Tue 21 Nov 2006
In the spirit of sharing, and because I’m actually doing a lot of writing right now, just not for this blog, I’ve included my most recent work below for you to enjoy. (I really hope you’re all sensing the sarcasm, here.) For my Ed.S., we are required to read and reflect on a number of texts. This is my response to our latest class reading, Smart Moves, by Carla Hannaford.
In Smart Moves, Carla Hannaford makes it clear that learning is certainly not all in our heads. Throughout this text, Hannaford emphasizes the necessity of understanding and using the connections between the body and the mind to facilitate and maximize learning in ourselves and our students. Even as the author focuses on the intricacies of the learning process and the many ways our bodies influence, create, foster, and sometimes, limit learning, she also emphasizes the importance of teaching, valuing, and developing the whole child. Again and again, Hannaford shares examples of how exercising the body can stimulate the mind and result in learning outcomes that both amaze and delight both learners and their teachers.
Hannaford emphasizes the importance of physical activity both before, during and after learning. She explains how the senses and our emotions are key players in the process of learning, even before we leave the womb. She describes how early childhood developmental milestones, such as crawling, are the building blocks of a child’s capacity to learn, as movements such as crawling “activate both hemispheres in a balanced way” (Hannaford, 92). Hannaford insists that real learning “starts with movement in response to a stimulus, then creates a context or experience to understand the sensory input” (99). Throughout, the author stresses the importance of teaching students in a way that honors the natural progression of skills and their bodies’ development. For example, she advocates postponing the emphasis on silent reading until after the age of seven, at which time students are more likely to have developed the inner voice that will enable them to accomplish the task successfully and with less frustration.
Much of what Hannaford recommends just makes good sense. While my high school English classroom was small and space was limited, many of Hannaford’s suggestions were commonplace in that space. I’m sure more than one administrator was less than happy about the noise level in my room. But I felt certain that learning required interaction with the material in many, varied ways. My students read, discussed, sketched, painted, taught, debated, wrote, play-acted, laughed and, I hope, learned. Hannaford affirms such practice, stating, “Most people need to discuss, write, or draw a picture of new ideas in order anchor them in the body with movement for memory and clarity of thought” (101).
Hannaford also details the impact of stress on the learning process, labeling those who are most afflicted by stress as SOSOH (Stressed Out, Survival-Oriented Humans) (145). She identifies a number of stressors that inhibit learning, from medical ones such as chronic ear infections to technological ones such as television, computers, and video games. Not surprisingly, Hannaford continues to make connections between these seemingly very different sources of stress, the body, and the mind. For example, chronic ear infections and the overuse of televisions, computers and video games can all contribute to an impairment of a child’s language acquisition. How? Hannaford explains that ear infections can affect hearing in general and can impact a child’s ability to hear the full range of harmonics. Over reliance on digitized sources of sound, such as that found in television, computers, and video games, does not expose children to the full range of harmonics. In both instances, children are being deprived and their language acquisition may be impaired since they are not being afforded the opportunity to hear and interact with the full range of a real human voice (Hannaford, 102). Again, it becomes clear that our classrooms must be places filled with many varied voices, the voices of our students as they teach what they’ve been taught, share their discoveries with each other, and practice the art of communication.
Throughout the text, Hannaford emphasizes the importance of relationships—the relationships between teacher and student, between body and mind, between heart and intellect. Hannaford insists that “It is the full activation and balance of all parts of our body/mind system that allow us to become effective, productive thinkers” (106).