Sunday, June 8, 2014

Monday Morning Read: Make Them Move

This is the last week of school for me, and probably many of you. I hope it's been a happy year full of lots of learning and laughing.

My 7th year has definitely been my best. Half of teachers drop out of the profession before five years, but if you make it far enough, there comes a point where you stop surviving the very demanding requirements of the job and start thriving. Classroom management becomes easier, lessons plans go through multiple refinements, and you actually know what to say to parents once in a while. If you're been teaching long enough, you know what I'm talking about. If you're new and still struggling, stick with it. You're almost there!

For me, the turning point was year four. I had always worked hard to make good lessons plans and provide timely feedback (read: grade stuff quickly), but in year four I felt a certain sway and control over my content and class I never had before. Sometimes I felt like an artist painting a canvas.

One of the best things I picked up that year was from a Marcia Tate workshop titled "Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites." Her's was the best professional development I'd ever been to. It provided the science behind a lot of stuff I already knew intuitively.

Doing worksheets are boring, and they don't retain anything.

Talking for too long is boring, and they don't retain anything.

Answering questions out of the book every day is boring, and they don't retain anything.

For whatever reason, they older kids get, the more lame stuff we make them do. Think about kindergarten. It's full of songs, movement and hands on activity. The wiring in our brain eats that stuff up! I'll prove it. Can you remember the first song you ever learned? No? Say the alphabet. We all say it in that same sing-song we learned in our earliest days.

After that PD I set out to add lots more motion to my lessons. We all want to be fun teachers, and we all want kids to like our class. So make it fun! Here's some of the ways I use motion in my classroom:

In 5th grade we use hand gestures and sayings to remember a key characteristic of two of each of the 5 regions of the United States. For the Midwest we rub our bellies and say "Mmmm Bread Basket."

In 6th grade we play a medieval West African trading simulation where in order to cross the Sahara you must hire a Berber caravan and say "Berber, Berber, Berber" as you cross.

In 7th grade we play a Feudalism Simulation you must kneel when taking a fief from your lord and shake saying "Land for Protection," emphasizing the basic feudal contract.

In 8th grade we use a series of hand motions to help remember key parts of the Declaration of Independence. When talking about our three unalienable rights we say "life" and put a hand over our heart. "Liberty" while spreading our hands wide. And "Pursuit of Happiness" while reaching to the sky.

The results are amazing. Movement really makes learning sticky. Those points aren't forgotten. Kids remember those key points throughout the year, usually with giggles. Try it this week. Find one key idea you really want to reinforce and make some sort of movement to hammer it home. I'll bet they remember it in the fall.

Let me know how it goes.

No comments: