inference
In the call and response chant my students do, they repeat the different parts of the equation while performing corresponding hand and body movements. When I say “story clue,” the kids repeat these words while putting their palms together and then opening their hands as if opening a book. Next, everyone repeats the word “plus” as they make the addition sign with their arms. Third, the students repeat the words “my own knowledge” as they point to their heads with both index fingers. Fourth, the children make the equal sign by holding their forearms parallel to each other. Finally, as the kids repeat the word “inference,” they make a capital “I” with their hands by holding one hand vertically and moving their other hand back and forth from the top of the “I” to the bottom.
My students and I perform this chant three times in a row each day for about a week -until the chant becomes second nature. It is important to emphasize that while participating in the chant, the kids are seeing the content written on the board, speaking, listening, and moving at the same time. With four modalities operating simultaneously, kids with diverse learning styles can acquire the information and transfer it to long-term memory.
The next time you are expected to teach a piece of new content to students, try to figure out a way to create a short simple rhythm or chant to bring this content to life. Don’t be shy about asking the kids for their suggestions. Sometimes kids come up with excellent ideas that we would not have thought of in a million years.
About the Author
Steve Reifman is a National Board Certified elementary school teacher, author, and speaker in Santa Monica, CA. He has written several books for educators and parents, including Changing Kids’ Lives One Quote at a Time andEight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8. Steve is also the creator of the Chase Manning Mystery Series for kids 8-12. Each book in the series features a single-day, real-time thriller that occurs on an elementary school campus. For weekly Teaching Tips, blog posts, and other valuable resources and strategies on teaching the whole child, visit stevereifman.com. You can also follow Steve on Twitter.