Celebrating Fall Leaves with Double Doodle Play – A Tutorial

Homemade leaves, strung on a pretty ribbon, make a decorative fall banner and a joyful way to learn about leaves and trees.

Homemade leaves, strung on a pretty ribbon, make a decorative fall banner and a joyful way to learn about leaves and trees.

My 12-year old granddaughter and I recently made this simple banner of fall leaves to decorate the chandelier above the family table. She came to me with the idea.

This is a fun and simple project for ages 8 and up. Start to finish, it took us 40 minutes, including the time we leisurely discussed different types of trees and their leaf formations. Actual drawing time was about 5 minutes. Cutting took the longest.

What you’ll need (see the photo, right):

IMG_6757

marking pens
colored paper
masking tape (not shown) to hold down the corners of your final drawing
scissors
hole punch
an interesting ribbon or string
leaf samples – a few interesting leaves from outside
(we used some illustrations as our guide)

How to:

  1. Select one or more types of leaf to draw. We got our ideas from the illustrations on the Heritage playing cards,* as this gave us a chance to look at the beautiful variations of leaves from different trees, as well as the overall tree shapes.
A glimpse of a few of tree and leaf varieties that we discussed and chose from.

A glimpse of a few of the tree and leaf varieties that we discussed and chose from.

 

 

We especially liked the shapes of the leaves on the field maple and red oak, shown here.

We especially liked the shapes of the leaves on the field maple and red oak, shown here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Do a few quick sketches and select the ones you like best for copying.

A 12-year old's quick Double-Doodle sketches.

A 12-year old’s quick Double-Doodle sketches.

My quick Double Doodling of willow leaves. It's fun to use 2 colors; though not essential.

My quick Double Doodling of willow leaves. It’s fun to use 2 colors; though not essential.

3. Tape the corners of your paper to a table, so that it’s squarely in front of where you’ll be standing or sitting as you draw

4. Align what will be the center (the leaf’s midrib) with your sternum. (If you’re new to the Double Doodle, you can click here for more basic drawing instructions.)

Notice how drawing different parts of your leaf can invite you to make different hand motions.

Notice how drawing different parts of your leaf can invite you to make different hand motions.

5. Draw the outside contour of your leaf. Many leaf shapes are easiest to draw if you turn the leaf so that it’s tip is facing you, and begin by drawing the petiole, the part that attaches to the branch. This way, your hands can move easily toward you in a flowing motion, gliding slightly in and out as you follow any interesting contours of the leaf blade. You’ll see in the photo at left that my granddaughter experimented with drawing the leaves both ways; beginning from the tip (far left) and from the petioles (larger drawings at right). In some cases, we used our leaf templates as a jumping off point to create our own imaginative shapes. Leaves are not usually perfectly symmetrical, and yours will probably not be. Imperfections make them more interesting and natural looking. Note: We made the petioles quite wide to accommodate the hole punch.

Some completed Double Doodle leaves.

Some completed Double Doodle leaves.

6. You can draw the leaf’s midrib (it’s midline) with one hand, or else, if you wish to keep going with the kinesthetic feeling of the Double Doodle, place your non-dominant hand on top of your dominant one as you draw this downward stroke. I find it easiest to do the veins and small netted veins at the leaf sides with both hands at once, flowing directionally down and out from my midline.

7. Cut out the leaf shapes.

8. Use your hole punch to make a hole in the bottom of each leaf (see photo, right).

9. Thread the leaves onto an interesting ribbon and then string it on a mantle, in front of a window, or wherever you like.

Happy celebration of autumn!  

My granddaughter threads the leaves onto a silver ribbon she found in the gift recycle.

My granddaughter threads the leaves onto a silver ribbon she found in the gift recycle.

*Since I often travel to teach the course Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Learning, I like to have small artistic templates to inspire my students. The Heritage Playing cards offer a wide range of beautifully illustrated cards. For our banner, we used their “Famous Trees,” on Amazon here. Heritage cards also offers a host of other options, including such favorites as Backyard Birds, Ocean Animals, and African Animals.

The Double Doodle is one of 26 Brain Gym activities, from Brain Gym: Teacher’s Edition © 2010, by Paul and Gail Dennison.

