Teachers work hard to prepare engaging and academically challenging lessons, but often students are not ready to learn. If the class is fidgeting or falling asleep, wake students up with a brain break. Cross-lateral movements in kindergarten help students stay focused and stimulate brain function. The brain then becomes fertile soil in which the seeds of learning can grow.
Understanding Cross-Lateral Movements
A cross-lateral movement is any motion that requires coordinating movement on both sides of the body. When the movement crosses from one side of the body to the other, it is called crossing the midline. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and vice versa, so moving the left hand to touch the right side of the body activates both sides of the brain. Some movements, such as marching, are cross-lateral movements that require brain-and-body coordination even though they do not cross the midline. Eric Jensen, author of "Brain-Based Learning: The New Paradigm of Teaching," recommends that students get up and move every 20 minutes. Kindergartners especially need frequent movement breaks to help them stay focused as they are unaccustomed to staying on task for long periods.
Cross-Lateral Movement Stretches
Use simple cross-lateral movement stretches in the middle of a lesson to quickly wake up or refocus kindergartners without disrupting the flow of the lesson. Also, stretches that cross the midline will improve student concentration before a test. Have the students stand up and touch the opposite side of their body. For instance, have them take their right hand and touch their left knee and then switch hands. The teacher will need to model this, as most kindergartners do not know right from left. Repeat a few times, touching different parts of the body, and then return to the lesson with more energized students.
Cross-Lateral Movement Songs
Use songs to transition between subjects or to enforce an academic concept. Choose songs that utilize both arm and leg movements to ensure that both sides of the brain are stimulated. For example, the "Hokey Pokey" requires students to move their arms and legs one at a time and then together. "The Wheels on the Bus" requires students to cross the midline as they do the actions for the wipers and the doors opening and shutting. Some kindergartners have trouble settling down if they get too excited with music and movement, so plan to follow songs with some calmer stretches.
Cross-Lateral Movement Games
Use games when the schedule allows time for a longer brain break. Familiar games can be adapted to incorporate cross-lateral movement into the kindergarten day. Play Simon Says, ensuring that the instructions require students to cross the midline. Examples include asking them to touch their left ear with their right hand or touch their right toe with their left hand. Games also keep students focused as they transition between activities. For instance, ask students to waddle like a penguin as they return to their seats. Ensure that they are stimulating their brains through cross-lateral movement by planning a game that crosses the midline or requires coordinated arm and leg movements.
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