Let’s Get Physical: Using the Body to Strengthen the Mind

the-thinker-1090226_640In this world of office jobs and student desks, we spend a lot of time sitting down, particularly when we need to do our best thinking. In fact, sitting and thinking as joint activities are immortalized by such icons as “The Thinker” sculpture, and Winnie the Pooh, at his thinking spot. We expect students to stay seated during learning from a very young age, and many adults spend most of their productive hours at a desk.

While there is something to be said for the undistracted stillness of sitting, time and again, it’s been shown that involving the body in learning can help new information stick, especially for students. In this post, we talk about students who did better in math when they physically acted out word problems. And now, educators at Learning English have suggested using movement to improve English language skills. Using hand gestures or repetitive motions serve as learning strategies that are particularly portable, since they can reinforce knowledge when the learner shifts among new contexts. And in particular, since English is stress-timed, it’s important for nonnatives to articulate their words in an English-like way in order to be understood. One teacher recommends snapping a rubber band on the stressed syllable of a new word, as a way to internalize its rhythm in a way that, I imagine, is really satisfying! It’s not a large movement, but it has a big impact.

What kinds of physical activities do you incorporate into learning?

Have you tried this strategy for teaching word problems?

Wait, are they speaking English?

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