You might also like:
Double Doodle Hearts and Flowers for Mother’s Day

Halloween Magic with Two-Handed Play!
Make Double Doodle Pumpkin Faces for Halloween Fun

Why I Love Teaching Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole Brain Vision

Double Doodle Play Brings Emotional Harmony Following a Stroke

Paul and Gail: Reflections on 2012
Creating Beauty with Two Hands

© 2015 Gail Dennison. All rights reserved.

Brain Gym®  is a trademark of Brain Gym®  International/The Educational Kinesiology Foundation. Click here for the name of a Brain Gym or Double Doodle Play instructor near you.

Double Doodle Play Brings Emotional Harmony Following a Stroke

Liisa Korhonen, Brain Gym Instructor and psychologist, Helsinki.

Liisa Korhonen, Brain Gym Instructor and psychologist, Helsinki.

Liisa Korhonen, Helsinki

In Helsinki in 2014, I took a course in two-handed drawing called Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Vision, taught by Glenys Leadbeater, RN. During the course, Glenys explained that, as a nurse, she often teaches Double Doodle drawing as a rehabilitative measure. Following her example, I started double doodling with my youngest sister, Ritva, 68, who after a stroke in 2010 was diagnosed with hemiplegia, aphasia, epilepsy, and you-name-it. Having lost her native Finnish language, Ritva now uses “Emotionalese.”

Ritva's first Double Doodle (Dec, 2014). While Ritva draws with her left hand, Liisa motors her right in a mirror-image.

Ritva’s first Double Doodle (Dec, 2014). While Ritva draws with her left hand, Liisa motors her right in a mirror-image.

For our Double Doodle process, I choose sturdy paper, 56 x 65 cm in size. While Ritva uses the crayon or brush in her left hand, I motor her right side to mirror what she draws. Now I could better see the importance of mark making as stated by Gail Dennison in the Double Doodle Play manual. In this case, I’d say that the most constructive activity has been Ritva’s and my collaborative planning and executing of movement. This first picture (right) is from December 2014, and we have doodled together on and off ever since.

Ritva drew this while playing the Double Doodle "Nines" game for the first time.

Ritva drew this while playing the Double Doodle “Nines” game for the first time.

Our next step was the Nines, with both of the images at left drawn in February 2015. To do this, I first put nine symmetrical dots on the paper, then we start negotiating the directions. We do half the paper like that, then I turn the paper around in order to ease the strain of Ritva’s right arm and we do the other half. Ritva’s contributions are seen diagonally in the final products, as in the examples at left.

For a time, the emotional aspect of mark making became dominant. Ritva became self-critical and, since she wanted to avoid negative moods, her willingness to doodle subsided.

Ritva begins a more playful exploration in this 2nd image based on "Nines" (both from Feb, 2015).

Ritva begins a more playful exploration in this 2nd image based on “Nines” (both from Feb, 2015).

”Why does the changing of letters raise so much feeling?” asked a reporter when Finnish television showed the latest change of model letters for schools. The letter designer referred to the lifelong personal experience of using letters in handwriting.

Writing really creates an intimate relationship with marks and letters, and through them with the whole of human civilization, as Gail says in the manual. After my experience with Ritva, I would even view the emotional development as an aspect of its own right in the Double Doodle process.

Ritva's playfulness becomes more apparent in Harmony of the Nines (May, 2015).

Ritva’s playfulness becomes more apparent in Harmony of the Nines (May, 2015).

In May, our use of big brushes and poster paints brought positive changes to Ritva’s Double Doodle process. As you can see, the paintings had become more harmonious.

More May Nines with Ritva

More May Nines with Ritva

This harmony of the Nines was accompanied by a generally positive mood. If Ritva felt lonely during the day and phoned me to complain, she always accepted my response that she was the only person who could control her feelings. According to her friends, her Emotionalese has recently become more nuanced.

Ritva Korhonen discovers new ways to express herself using Double Doodle Play.

Ritva Korhonen discovers new ways to express herself using Double Doodle Play.

In July, with Liisa's assistance, Ritva paints her first portrait‚ one full of expression.

In July, with Liisa’s assistance, Ritva paints her first portrait‚ one full of expression.

In July we made our first portrait of a face, which became quite expressive. It was my birthday, and we were both in the best of moods, which reflects on the face we drew.

