Tag Archives: ciera

Welcome!

Thanks for stopping by our blog! Whether you’re a stranger or a member of our Ed5200 class, we’d like to give you a brief overview of what our blog has in store for you! We have posted within the following categories:

* An introduction to Brain Gym

* The proposed benefits or testimonials supporting Brain Gym

* Criticisms and downright furious objections to Brain Gym

* The experiment with junior high kids trying out Brain Gym  movements

* A final conclusion with some final thoughts

Feel free to leave comments to further the discussion. On the sidebar, you’ll find a blogroll suggesting some sites to extend your knowledge and experiences.

Enjoy!
Barb, Ciera and Kim

What Is Brain Gym?

Brain Gym is not exactly a new concept. Like many of the concepts in education, it’s been around for a while and has experienced waves in popularity. Some might argue that its on the decline. But since I had never heard of it, let alone tried it, I needed to do some digging. If you haven’t heard of it – it’s new to you!

Dr. D and The 26

Brain Gym was created in the 1960’s by Paul and Gail Dennison. The concept was simple enough: 26 specific exercises are used as a routine. Depending on how much you dig, you’ll find that early marketing of Brain Gym maintains exactly what the brain implies. These are 26 exercises designed to stimulate the brain. Exercises like the Cross Crawl or Brain Buttons were initially said to increase neural activity or stimulate the corpus callosum. As a result, it was literally a Brain Gym – you were exercising your brain.

Recently, these claims have been diluted. Brain Gym is now marketed as Educational Kinesiology. The only reference to the brain seems to be more and more restricted to simply say that you are performing the routine in order to improve learning.

Gym Memberships

Like a lot of concepts or bandwagons in education, there are workshops offered. Brain Gym seems to be fairly regulated in the workshops that it offered. Braingym.org has a complete course listing for those wishing to get involved. Each workshop is part of a progression. Beginners start out at level 1 and can find an expert in their area who will offer a two day course ranging from $375.00 to $450.00.

Level 5 courses aren’t simply relying on the 26 movements anymore. Teachers who will be in Kuala Lumpur in December can take a level 5 course that seem to be based on art and visual skills.

If you’re feeling thrifty, you may decide you want to find one of those instruction books from the 1960’s or even a youtube video. Armed with those tools, you could venture out on your own and give it a whirl.

Decked Out in Lululemon

The brain gym routine of the original 26 is not meant to be an aerobically challenging activity. The point is not to exhaust your students, but to warm them up. The appeal of brain gym could include any number of factors:

  • Consistent routine
  • Responds to your kinesthetic learners
  • Organized activity rather than chaotic free time
  • Fast and efficient

Ideally the students would reach a point where the brain gym is an expected routine that provides the intended benefit to your students.

Further posts will explore what those benefits may be, whether this is all a hoax, and what benefits you can come away with.

Consider this your warm-up – now the real work out begins!

The 8’s and the 26

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.”

My conclusion:

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.

What CAN We Gain?

Clearly there is no shortage of controversy surrounding Brain Gym. There are advocates and critics, but someone somewhere is still using those exercises. There must be some benefit or they wouldn’t bother. I couldn’t help but wonder, what can we all (advocates and critics alike) take away from Brain Gym?

At its most basic, Brain Gym is a chance for physical activity. You will be hard pressed to find educators who don’t support children being active. Our most elementary observations tell us that children need activity. We’ve seen them fidget or get restless. Some of us are relieved to have our grade eight students after Phys. Ed instead of before. This post seeks to find out why that is.

The “hidden curriculum” In schools pushes for children to master skills of sitting still and sitting quietly. We suppress their urge to fidget. It has been suggested that movement is an anthropological need (Breithecker 2007). Even while sleeping we are not completely motionless for eight hours. The need for movement will be manifested in the form of bouncing knees, tapping pencils or even more “disruptive” forms.

Researchers believe that there are also neurological needs being met by fidgeting and physical activity. A basic explanation would note that our brains need oxygen. Physical activity increases the circulation of blood and oxygen, providing our brain with what it needs. A healthy brain will send the signals to initiate the unconscious fidgeting like the bouncing knees. Some studies have even confirmed that physical activity will stimulate the development and maintenance of synapses (Breithecker 2007).

Perhaps Brain Gym is not totally without value. You are providing a short break in the routine and you’re providing structured activity. If it’s the name you object to, call it “Crazy Anti-Cranky Fidget Time!”. Ultimately it’s a short burst physical activity and many of us are hard pressed to object to that.

Breithecker, D. (2007). Beware of the Sitting Trap in Learning and Schooling. DesignShare. http://www.designshare.com/index.php/articles/sitting-trap/

If you’ve hung in there through this whole blog – thank you! We hope that you have found it informative, perhaps useful, and thought-provoking. This is the final post in our blog and we’d like to open it up to you now. We are aware that people are generally pretty polarized when it comes to Brain Gym. Consider the following interview with Dr. Dennison and the attitude of the interview . Clearly we know which camp he falls into:

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5rH7kDcFpc&w=510&h=317]

It seemed a little tense during that interview, didn’t it?

Please consider commenting on this post. Our goal is a significantly less tense atmosphere, but we’d like to offer some guiding questions if you need a push:

  • Had you heard of Brain Gym before our presentation?
  • What opinions of Brain Gym did you have, if any?
  • Has the presentation/blog changed or confirmed those opinions?
  • Have you tried Brain Gym for yourself? What have you observed?
  • Would you be willing to try Brain Gym in your classroom?

Thanks again for popping by. We’ll be hanging out in the comments, too!