I bumped into a student from my last summer's class for teachers at ESSA, "The Brain, the Hands and the Arts" at the grocery store. Michael is a teacher in a neighboring community and had taken the class to help improve his own teaching effectiveness. He was excited to see me, as it gave him the opportunity to tell me how much engagement of his students hands had brought to his classroom success. He said he's told all his fellow teachers about what he had learned and how he has been applying it to his classes. A teacher's success is found when his students surpass him, and I'm expecting great things beyond the reach of my own hands.
If you watch carefully the inner workings of your own mind, you may observe that the note taking model is not necessarily what it is cracked up to be. As you begin to attempt to write down what the professor is saying, aren't you actually taking your mind off and missing what he or she has been saying next? And so here comes the value of doodling. Because it involves a different part of your brain, you can do it while listening. In fact, the research shows that it increases memory of what you have heard.
Robin was student at Clear Spring School who doodled during math class. She got in trouble with her teacher for making paisley doodles on the desktop. Rather than stopping her sketching entirely, her mother encouraged her to doodle on her jeans as a compromise. When she would come to wood shop on Monday, one leg would be covered with exquisite paisley patterns, on Tuesday the next leg would be covered. On Wednesday, that pair pair of jeans would be in the wash and Robin was working on a next leg. The important thing to note was her perfect scores in the class. She later went on through four years at the University of Arkansas with straight A's in class and is now working on her masters degree.
And so, how do we reshape classroom learning to be more effective? If the hands are engaged, the mind is not necessarily distracted, but may actually be more deeply engaged than would be the case if the hands were stilled. The following is from CNN:
"It's generally thought scribbling indicates daydreaming, but a study published... in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology says doodling may actually decrease those wandering thoughts and help focus the mind."You can download the full paper What does doodling do? here.
And so, how do we develop effective classroom strategies for engaging the hands (and mind) during boring lectures and discussions? There are all kinds of wonderful, quiet ways to engage the hands creatively during lectures and discussions that should be used. If American corporations can use these strategies and the best corporate trainers in the US understand them, why not use them with kids in school?
Today in the wood shop, I am finishing my small products so I can ship them on Monday. The photo above is from an earlier production run.
Make, fix and create. Teach what you know. Allow children's hands to be creatively engaged toward the development of character and mind.