I love teaching and learning with kinesthetic connections. So attributing different educational objectives and beliefs to different parts of the body makes sense to me.
To be successful, we start with the feet. We must start off on the right foot. This means being physically and mentally prepared. As the teacher, I will make well-prepared lessons and have a classroom set up for small group instruction and interactional activities. Likewise, the students will be prepared with pencils and red pens every day, and their homework completed.
Also, we must be able to stand on our own two feet, an idiom that means think for yourself. As the teacher, I need to know my content knowledge and pedagogical approaches, and I need to know how each of my students is doing by ongoing formative assessment. Likewise, the students need to be able to stand on a firm foundation of knowledge by being sure to keep up with class and homework assignments so that they have the skills needed to walk ahead. If a student starts to fall behind or needs extra help, he or she must ask for extra help, either from me, another teacher, a parent, or a student.
Hands symbolize how we work together. As a teacher, I strategically use small group instruction with homogenous groupings in order to maximize comprehensible input (Krashen) and comprehensible output (Swain) and work with students at their own levels within their Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky). I provide leveled readings and writing assignments to them when they are practicing more independently. I also utilize small group instruction for intervention of skills that a group of students lack. Small group instruction also enables me to “stretch” the highest students.
In addition, I design activities in heterogeneous groupings or pairs when I want students to work cooperatively with a more capable peer (Vygotsky).
In turn, students must practice proper social skills in groups. We help each other and do not criticize. We listen to others when they are taking. We wait our turn.
As a teacher, I think of heart as designing my classroom to have a low affective filter (Krashen). I use positive reinforcement to help boost kids’ self-confidence. For example, on my class webpage, I plan to feature one student or group of students per week for having done something well. I’d like to have the kids nominate each other anonymously. Also, with writing, I use the kids’ writing as examples (anonymously or with their permission). We talk about what is really well one and how we can revise it. I make sure to use different students each time, and of different levels, to validate their efforts.
As a class, we help others have a lower affective filter by following the three Ps: be prompt, polite, productive.
Heart also involves personal investment through choice. Feeling passionate about class content and projects is key. In his framework for school-based language planning, Jim Cummins talks about the importance of affirming identity. When identity is affirmed, there is more literacy engagement, and thus more literacy attainment. In my classroom, I do a lot of “stream of consciousness” writing to get the students to start thinking about what really interests and concerns them. From there, we mold those thoughts into different research and/or writing projects. I tell the children, “Write from the heart. Concentrate on what you really care about.” I encourage them to write about their own experiences, and I share with them my own experiences through writing.
A person’s L1 resides deep in the heart, and I want to include L1 in the classroom. Cummins states that by including and affirming students’ first languages, their identity is affirmed and motivation increases. In addition, now that I am aware that a student’s L1 proficiency directly affects their possible L2 proficiency, (Cummins’s Threshold Hypothesis) I will encourage students to use L1 at home and give extra credit for writing assignments also done in L1.
Ultimately, all the parts of the body lead to engagement of the brain. With a strong foundation from the feet, cooperation from the hands, listening to what drives the heart, we come to critical thinking skills in the head. The skills I have listed are all emphasized by the Common Core Standards, but they are also just good life skills. I want my students to be able to think critically, question what is given to them, and to be able to find and provide evidence for any opinions or beliefs they may have in life.