January 6, 2014

Using Gestures to Enhance Learning

Guest blog post by Sally DeCost of Elementary Matters

I've been teaching elementary school for 35 years, and I'm always trying to find a better way to reach my students.  Recently, I've developed an interest in Brain Based Learning, and I use what I've learned in my classroom. One little trick that works wonders is gesturing!  When I'm trying to make a particular point, I'll make specific gestures that emphasize what I'm teaching, and have the children mirror these images.

When I was teaching Author's Purpose, these are some of the gestures I used:First I gestured slicing a pie, then eating a slice of pie.  While I did that, I told them "Author's Purpose is as easy as PIE."
Then I showed what each of the letters of PIE stood for.

For Persuasion. I gestured rolling my hands in front of me as if I were gesturing for them to come with me.  As I gestured, I repeated the word persuade as well as synonyms. Of course I expected the children to mirror the gesture, which they did gladly.

For Inform, I pointed to my brain.  I repeated the words inform and information while I gestured, as the children followed.

For Entertain, I put my hands near my face with "jazz hands" radiating from my face.  The children giggled, and mirrored me, while I repeated the words entertain, entertainment, and synonyms. 

There's lots of science and research to back up what parts of the brain are activated by gestures, and why it works to help children remember information.  I won't bore you with the details, but trust me, every time I mention Author's Purpose, they break into the gestures as well as the words.  

Here are some of my little cuties doing the gestures to a little chant I remembered from my cheerleading days.  I turned it into a chant to remember counting by 25s while we were counting quarters. (Fill in the name of your school on the blank.) If they struggle counting money, I just do the beginning gestures, and it clicks for them!  

These guys are modeling the gesture for an addition story... when sets are being joined together.

These gentlemen are modeling when sets are separated... subtraction.

These lovely ladies are demonstrating comparing sets Of course, when comparing sets, you subtract!

It's easy to come up with your own gestures, and they really help the kids remember what they're learning!

Sally DeCost is in her 36th year of teaching. After having taught grades Preschool through 8th grade, she has settled into second grade for the last 12 years. She has a strong interest in how the brain learns, which she shares through Twitter, Facebook, and her blog, Elementary Matters

1 comment:

  1. I've started doing gestures in the past couple years and I love it! It really keeps them engaged and they remember some of them for forever! Thanks for the new ideas - I especially love the quarters one.


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