July Nines with Ritva

July Nines with Ritva

The July Nines also show the changes to be consistent. I’m happy to report that the balancing effect of Double Doodle Play stays in Ritva’s moods, even if we don’t have time to doodle very often.

I think that the pleasure of looking at beautiful objects—all objects, actually, continues to increase for her, as it does for me.

A portrait with Ritva, July 11, 2015

A portrait with Ritva, July 11, 2015

Discovering a new center with Ritva, July 12, 2015

Discovering a new center with Ritva, July 12, 2015

 
Thank you from my heart, Gail and Glenys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liisa Korhonen, 76, is a Brain Gym Instructor and psychologist in Helsinki, Finland. Lissa says, “Brain Gym has been my delight since the 1990s, and in it Double Doodle Play is my latest joy. I especially like it because it gives an opportunity to practice a stress-free state of being.”  

 

The Double Doodle is one of 26 Brain Gym activities, from Brain Gym: Teacher’s Edition © 2010, by Paul and Gail Dennison.

For a translation of this article into Italian, click here.

© 2015 Liisa Korhonen. All rights reserved

Brain Gym®  is a trademark of Brain Gym®  International/The Educational Kinesiology Foundation. Click here for the name of a Brain Gym or Double Doodle Play instructor near you.

You might also enjoy:

Why I Love Teaching Double Doodle Play

A Soothing Double Doodle Heart for Kids of All Ages: A Short Tutorial

Five Double Doodle Flowers for Spring  (a tutorial)

Double Doodle Holiday Play  (a tutorial of Christmas and winter images)

Children’s Double Doodle Halloween Drawings (1 min video)

Halloween Magic with Two-Handed Play!

Make Double Doodle Pumpkin Faces for Halloween Fun (a tutorial)

 

 

 

 

Children’s Double Doodle Halloween Drawings – Fun and Surprising!

A Halloween Double Doodle (just like any Double Doodle) is down using two hands together.

A Halloween Double Doodle (just like any Double Doodle) is drawn using two hands together.

I always find it a delight to share the Double Doodle activity with children. Sometimes youngsters have gotten the idea that they can’t draw, don’t know how to begin, or assume that it’s going to be hard work. When I show them that they have the option to use both hands at the same time, most are initially doubtful. Such was the case when I invited a group of youngsters ages 6 – 10 in an after school program to draw Halloween Double Doodles with me.

I find that once children experience how easy the activity is, they usually jump right in to explore, as was the case here. And many discover that it’s easier to draw with two hands than with one. The reason, I think, is simple: Doing the Double Doodle can help anyone (of any age) shift away from “trying” to make something perfect—maybe an image that they’ve seen before, or perhaps following a principle of what they were told was “good art.”

Doing the Double Doodle also helps people shift away from a visually-directed effort toward a proprioceptively-directed one—one where the movement of their hands becomes the focus. Once they experience the pleasure of moving their two hands in sync, their eyes can take a backseat to the experience, and they can even be surprised by what appears!

A perfect image clearly isn’t the goal. Yet there’s always something intriguing, playful, interesting, full of character, about the Double Doodles that emerge, as you can see.

For a tutorial on drawing Double Doodle pumpkin faces and some fun images, click here. To see other Double Halloween Doodles, see Halloween Magic with Two-Handed Play! See Why I Love Teaching Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole Brain Vision for more about drawing and painting with the Double Doodle. For a beginning tutorial on Double Doodle, click here.

The Double Doodle is one of 26 Brain Gym activities, from Brain Gym: Teacher’s Edition © 2010, by Paul and Gail Dennison.

© 2015 Gail Dennison. All rights reserved

Brain Gym®  is a trademark of Brain Gym®  International/The Educational Kinesiology Foundation. Click here for the name of a Brain Gym or Double Doodle Play instructor near you.

 

 

Why I Love Teaching Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole Brain Vision

"Bicycle," by Rhydonia Anderson, captures the whimsy and expressiveness of two-handed doodling.

“Bicycle,” by Rhydonia Anderson, captures the whimsy and expressiveness of two-handed doodling.

Rhydonia Anderson, Ed. S.

As a Brain Gym® Instructor, I’ve had many remarkable experiences using the 26 Brain Gym activities—first as a therapist at an alternative school, and later as a School Counselor.

