If you walk into my classroom, you’ll first notice a big empty space. No desks, no chairs. Well, if you look carefully, there are some chairs stacked in the corner. But, for the most part it’s empty space.
If you were to observe a class of students, however, the movement is actually the first thing you would notice. Really, how often do you see students and teachers jump, move around like animals, skip, or create the pegasus you see above? Depending on the day and level, movement can be integrated throughout the entire class period.
The empty space allows for movement and the movement supports community building, establishing a target language environment and helps me deliver comprehensible input to my students.
Here is a quick list of how I use movement in our Spanish classroom:
1. Attention/Classroom Management & Brain Breaks- I use movement to help students focus. This has two parts. I will call out a movement that will 1. help students to focus and 2. allows the me to easily see who is listening.
For example, we may say hands up, touch your head, jump or stand on one foot. Doing whatever movement is called out helps students to realize directions are coming up and the teacher can easily see who heard and is listening actively.
A movement is also used when we see that students are fidgeting or losing focus. When I look around the circle and see signs of checking out, I quickly bring a movement into class to get the blood flowing, the mind focused and back to the topic. Annabelle Allen describes this well in the Inspired Proficiency Podcast, episode 5.
2. Pairings and Groupings/Community Building: We have students move around the classroom a lot in order to interact with different people. I may have students move across the class doing different actions and when they move to a new spot they are new near people with whom they can talk.We may also ask them to make a line in order of their height or how many hours of sleep they got last night and this also gives us a new order to pair and group students in. We may have them dance around the room and when the music stops they have to create a group of three as quickly as they can. There are countless ways that open space and movement can allow for students to interact in many different configurations throughout a single class period.
3. Play! Movement is fun. We infuse our classes with play through movement that takes students out of their comfort zone and just gives them the freedom to be silly, to be kids. Sometimes we move like crabs, jump on one foot, paddle a canoe with a friend, move like a spy or create a train with the class. This might seem silly…. Well, it is! But, as I narrate in Spanish and they feel what the words mean with the movement their bodies make, it’s not only fun but also a great strategy for maximizing comprehensible input.
4. Comprehensible Input
The open space and movement allows for me to act out anything and for the students to play along. When we all use gestures and movement with the target language, and THAT keeps me accountable for keeping it all comprehensible. If students don’t move the way I say, I know I’ve said something that’s too complicated. I explain games, tell stories, ask and answer questions, describe movies and pictures, all in the target language, all with students interacting and moving and eventually talking.
We definitely take movement to the extreme in my department. And of course, I don’t think everyone has to do the same. But, I would challenge you to think about how much your students are moving and whether adding some of the movement I’ve described might enhance the amazing things you do in your classroom already. If you want to talk more about this, comment below and I can discuss it on the Inspired Proficiency podcast.
- Ashley Uyaguari