The concept behind whole brain teaching and learning is to engage  as many parts of the brain as possible to enhance learning. This “embodied learning approach” is based on the idea of “an inseparable link between body and mind in learning, aiming for teaching methods that promote children’s active engagement in the classroom.”  The theory of embodied cognition suggests that the body’s perceptual and motor systems play an important role in cognition—the body influences the mind just as the mind influences the body. In fact, this theory also supports writing by hand, which has been shown to increase neural activity in the brain. 

The proponents of this teaching technique maintain that they follow brain principles as a general theoretical foundation of brain-based learning. They believe that including physical activity into lessons helps students learn better and also increases their intrinsic motivation.  When students are mirroring actions and repeating words and phrases, they are more likely to be focused and attentive, and therefore retain information. So the lesson is more fun and engaging.  

Someone observing an elementary classroom in which the teacher is engaged in this method would see a scene similar to the following: “Young students repeating words back to a teacher in unison, waving hands or conducting other movements, and turning to their neighbor every few minutes to share. ”  When students explore new words through movement, they understand them better, retain them longer, and feel more empowered to use them.

Physical movements, and even the amount of exercise, can affect memory.   Studies have also demonstrated the positive effects of recess on learning for elementary school children.They support their argument for the importance of recess with theory and with experimental and longitudinal data showing how recess breaks maximize children’s cognitive performance and adjustment to school.”   So, promoting physical activity into lessons not only benefits the body, but also the mind. 

Laura Maniglia