Movement fuels interaction and aids comprehension. Biology shows that increasing blood flow helps more oxygen to reach the brain, which enhances brain function. Just as reading about pleasure or pain can never substitute for experiencing it in one’s body. In the same way, by creating somatic learning experiences we offer our students additional access points to knowledge that can spark new forms of curiosity and level the playing field for students disengaged with verbal and written modes of communication.

Classroom Applications

  • human barometer
    • present a debatable statement and have students position themselves on a spectrum of answers. Have students explain and elaborate. Invite students to reconsider and reposition. Great for starting and ending classes.
    • For models, see Looking at Zoning and Neighborhood Change, Class-As-Curator
  • gallery walk
  • tableau 
  • fish bowl and dynamic discussion strategies
    • have a smaller subset of students sit in a circle with the rest of the class in an outer circle. Outer circle listens, inner circle talks. At designated times students can elect to replace someone in the inner circle.
  • soliciting group responses
    • have a hand gesture or physical response students can make if they agree with what another student is saying
    • include knowledge checks addressed to the whole class (“thumbs up if you have heard the term ‘zoning’ before”)
    • have students physically add their answers when asking a class-wide question, i.e. adding post-it reactions to images you present in a gallery walk; coming up and writing reactions/responses on the board
  • cross the circle if…
    • a simple but physically engaged way to measure student beliefs, experiences, and opinions. (“Cross the circle if you speak more than one language…”) Typically used for ice breakers but can be adapted for other classroom purposes.
  • elbow partners
    • Students touch elbows with a person with whom they have something in common. (“Link elbows if you live in Brooklyn”) They then continue this process until the entire class is linked. Also typically used for an ice breaker but can have potential as a content activity. Helps foster student interaction with each other.

Further Reading

  • Grenier, R. S., “All Work and No Play Makes for a Dull Museum Visitor.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, (2010): 77–85.
  • Jensen, Eric, Teaching with the Brain in Mind. Assn for Supervision & Curriculum: Alexandria. 2005.
  • Lanser, Susan Sniader, “The Narrative Act: Point of View in Prose Fiction”
  • Shoval, Ella and Boaz Shulruf, “Who Benefits From Cognitive Learning With Movement Activity?” School Psychology International (2011), 68.