Mary Ressler, English teacher at Centerville Middle School, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is the recipient of the 2015 Media Literacy award given by the National Council of Teachers of English. This is her story about her style of “kinesthetic” multi-sensory literacy instruction.
By Mary Ressler
When I see students’ eyes peering around the room and unable to focus on a text, I teach them first to draw what they read. This process is taught with poems and lower level texts. After the student can visualize the text, via drawing, kinesthetic differentiation supplements the instruction. Sentence by sentence stories are sung, danced and acted out so that the reader begins to visualize the text and comprehension can occur. If props are needed, they are embedded into the instruction, as well as anything the reader can touch, feel or hear to make the text come alive. Read Alouds become embedded with props and re-enactments, Close Reads have an array of three dimensional objects so the reader can comprehend the story.
Kinesthetic techniques go hand-in-hand with media literacy. By integrating media literacy into a multi-sensory, kinesthetic lesson, students are enabled to not only access, analyze, evaluate and create media, but they are enabled to comprehend text more effectively because all of these components are embedded for differentiation. Students are able to visualize vocabulary and evaluate text because these students learn best via media differentiation. Hands-on learners, or kinesthetic learners, are enabled to foster greater comprehension because they can read a text, watch it on media and bring it to life. Kinesthetic devices can include props and students acting out scenes of a text or poem. Voice Thread, IMovie, Powtoons, or another media device can also be included for a student assessment. Students will not only learn the curriculum but remember it!
I began to teach via the “Multi-Sensory, Kinesthetic” approach in 1993. It was this year that history came to life, via role playing, skits, costumes and the re-creation of American history. This was before YouTube videos, iPads and iMovie! Fay Kramer, the supervisor for student teachers in my school at the time, said I was ahead of my time with my teaching style. What my supervisor did not know was that this was a tool I needed, as much as the students I taught. This visualization kept me focused, engaged and brought my mind to life, as it did for my students.
When I returned to teaching in 2010, I returned as a reading specialist. On one particular day, I gave 20 words to my students and I said, “You need to know these by Friday!” This was early in the school year, before I could identify who needed which type of differentiation. Students took the test five days later and when I graded these tests, there were a number who scored below proficiency. This was my signal to teach differently. I started showing the words with pictures, and their scores moved up the ladder of success. I then thought to myself, what if I add short video clips? Would this engage these learners and create even higher test scores? Sure enough, student scores moved even higher on the pendulum of success! Sometimes these terms need to be acted out, other times just seeing a short video clip does the trick! Students who needed to touch and feel what happening in the text were given an array of props. Reading becomes fun, educational and engaging for all students!
In 2016 my book, “The Boy with the Pink Highlighter,” will be published. In this text, I have delineated and explained how to easily utilize multi-sensory, kinesthetic instruction in all courses. This technique is Kid Tested and Kid Approved to meet your Common Core standards with proficiency!