I was initially drawn to the the Brain Gym concept of basing new learning on learning that is already familiar to the student. I also quickly came to appreciate the educational model of “drawing out” rather than “stamping in”—a playful mindset encouraging growth. Both of these Brain Gym perspectives are consistent with what I later experienced in my studies at graduate school, qualifying as a Marriage and Family Therapist.  

My husband, Virgil, and I, now “officially” retired, have continued to teach one of our favorite Brain Gym courses, Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Vision* to those who work in schools and developmental therapy centers. As former teachers, we’re comfortable with these professionals. We don’t want to bore our audiences (like we’ve sometimes been bored in staff development meetings); so it works well that Double Doodle Play is filled with activities that keep everyone moving. In the workshop, participants discover how to draw and paint with both hands (bilateral drawing), as they explore their visual experience of color, shape, texture, depth, movement, and more. 

"Lighthouse Study," by Virgil Anderson, offers an example of negative space

“Lighthouse Study,” by Virgil Anderson, offers an example of negative space

Three busy pairs of arms create a Double Doodle group mural.

Three busy pairs of arms create a Double Doodle group mural.

A student completes a Double Doodle butterfly design based on the Nines game.

A student completes a Double Doodle butterfly design based on the Nines game.

In vision as in artistic composition, the white or empty space that surrounds an object—the background—can become just as important as the object itself—the foreground. Double-doodlers are sometimes surprised at how, without any effort, these shapes of “negative space” naturally emerge in a bilateral drawing to define the boundaries of positive space (the object, or foreground), bringing it into balance. 

 
The Double Doodle Play emphasis on process and spaces reminds me of my training in Marriage and Family Therapy, which was also oriented to spaces and to process, more than product. I learned a systems model of relating, which taught me to attend to the space between myself as a therapist and the client, rather than identifying the client as “separate,” and to stay in the process of interacting.

Once, when Virgil and I presented Double Doodle Play at a staff in-service, we were at the school all day, with the teachers, therapists, and aides coming in during their conference periods. A school director later asked me, regarding a couple of the teachers in particular, “What did you do? Those two aren’t usually so settled.” What we’d done that created such a good effect was to guide them through a combination of Hook-ups and the Positive Points, the two Brain Gym activities oriented to self-calming.

Partners enjoy Mirror Doodles as they reflect back one another's movements.

Partners enjoy Mirror Doodles as they reflect back one another’s movements.

Virgil invites an elementary student to do Iso-Doodles (photo was taken in the therapy room, thus the swing).

Virgil invites an elementary student to do Iso-Doodles (photo was taken in the therapy room, thus the swing).

"Waterfall Study" by Virgil Anderson

“Waterfall Study” by Virgil Anderson

Two students enjoy the "give ’n’ take" of the Iso-Doodles activity. If we all pull together . . .

Two students enjoy the “give ’n’ take” of the Iso-Doodles activity. If we all pull together . . .

The success of that in-service led to our largest audience yet—70 parents, staff members, and special ed teachers, all seated at those little elementary cafeteria tables. We didn’t keep them sitting long; they were soon standing, moving, playing, and doing bilateral drawing—in the air and on paper. At the end of the workshop, one woman told me that this was the most useful in-service she’d ever attended.

Several years ago, when Sylvia Sue Greene, a Faculty Member of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation, first offered the Double Doodle Play workshop, I was interested but doubtful. I emailed her that I couldn’t draw, and Sylvia responded, “You can use both hands, can’t you?” Since I knew her to be recovering from a stroke and still teaching, I felt humbled by her question and chose to take the workshop.

Virgil had taken one Brain Gym 101 workshop; he’d driven me to a class I co-taught, and simply took the class since he was already there. His goal, he said, was to get a deer; he considered this “a joke,” since he didn’t put much stock in it—until he got a deer the next time he went hunting! With some encouragement, he then agreed to attend a basic day-long Double Doodle Play workshop. The teacher, Gail Dennison, was impressed by Virgil’s creativity and mentoring spirit as an educator, and invited him to accompany me in attending—the following day—the Teacher Practicum for Double Doodle Play. He’d be qualified to teach the Double Doodle Play workshop once he completed the prerequisites, which he did!

The one-day Double Doodle Play includes movement, drawing, and painting activities, done solo, with a partner, and as a group. It serves as a fun introduction to Brain Gym—with tools for maintaining and improving everyday visual and movement skills. People often make gains in their visual responsiveness as they play together in ways that engage seeing, tactility, or tool-holding abilities, while learning to notice both one-sided and whole-body habits of moving.

