Teenagers squirm. Teens bounce. They jostle. Shake. Rattle. And roll.
Any good teacher knows that tapping into the natural state of how a student thinks and acts is essential for establishing any sort of learning environment, objective, lesson, or outcome. I’ve spent too much effort insisting that students sit and listen. Such passive learning goes against the grain of their natural tendencies to be active and engaged. Such practice is not how we learn best. To deny this creative expression in the classroom puts limitations on their learning. Creative movement is essential to any curriculum in that it taps into a natural engagement of students’ brains, it engages students, and enhances their learning across the content areas.
Practicing creative movement across the curriculum benefits students by engaging their entire brain for learning. As Hannaford (2005) suggests, “Movement awakens and activates many of our mental capacities…integrates and anchors new information and experience into our neural networks…and is vital to all the actions by which we embody and express our learning, our understanding, and ourselves” (as cited in Donovan & Pascale, 2012, p. 154). Through creative movement, students engage in kinesthetic learning and find alternative ways to express themselves and demonstrate their learning.
Creative movement actively engages students in their learning processes and enhances learning across the curriculum, as it is an active process of learning by doing. Through my coursework, I’ve begun to view dance and creative movement really more as a means of communication. It’s a discourse through movement. Having students present traditional content in nontraditional ways embraces inquiry-based learning. For example, in my classroom students regularly read a text and communicate, through discussion and writing, their understanding of comprehension and analysis. By asking students to communicate a concept (thematic, character development, symbolism) through creative movement, their analysis skills are deepened through the process of transmediation: the practice of comprehending and reviewing content in one compositional structure and then mapping it into a different compositional structure (McCormick, 2011, p. 581). This process of transmediation goes beyond academic analysis in that students aren’t simply being asked to recreate a text’s plot in dance; instead, students demonstrate complete comprehension of the individual components of each compositional structure and are able to defend the correlating parts of each composition in relation to one another.
According to Donovan and Pascale (2012), such practices “work the conceptual abilities of students, which is one area of higher-order thinking where students often struggle….In the creative process of making a movement representation of the concepts, students are engaging higher-order thinking skills. They are also editing and refining as they go. They are practicing divergent thinking…and they are working collaboratively” (Donovan & Pascale et al, p. 158). Clearly, this use of creative movement in the classroom goes beyond creating a dance of what happened in the text. Students are submerged in analysis, in the content standards, in global educational outcomes, and in the experience of expression and learning. Creative movement builds on the traditional content, provides a nontraditional, yet more enhanced demonstration of learning, where learners are more engaged.