Broadening Language and Vocabulary Development through Movement (5-6)


Learner Description:

The developmental needs of children in my classroom are very diverse and challenging. We serve 390 students in grades K-6.  We are temporarily housed in a newly renovated school located one mile from our old site due to mold.  Most of all of the students are bussed in from their neighborhoods.  

            Our population consists mostly of these ethnic backgrounds: Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, and African-American. These groups make up about 85% of our school.  About 85% of these students speak a language other than English at home.  Students here are predominately non-native speakers of English.  The language barrier often is a challenge when I need to talk with a parent on the phone or at conferences.

            Not only are these students ESL (English as a second language), but 90% receive free and reduced meals.  Most students live in low-income housing and are at the poverty level. White Center is known to be an area with low-income housing for many poverty families. Because of some of the economical and language differences, often our scores on statewide tests are lower than surrounding schools and districts.  However, for what I know and see of my students’ accomplishments despite circumstances, we do very well.

            Because of the cultural identification my students’ experience of wanting to be American yet wanting to hold on to their culture, my students struggle as to who they are.  I would like to include in my curriculum more of an awareness or a connection to their culture.  I would like to develop a way to do this by creating a unit that involves the study of their country and culture by using all various modalities of the arts including artwork itself, movement through native dance, drama, technology, storytelling, and writing. 

            I am also involved next year with a challenge course in which I am going to be receiving training on.  The challenge course is a yearlong commitment involving my class and me.  Basically, this yearlong course focuses on teamwork, trust, empathy, participation, multiple intelligences, risk-taking, and cooperation experienced through movement and physical activities.  I know it will be challenging for some of my students but the excitement that the students displayed through the other teacher involved was amazing.  I am looking forward to this inclusion and my curriculum will definitely revolve around this yearlong process.

            My learners are very typical of any classroom.  There are at least 5-10 students labeled ESL.  Among the ESL challenges, I have special education students as well.  My students have a wide range of learning styles.  To generalize, most ESL students do well with kinesthetic and visual lessons.  They need more than just the verbal explanations.  Seeing and doing things make learning more concrete for them.  Because of this great diversity and other factors that make up the developmental needs of my classroom, I truly believe that movement can reach my students on a higher level.

            One area that has been a constant struggle is to get my students to broaden their vocabulary and language.  Multi-syllabic words and abstract words are difficult for them to pronounce.  They also have difficulty remembering concepts.  I want my students to have a different modality to study and explore vocabulary. Looking words up that they don’t know and writing definitions on a piece of paper isn’t working, especially for my students.  Instead, being able to act out vocabulary, perhaps through pantomiming, is way more meaningful, tangible, and fun!  With the kinesthetic intelligence, students will develop more concrete ways to learn abstract concepts in vocabulary in all subject areas.  


            Learning Objectives: The learning objectives will occur in each of the following areas: cognitive, affective, social, and artistic elements.

Cognitive:  Describing relationships among and between ideas and objects.  Posing questions, finding problems, testing and evaluating.  For the cognitive area, I want students to be motivated to use a cognitive process that works for them.  Helping students develop their own thinking strategies is something I hope to develop for my students.  How students think, more than what they think about is something I would like to foster in my classroom.  I want students to question the meaning of words and how the words are being used in context.  I want them to explore these words through their bodies and movement. 

            Affective:  Having confidence in oneself is also important to me for my students.  I want them to feel good about themselves and appreciate the various learning styles that they are discovering within themselves.  I hope to inspire an attitudinal shift that they all have strengths, but need to explore the possibilities of what strength comes more naturally to them. 

            Social:  My students will need to improvise and be spontaneous within working with a small group, or with a partner.  Students will learn to work together by participating, encouraging each other, and coming to reasonable consensuses. 

            Artistic:  Students will learn to use their bodies to express various concepts and thoughts.  Pantomiming asks for students to express themselves using their bodies, facial expressions, and each other without using words.  They will need to use their imaginations for verbal or written descriptions.


            Activities for moving to vocabulary can take place anytime in the classroom.  Students can have as much space as they need.  When introducing a new story or novel, vocabulary study needs to take place before reading the novel.  This way, when they come across the word, they will remember the pantomime that was done. Students are placed in small groups and get time to think of creative pantomime to teach the word to the class.  The audience then tries to guess the vocabulary word that was introduced previously. These are some questions I would ask:  What did you like about this groups movement to express their concept?  What was confusing?  What could they have done to make it clearer?  Can you think of any other ways that this term could have been pantomimed?  Would anyone else like to demonstrate another movement to express this concept?  

Student Based Assessment:

            I think an effective way to receive feedback is through journaling.  I may pose a few questions like “How did you feel about this activity we just did?”  “What did you like about it?”  “What did you not like about it?”  “How could I improve this lesson if we were to do it again?”  “On a 1-5 scale, one being the lowest, and five being the highest, what score would you give this activity?”  See Student Based Assessment sheet

            I think that the more I’m willing to try new things to see what works and what didn’t work, I think that progress is inevitable.  In my opinion, I never wanted to be one of those traditional teachers whose teaching lied directly on state standards and assessments.  I wanted to be different, the artistic-teacher so to speak.  Through the last year and half, I’ve experienced so many positive thoughts, visions, and ideas by integrating the arts (especially drama and movement) into my curriculum.  By using movement to teach vocabulary and concepts, my ESL students have found something they can grasp easily.    It attracts students to explore the world, their humanity, their emotions, their realities, and their dreams. 






















































Making an effort to increase student learning by integrating  movement will help children gain meaningful context to their lives.