Four summarized lesson plans are presented below. Complete lesson plans on a wide range of curricular topics will be found in Minds in Motion.
This lesson was created after a 4th grade teacher requested that I teach a punctuation lesson, because he was frustrated at his continued lack of success. A few weeks later, I bumped into him on the stairwell, and inquired about the results. He was amazed, he told me, that a handful of students who had never used punctuation in their journals before, were now not only using it, but using it correctly! They were the kinesthetic learners. Though I didn’t teach them anything new, I taught them in a new way: from muscles to the brain.
Physicalize punctuation marks by creating whole body movements (e.g., stretching for upper case, squatting for a period, a slow, low curve for a comma, using hands as talking heads on the side of the head for quotation marks). Walk through an unpunctuated sentence on the board that is read aloud, adding the appropriate movements where they belong.
2. Notes to the Teacher:
A. As the class is creating movements, choose one (or combine a few) for each punctuation mark and teach it to the whole class so everyone uses the same symbols.
B. Encourage students to create movements that reflect the meaning of the punctuation mark, its shape, and its placement on the page.
C. Sounds can highlight the meaning of the punctuation.
D. Students should say the word as well as do the motion and sound.
How can you combine this lesson with other parts of the curriculum?
THE MAGIC OF MULTIPLICATION
This lesson exemplifies how movement can clarify an abstract concept, so that students can ground their understanding in their bodies.
Demonstrate the concept of multiplication using a group of students performing a movement (a jump) a set number of times.
2. Notes to the Teacher
A. Demonstrate the concept of multiplication using the equation 5 X 3=15.
B. Begin by showing addition: 3+3+3+3+3=15:
Five students stand next to each other to do three jumps each. Ask the class to count out loud how many jumps they do altogether while they jump one at a time. (The first student jumps 1,2,3; the second student jumps 4,5,6; the third jumps 7,8,9; etc. “That was like adding 3+3+3+3+3 to get 15.”
C. Show the magic of multiplication by having the same children do the same three jumps, but at the same time. Have the class count out loud again as they see each set of jumps.
D. When all five children jump one time, the class will say the number “5.” On the second jump they will say “10.” On the last jump, “15.”
E. Ask the class: How many jumps did we see altogether? Did it take as long as when they did it one at a time? Multiplication is quick addition when you’re adding the same number.
F. Ask children to demonstrate other multiplication equations.
G. In groups of varying numbers, have the children create their own demonstrations and compute the equations. Children can then show their demonstrations to the rest of the students who will compute the equations.
How could you demonstrate the commutative property of multiplication by using this method?
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
Teachers have used this lesson from elementary school through high school. Some teachers have taken children outside; others have gone down hallways, used other classrooms as safe houses along the way, and gone into the basement. One 6th grade teacher reported a group of girls rolling their eyes at the thought of doing this journey, but afterwards asked if they could do it again! A first grade teacher reported that when she noticed one child was missing, the others explained that he had “died” in front of the teacher’s room. They went back to carry him away!
After a brief history of the Underground Railroad, and a chance to view a portion of the video showing the brutality of slavery (i.e. “Night John”), with the lights out and Spirituals on the tape recorder, sneak out into the (imaginary) woods. Hide behind trees, run from barking dogs, stretch from rock to rock across an icy stream so as not to get your feet wet and frostbitten. Someone gets a foot caught in an animal trap and has to be carried–all in silence for fear of being caught. Dawn is coming, hide in a cornfield. At dusk take rowboats across the river to an old barn. Under the horse stalls there is a secret room where you can crowd in and wait for early morning when a cart will bring you to town. At dawn, split up and quietly make your way to your safe houses, (4-6 students at each “house”).
2. Notes to the Teacher
A. There are excellent pictures and stories in the July, 1984 National Geographic Magazine. Also two audio tapes: “All For Freedom” by Sweet Honey in the Rock and “Steal Away: Songs of the Underground Railroad” by Kim and Reggie Harris.
B. A good children’s book with colorful pictures on this subject is Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter, published by Knopf, 1988. For older children, excerpts from To Be a Slave, by Julius Lester, published by Scholastic, Inc., 1968, or Incidents in the Life of a Slave Written by Herself, by Harriet A. Jacobs, published by Harvard University Press, 1987.
C. After students arrive in their safe houses, each group creates and performs their own journey on the Underground Railroad, including at least three terrains and an unexpected challenge or obstacle.
D. Journeys should include a variety of levels (low, medium, high), tempos (slow, fast) and/or spatial patterns (lines, clusters, spread out).
E. Encourage students to help each other along the way. They can also choose to have a leader or make decisions as a group. Students may choose to be specific characters or family members.
What are the benefits of dramatizing history?
What other historical events lend themselves to kinesthetic explorations?
SPEED OF SOUND IN LIQUID, GAS AND SOLID
This lesson was first taught to a combined 3rd/4th class that was studying a unit on sound. The lesson occurred in the middle of the unit. On the final unit exam, this was the only question that every student answered correctly, not because they memorized the information, but because they understood the principle through a kinesthetic activity!
Ask the class through which medium they think sound travels fastest — liquid, gas or solid. Divide the class into three equal groups, and line up each group, pretending to be molecules — closest together as a solid (a foot apart) and furthest apart as a gas (8-10 feet apart). At the sound of the drum, pass the “sound wave” (a shoulder tap) from one to the next within each group. Which group finishes first? Last? Why?
2. Notes to the Teacher
A. If the class is small, have all the students represent each group and time them separately.
B. Discuss practical applications, e.g., listening for buffalo, Cavalry, trains.
C. Kinesthetically demonstrate longitudinal waves (bumping back and forth from side to side).
What makes this lesson so retainable?