I decided that I needed to test out this Brain Gym for myself. My kids had already received the crash course in neuroscience earlier in the year and the warning that they would be my guinea pigs for projects now and then. Perhaps this is why I was treated to good natured groans rather than full out refusal. Possibly. Do you know many Grade 8’s that would yell “Yippee Skippee” when you tell them it’s time to do our brain exercises? I know one but I’m fairly sure it was sarcastic.
Regardless, our work out commenced on a day that we were reviewing for our upcoming exam. For the first half of the period, we went through the usual routine of the slideshow, the trivia rounds and so on. About halfway through, when we needed a bit of a pick-up. We stopped to ask students to write down a number between 1 and 4 to answer the following statements:
- I am focused.
- My brain is alive with activity.
- I will remember all of today’s information.
- My brain is feeling pumped!
Tongue in cheek, sure, but that’s how I roll. On our scale, 4 is “Oh, absolutely!” and 1 is “Pfft, not even a little!”. It was time for Brain Gym.
This required a little prep time on my end. I’d already seen a few youtube videos about some of the 26 exercises designed by Dr. Dennison. However, I didn’t want this to be a “just follow the video, guys!” kind of activity. We’ve already done an activity where we attempted to mimic a hip-hop routine and I was a little wary of Brain Gym erupting into the giggles that the hip-hop routine induced. So I needed to practice for a few days in order to guide them through a few of the exercises.
We started with the brain buttons, placing our fingers on our clavicles and our navels. It’s a simple enough activity that isn’t quite a marathon. From there, we went on to the cross crawl. The activity increased but students were all following along. There were degrees in enthusiasm, some students wanted to perform at a high level and some were content to simply follow along in a content sort of way. As we moved into “elbow to knee”, I tried to resist the urge to yell out encouragement. “Feel your neurons firing! Expand those lobes! Flex your brain stem!”.
After we completed the exercise, we went back to our review. This involved more slideshows, some outlines and some partner reviewing before some quiet time. At the end of class, students were given one minute to respond to those original 4 statements. Then we opened it up to a discussion at the end of class. I asked how today went for them and if they felt more focused at the beginning or the end, etc.
Some of the significant responses are below:
“I liked having the break and it was easier than doing the other dance video,”
“Uhhhh… no difference.”
“Oh I am definitely smarter after I jump around.”
I liked having the break! It was easier than the other dance video! For some of them it may have made no difference! And maybe that kid really is smarter after he jumps around!
The bottom line: nobody got hurt, it took us less than seven minutes, and our test average was still pretty good.