Smart Moves: Learning is Not All in Your Head by Carla Hannaford, PhD.
Chapters 6 and 7 are about the importance of movement to the learning process. The author shares many studies and research information to prove the point that movement is not subservient to thought. She cited studies of including a few minutes of controlled movement activities such as Brain Gym, walking, and exercise classes increasing academic test scores. So often it is thought that movement is not helpful for serious learning, but it is according to the author. It is so important two entire chapters full of research and proof are included in the book.
I saw myself in the book, so I have to mention it. When I am in class, I have to take notes. If the notes are provided in the handout, I still have to take notes. I almost never need to look at the notes later, though. It is the movement of my hand that allows me to remember the thoughts. ” . . . to remember a thought an action must be used to anchor it.” Taking notes involves movement.
Many people find “talking” anchors “thinking.” Teachers often use the “turn and talk about what we just learned” strategy to help students remember information. Talking is movement that can anchor learning. Children naturally start talking when they are learning something, and we need to try to refrain from telling them to be quiet all the time. Many adults do the same thing. Sometimes we think students or our children are being disrespectful when they are just naturally learning and trying to remember.
Think of how Montessori tray carrying, rolling out the rug, finding a learning spot, and preparing for learning incorporate the need for purposeful movement and help prepare the brain for learning. The author states, “Many of us have a distinct tendency to think better and more freely while engaged in a repetitive, love concentration physical task.” Thinking time is built into the Montessori method!
Much eyestrain comes from foveal focus (close work) and in Singapore, children used to begin writing work at age three or four. By the age of ten almost 100% of the children needed glasses! This is informative for our work with children. Singapore education has changed to include play and manipulatives with better results for the children’s vision. Again, Montessori teaches with manipulatives in the first place. Amazing foresight on the part of Maria Montessori, no pun intended.
Additionally, everyone needs clean water and air to best learn. Student need to be hydrated to be able to learn. I used to tell my student to keep their dendrites hydrated at break time. People are the least thirsty when dehydrated. Water is involved with electrical activity in the body, how oxygen is distributed, and in nutrition. Good nutrition from food is also essential for learning. The author goes into detail on this subject.
The book provides facts to explain why stress can inhibit future learning. Children need to feel safe at home and in class to best learn. Many facts in the book support how stress detrimentally affects possible learning. The author says to think of how we feel after a scary movie or event, and that it takes awhile to relax. Some children live with chronic stress and therefore chronic learning issues. Imagine that situation from the student’s viewpoint. It is so important for all of us to understand this issue.
The author is against labels, as I have mentioned before. However, in chapter 14 goes in to detail about how drugs are misused. In fact, there is damaging evidence against Ritalin. Maybe it controls some behaviors but research shows brain shrinkage in adults labeled ADHD who took it for years. Maybe football isn’t the only cause of brain changes. People who take Ritalin can also be more prone to Parkinson’s disease in later life. The cure? You can guess, more movement. For homeschools, this would be easy to implement.
Chapter 15 is about other countries and other school systems models we can learn from to improve our own schools. Dr. Hannaford describes these methods and explains what future learners will be like. She is an advocate of unstructured play. I’m so happy to see any posts online that say children need recess. They simply do!
Danish schools begin at age seven, and children are not tested until age 14, for instance. The author visited Danish schools and witnessed students being honored for thinking skills, imagination, and communication skills. Curriculum was developed at the beginning of a quarter using a democratic process involving teachers and students. Currently, teachers in the USA are too bound to standards to be able to try these methods. She visited other countries and shares other information about positive ways to improve learning for all.
The author ends the book by saying that something ” . . . this simple and natural can be the source of miracles.” We have been looking for answers in all the wrong places! Who knew?
See also post one about the book Smart Moves Learning is Not All in Your Head.