Back in April I wrote a Teaching Tip in which I described what I consider to be the three most effective types of “brain-friendly” strategies that we teachers have at our disposal in our effort to improve student learning and energize the overall classroom environment—those involving movement, songs, and stories. I refer to this collection of strategies as the “3 Game Changers.”
Ever since I started incorporating elements of movement, music, and storytelling into my instructional practice several years ago, I have been fascinated by how well students respond to these strategies. The classroom simply becomes a different place whenever we begin one of these activities because the lessons are so engaging and the results so powerful. Specifically, the 3 Game Changers offer unparalleled novelty, interest, stimulation, excitement, and joy. As a result, students become emotionally involved in these activities, pay more attention, remember better, and, in short, learn better. Strategies that incorporate movement, music, and storytelling also improve class morale, build self-esteem and enthusiasm for learning, and increase feelings of student “connectedness” to the class and to one another.
Approximately six years ago my belief in the effectiveness of music, movement, and storytelling became so absolute that I dedicated myself to gathering, adapting, and creating as many strategies and activities as I could that feature these elements. I put over 100 of these ideas into my new teacher resource book ROCK IT! TRANSFORM CLASSROOM LEARNING WITH MOVEMENT, SONGS, AND STORIES. In this article I am excited to share two of my favorite ideas for improving student learning in the area of the English Language Arts.
The first activity, “The Jumping Game,” features a specific type of movement that I call “concept-embedded” movement, in which the activity itself features a type of movement that represents, matches, or embodies the meaning of the content students are expected to learn. Thus, when students move around and participate in the activity, they are actually bringing the content to life.
The next, “The Book Parts Song,” capitalizes on the finding shared by Jerry Evanski in his book CLASSROOM ACTIVATORS that “music can...be used to ‘entrain’ information into the brain.” By entrain, Evanski means that teachers can set academic content to music to help students learn and memorize it. The best way to do this is through the use of familiar tunes that Amy Schwed and Janice Melichar-Utter, authors of BRAIN-FRIENDLY STUDY STRATEGIES, GRADES 2-8, refer to as “piggyback songs.”
The Jumping Game
The Jumping Game helps reinforce the definition of synonyms and antonyms. Prepare a list of words for which your students can think of synonyms or antonyms. Pair students and have them face their partners. They should stand a few feet away from their partners, with adequate space between each pair. Announce the first word. The kids jump up and down on two feet twice, and then stick out one leg. It’s like playing rock-paper-scissors with feet.
To keep the kids jumping at the same speed as their partners, call out, “Jump, jump, show.” If the partners show opposite legs, they think of as many antonyms as possible for the word and say them quietly to each other. If they show legs from the same side of their bodies, they brainstorm synonyms. For example: The word is mean. The kids jump once, jump twice, and show their feet. The pairs who show either two right feet or two left feet brainstorm synonyms, such as cruel, rotten, and unkind. The pairs that show one left and one right foot brainstorm antonyms, such as friendly, kind, and nice. Give the groups about 30 seconds to brainstorm their synonyms and antonyms, and then bring everyone together for a quick whole class share. Check for accuracy, reinforce the meaning of the two terms, and compliment students who demonstrate excellent word choice.
Have your students do two to four words per session of the Jumping Game.
The Book Parts Song
Elementary students are frequently expected to learn four specific parts of a book: the title page, table of contents, index, and glossary. This song helps make that task an enjoyable event that kids will remember. As the kids are singing the song, hold up a book and display each of these parts. Repeat the song twice so the kids receive more practice with these ideas.
“The Book Parts Song”
(Sung to the tune of the theme from the ’60’s TV show, “The Addams Family”)
Turn to the front (snap, snap)
Turn to the front (snap, snap)
Turn to the front, Turn to the front, Turn to the front (snap, snap)
The title page contains / the author and the title
Plus some other info / about how the book was made
The table of contents / shows the chapter names
And the page numbers / on which the chapters start
Turn to the back (snap, snap)
Turn to the back (snap, snap)
Turn to the back, Turn to the back, Turn to the back (snap, snap)
The glossary is a / little dictionary
with key words from the book / a-n-d what they mean
The ind - ex shows you / key terms from the book
And the page numbers / where they can be found
As teachers, once we unleash the power of movement, songs, and stories in the classroom, we turn potentially dry academic lessons into engaging, multi-modal experiences that students will enjoy and remember.
Access a free ROCK IT! “Mini-Pack” here.
Steve Reifman is a National Board Certified elementary school teacher, author, and speaker in Santa Monica, CA. He has written several resource books for educators and parents, including CHANGING KIDS’ LIVES ONE QUOTE AT A TIME, EIGHT ESSENTIALS FOR EMPOWERED TEACHING AND LEARNING, K-8, and ROCK IT! In addition, Steve has created a series of shorter, e-book resources for educators, including THE FIRST 10 MINUTES: A CLASSROOM MORNING ROUTINE THAT REACHES AND TEACHES THE WHOLE CHILD, THE FIRST 30 DAYS: START YOUR SCHOOL YEAR WITH 4 PRIORITIES IN MIND, and 2-MINUTE BIOGRAPHIES FOR KIDS: INSPIRATIONAL SUCCESS STORIES ABOUT 19 FAMOUS PEOPLE AND THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION. He is also the creator of the CHASE MANNING MYSTERY SERIESfor children 8-12 years of age. For teaching tips, articles, and other valuable resources and strategies on teaching the whole child, visit and subscribe at www.stevereifman.com. Follow Steve on Twitter(@stevereifman), “Like” his “Teaching the Whole Child” Facebook page, subscribe to his“Teaching Kids” YouTube channel, check out his two professional development courses for educators on Udemy.com, and visit his TeachersPayTeachers page.
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