by Taila Anandasagar Co-Lead Homeroom & Language Teacher (The Gateway School of Mumbai)
“Flag, repeat, flag.”
He’s not looking at me, but staring forward blankly.
“Flag, repeat, flag,” I try again pointing to the word.
He says, “flag.”
But, I know it’s not actually good. From the blank look across his face, I can tell he is not comprehending the word flag. For him, it is an isolated word in a world full of isolated, random words and sounds. He is hearing what I am saying and he is repeating it - because that’s what he has learned to do. But there is no deeper understanding, no deeper connection to the word.
“How will he read this word tomorrow?” I think to myself. Will he understand it, or just read it because now he knows how.
Then, I stand up and make a flag with my body, one arm extended over my head and one bent in like a triangle. I start slowly waving the triangle and say “flag”.
All of a sudden, his eyes come alive, he has a huge grin across his face. He stands up, copies my movement and says “flag, flag”.
Can you give me a sentence with the word flag?
“The flag is waving.”
“Yes, yes it is!”
What if I told you that if we included movement in our classes, it would aid in attention and retention all the while engaging the senses? I know what you’re thinking...it sounds too good to be true!
It’s not. Here are a few reasons to use movement in our classrooms from today:
Reason 1: Increases Attention Span
A lot of us may have heard of buzz words like brain break or brain gym. In fact, there are many theories circulating regarding research that has shown that attention increases when movement based practices are brought into the classroom. Why does this happen?
It’s common knowledge that the body is designed to move. How good does it feel to stretch after sitting in an hour long meeting? Movement increases our body’s functional capacity by increasing blood circulation within our body, thus increasing our focus and attention to a certain task. It fights against a sedentary, monotonous, repetitive routine a child may experience in a classroom (i.e. sitting all day). Using movement in a class can increase a child’s attention span. But wait, there’s more!
Reason 2: Engages the Senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell)
Almost all behaviour involves some motor function, from talking to gesturing to walking, singing or dancing. This motor function is connected to our senses and it can be said that all movement engages multiple senses. When multiple senses are engaged, we are likely to remember whatever task we are doing easily. It becomes an experience.
Test this out for yourself. Ask yourself this: Where was I when Modi announced that Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes would no longer be legal tender? Now ask yourself: Why do I remember this? What was I seeing? What was I hearing? Was I moving, standing, sitting or chatting? I was walking in the hallway between my room and my living room, while my dad was on the phone, the TV was on with Modi making the announcement - senses engaged: touch, sight, sound. The fact that movement engages our senses, which in turn creates an experience, leads to the final reason why it should be brought into the classroom.
Reason 3: Improves Retention
A key term we’ve all heard is “muscle memory”. This is defined as the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement. Since our bodies are built for movement, we have an easy time memorizing various movements to help us within our daily life. While drinking water, our brains can figure out which muscles to contract, in order to steer our hand to the glass. It also has to estimate the force needed to pick up the glass. This is muscle memory. Our body memorizes minute movements that can act as cues for our short- and long-term memory.
In 2010, Noice & Noice sought out to find the long-term retention of complex material by professional actors. These actors were able to retain approximately 90% of their script verbatim 3-months after their performance was over! When recalling the scripts the actors were allowed to sit or move about as they did in the performance. The study indicated that motor cues aided long-term verbal recall!
“All of a sudden, his eyes come alive, he has a huge grin across his face. He stands up, copies my movement and says “flag, flag”. Senses engaged: touch, sight and sound.