Back in October my wonder school librarian sent out an email containing new arrivals to the library. Always anxious to get to reading his new choices I picked four new reads. I got started reading The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul.
To say I was excited about the book was an under statement. Not only did the stories and example remind me of everything I already believe it solidified for me the way to open the minds of my students. Even though I got sidetracked by life, seeing a post of the summary from The Productivity Game (if you haven’t checked him out you should I like the one-page book summaries) got me back on track with finding time to read.
I have for a long time been concerned that our young people don’t always think to their fullest ability – or maybe they think differently than I’m use to thinking. Students have often reveled in the amount of stuff I know. I remind them that the Internet and Google weren’t at my disposal when I was young, but I also explain that because I’m curious I find the answers to my questions (or at least try).
This particular book made me think about new ways to integrate learning in my classroom by helping my students extend their minds and their thinking. For example, I have often showed my students gestures to help them remember content. Whether it’s clapping my hands for conduction, spinning my arms for conduction, and waving my fingers for radiation or moving my palm around my head to show the same face of the moon facing Earth, I’ve used lots of gestures in Earth Science. I’ve always told students that is okay to sit and make the gestures as they figure out answers on worksheets, labs, and tests AND that I’m always happy to see students doing these on the Regents because it tells me they are thinking through the right answer.
Now, I am much more transparent about why I make these gestures. I reference this book and walk the students through the movement. Excited to see them Waxing On with the Right hand and Waning Off with the Left, or any other learning gesture. And yes the results on assessments reflect the learning – students on average answered more Astronomy content questions correctly that had associated gestures (compared to last three year data to extend past the pandemic). And yes, they were using them as they worked through the test (visual anecdote).
I’m excited to explore ways of including more movement, nature, External Mind methods. I’ve already tried peer and group minds for learning in review activities and students have enjoyed talking with their peers about the content they learned and moving forward in a positive way with more confidence around the content.