In my previous post I mentioned that one of my primary instructional goals for this school year involves increasing the amount of "active learning" that occurs in my classroom. One strategy that has become an early favorite with my students was inspired by well-known presenter Jean Blaydes, and we use it during our 10-15 minute "word work" sessions that conclude our Reading Workshop a few days a week. In the past my students would frequently sit on the rug during word work and gain practice with a variety of spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar concepts by correcting sentences that I would show on the board. Kids would work independently to copy the sentences onto their individual dry erase boards and correct the mistakes. We would then come together as a group to go over the correct answers.
This year's approach features a few significant changes. First, instead of having my students copy the sentences, I type the sentences and distribute a sheet to each child. We use transparent "sleeves" that envelop the whiteboards so that when the kids make the corrections with the markers, the actual sheets inside the sleeves stay clean, and I can re-use the sheets in future years. Because the kids are only making the corrections instead of copying entire sentences, we can proceed through each sentence much faster and accomplish more word work in less time.
Second, instead of working alone, every child now has a partner, and the pairs begin each sentence in a standing position. Before the kids sit down to make the corrections together, they "move through" the sentence by acting out specific movements that correspond to the types of changes they need to make. For example, as they read the sentence aloud, the kids spin in a circle every time they encounter a misspelled word. When we correct misspellings on the paper, we circle the word and write the correct version above the circle. So, the spinning corresponds to the circling they do on the paper. At the conclusion of this post, you will find some other examples of the movements we make for different types of corrections. Please e-mail me via this site if you'd like to know moves we make for other types of corrections, or, better yet, simply create your own with your students.
Once the kids have moved through the sentence, they sit down and make the corrections with the markers. After a couple minutes, we go over the answers together as a class. Incorporating movement has added tremendous energy and engagement to our word work, and the kids are paying greater attention to detail than they did under our more sedentary approach. In addition, working with partners allows the kids to help one another more easily and provides an important sense of belonging. In short, the kids are learning more, bonding more, and displaying greater enthusiasm with this active approach. As I mentioned in my book Rock It: Transform Classroom Learning with Movement, Songs, and Stories, movement has the potential to turn potentially dry academic lessons into engaging, multi-modal experiences that kids will remember for a long time. If you use other active learning approaches in your classroom, please contact me. I'd love to share them.
• To show that we need to indent, we do a skier jump from left to right.
• To change a lower case letter to a capital, we duck down to the ground and then rise up and extend our arms (as if doing the wave).
• To change a capital letter to lower case, we start with our arms extended above our heads and duck down to the ground.
As this new school year begins, my two main instructional goals are 1) to increase the use of visuals to aid student understanding of important concepts and 2) to incorporate movement into the classroom as frequently as possible as a catalyst for learning.
This week I am happy to share with you a helpful visual that connects to both of these goals. Exercise powerfully impacts focus, memory, and overall cognitive functioning. In addition, research has shown that exercise actually grows new brain cells. One well-known author has even referred to exercise as "miracle grow for the brain." As teachers, we want children to know and understand the benefits that exercise offers.
In future posts I will share specific ways that we can build more movement into the school day to take advantage of these incredible benefits. I invite you to contact me if you would like to share any effective active learning strategies that you use in your classroom.