Wind and Water, a partner Doodle game, delights players as they discover a relaxed use of the hands for mark-making.

Wind and Water, a partner Doodle game, delights players as they discover a relaxed use of the hands for mark-making.

There's much laughter as students draw with eyes closed, in the Wind and Water game.

There’s much laughter as students draw with eyes closed, in the Wind and Water game.

The simplicity and variety of the Double Doodle activities encourages participation. I especially love the partner activities, such as Mirror Doodles and the cooperative Wind and Water (see photo above and at left). I see Wind and Water as a great relationship-builder—taking turns being the wind and the water can increase awareness of and ameliorate any power struggles, as well as help release the need to be “perfect.”

We also enjoy the cooperative games, which quickly build a sense of community. For example, in one class, we had teachers sit four to a table, with two crayons for each person. We gave one person a sheet of paper, and when I said “Start!” that person began drawing a Double Doodle (I had Virgil’s help in monitoring the groups, in case anyone needed materials). After a few seconds, I called “switch!” and the drawing would be passed to the next person to be continued— a process that always generates a lot of laughter.  After all four people had each had three or so turns, I called “Stop.” We have sometimes done this Cooperative Drawing game to music—each person drawing a shape to represent the music. At yet another school, when we stopped, we had each table’s group make up a story for their picture. The day ended with each group sharing their story while displaying their picture.

Daniel's Natural Bridge, drawn after visiting the bridge, in Clinton, AK.

Daniel’s Natural Bridge, drawn after visiting the bridge, in Clinton, AK.

Barbara's Wolf, a student drawing done with crayon and colored pencils

Barbara’s Wolf, a student drawing done with crayon and colored pencils

Close up of "Field of Dreams," by Virgil Anderson

Close up of “Field of Dreams,” by Virgil Anderson

Students form a Double Doodle Train, simultaneously exploring shape-making while enjoying tactility.

Students form a Double Doodle Train, simultaneously exploring shape-making while enjoying tactility.

Another cooperative game is the Double Doodle Train. I like to call this a “Tactile Train”—a fun, alliterative name. I have students compare the tactile message they receive at the “start” to the one they receive at the “end,” which is never the same!  (Like the “Gossip” game, where a message is whispered from one to the next around the circle, then compared at the end to the original message.)

For our internship, Virgil and I spent a day teaching Double Doodle Play at the school where I’d been a counselor the previous year. The art teacher commented about a boy in junior high who’d done Mirror Doodles with Virgil, saying that he didn’t ordinarily mix much with classmates but had really participated on this day.

When I spoke with that teacher the following year, she reported that, due to scheduling difficulties, she now had 8th graders and seniors together in one class, and that the 8th graders—who had experienced Double Doodle Play for just one class period the previous year—were actually more creative than the seniors!

She later wrote to me: “I want to thank you for giving me another key to helping my students. Colored paper and the Double Doodle have especially helped one of my students. [This] student was very disruptive, so I let her Double Doodle one day. She loved it and settled down. Within a week she was writing complete sentences. (The sentences were just her thoughts, and not answers that she should have been giving, yet an important baby step.)  She is becoming part of the class rather than being a problem in the class. At the beginning of the year she was always angry. She now seems to enjoy the class, and takes part in class activities. Thank you so much for your help.”

~ ~ ~

*The Double Doodle activity expands on the bilateral drawing work of G. N. Getman, O.D., from his book How to Develop Your Child’s Intelligence, ©1962; 1992. The Double Doodle was first included in Brain Gym®: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning, by Paul and Gail Dennison, ©1986, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc., Ventura, CA. The games and activities described here are from the course manual Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Vision, by Gail E. Dennison, © 2006; 2007; translated into nine languages.

For a Spanish translation of this article, go to ¿Por qué me encanta enseñar el Doble Garabato…? -1- and -2-

For more about Double Doodle Play, check out these blog posts:
Double Doodle Play Brings Emotional Harmony Following a Stroke

A Soothing Double Doodle Heart for Kids of All Ages  (a basic tutorial on the Double Doodle)

Five Double Doodle Flowers for Spring  (a tutorial)

Children’s Double Doodle Halloween Drawings (1 min video)

Halloween Magic with Two-Handed Play!
Make Double Doodle Pumpkin Faces for Halloween Fun

Double Doodle Holiday Play  (a tutorial of Christmas and winter images)

Paul and Gail: Reflections on 2012
Creating Beauty with Two Hands
Rhydonia Anderson, Ed.S.

