by Beth Sidlow Mann, GCFP
As a public school music teacher since 1986, I have always been interested in new ideas to help students learn. To stay on the cutting-edge of educational theory and techniques I attended educator conferences, staff development offerings, and summer courses. These courses, while helpful, were minimal in impact compared to the power of the Feldenkrais Method® when applied to teaching in a classroom.
After I embarked on my Feldenkrais® Professional Training Program, I would return to my public school music classroom and apply some of the ideas I had learned in the training. To my surprise, I discovered that these principles had a powerful effect on my seventh and eighth-grade music students. I tried using variation, as we had discussed it in the training. For example, instead of teaching one “right” way to hold a violin bow, we tried many ways. The variations led to the students finding the way that was right for them. With a group of second graders, I tried “going with the system” to address what could be interpreted as behavior problems. During a vocal exercise, when a student used a silly voice, we all used a silly voice. We joined the student with the silly voice and brought him back with us to move forward with the material. I began teaching short Awareness Through Movement® lessons to the students. Following those lessons, students were able to learn the material more quickly, thoroughly and with better retention.
I was so impressed with the success of using the Feldenkrais Method in my classroom that I wanted to try it with other groups of students. Over the years I have used the Feldenkrais Method in typical and special education classrooms, from kindergarten through high school. Even if you are not a Feldenkrais practitioner, there are simple, fun and easy ways to apply the teachings of Dr. Feldenkrais to help improve student learning and performance, including concentration, creativity, problem solving and behavior.
“I like to do Power Learning before math. Because then when I do math, I don’t feel nervous and it’s easier to concentrate.” -Naomi, Age 10
“After Power Learning it’s easier to do my walkovers. My back just bends better and it’s easier to move.” -Amanda, Age 11
“When I do Power Learning my breathing gets better. Since I have asthma my chest feels tight. After Power Learning, the air goes in easier and I can also play my trumpet better.” -Antonio, Age 10
One quick and easy way to apply the principles of the Feldenkrais Method in an academic classroom is to work with head and eye differentiation. You can try it right now:
1. Close your eyes and slowly turn your head right and left, as if saying “no.”
2. Focus on the first word of this sentence, keeping your eyes looking at the word “focus” and slowly turn your head right and left.
3. Read this whole sentence and then look at the word at the end of the line. Keep your eyes focused on the word on the far right and slowly turn your head right and left.
4. Close your eyes and turn your head right and left.
5. Go back up and read the sentence before line #1 and notice if you can perceive a difference.
Beth Sidlow Mann is a Feldenkrais practitioner in San Jose, CA. Find out more about Beth at www.movementimprovement.com