Rhydonia Anderson, Ed.S.

Rhydonia Anderson, Ed. S., of Arkansas, a licensed professional counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist, is a former specialist in school counseling, now enjoying retirement. Rhydonia’s career experiences include serving as a home economics teacher, an outreach therapist for a mental health clinic, and a counselor in an alternative learning environment for students who had difficulty in regular school. She identifies herself as a lifelong learner. Rhydonia’s husband Virgil Anderson, M.S. Ed., taught life sciences in junior and senior high school and is also now, along with Rhydonia, experiencing the “freedom of retirement and housebuilding.” He loves to hunt, fish, and do woodwork, including timber frame.

On June 20 of 2015, Rhydonia and Virgil will be co-teaching the introductory workshop Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Vision in Peoria, Illinois. The Peoria workshop is approved for 8 CEUs for educators and also for 8 CEUs for health professionals and allied health professionals, through the University of IL College of Medicine in collaboration with the Continuing Education Institute of Illinois. To register, or for more information, contact Helen Cox, at options@mtco.com

Rhydonia welcomes your comments, questions, and feedback, and can be contacted at rhydonia@aristotle.net.

 

© 2015 by Rhydonia Anderson. All Rights Reserved.

Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym®  International. Click here for the name of an instructor in you area.

PACE for Four-Year-Olds in Dhahran

 

edu-kinesthetics_pace-for-kids_feature-blog-opening-image

I have for many years cultivated a strong interest: that of seeing people self-empowered in their living and learning by gaining a better understanding of their own unique learning process and behavioral challenges. As an educator (one who assists another person in drawing out that person’s full potential), I enjoy helping people discover their own solutions to learning or special-needs difficulties. I see how the work we do together helps lighten the negative impact of stress or trauma by supporting self-regard and the development of creativity, communication, conflict resolution, self-assertiveness, and performance efficiency through nurturing education and client-centered counseling.

Since I began studying Educational Kinesiology in 2003, my work has given me many opportunities to assist children and adults in group programs and individual consultations in Saudi Arabia and other Arabic countries. For example, in 2013      I took the Brain Gym® activities(1) to a four-week summer program in Aramco involving seven high schools. Working with 1,800 high school girls in various cities of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, we used the activities to enhance skills of focus, reading, writing, vision, balance, listening, and self-esteem, and to share much laughter, fun, and play.

Early in 2014, over the course of two mornings, I taught an introductory Brain Gym workshop to a group of teachers at a small school in Dhahran, in the Eastern Province. As I usually do when giving a workshop or presentation using the four PACE activities (described below), I began with some easy and delightful games (2). I find that these games serve as a good icebreaker, while also showing the participants just how effective the four PACE activities from the Brain Gym program can be within the context of a goal. For example, we played games that involve skills of listening and attention, and then did PACE plus a movement called The Thinking Cap to see if and how those activities helped with our game skills. We also played “The Name Game” and “Simon Says” before and after doing the “PACE Plus” movements.

These 4-year-olds are beginning to integrate the rhythmic and reciprocal arm and leg motion involved in this complex motor skill.

These 4-year-olds are beginning to integrate the rhythmic and reciprocal arm and leg motion involved in this complex motor skill.

“The Name Game”

The teachers formed circles of about eight to ten players per circle. Each teacher chose a name of a flower (or city, country, animal, famous person, etc.). They threw a beanbag randomly from one person to another as they got to know each other, each time saying their chosen name. In the second round, to see if they had learned all the names, I had them again throw randomly, while calling out the name of the catcher.

Now came the real fun. In the third round, each thrower would stand as far away from a catcher as possible. This time, and in each following turn, each teacher would throw the beanbag to a certain chosen person and the sequence would be continued until each player had received and passed the beanbag once, and in the end the beanbag would return to the first person.

Then we added more beanbags into the game. The first teacher would call the second teacher’s name and throw her a second beanbag, adding a third and then a fourth as the second teacher passed the previous one. Thus there would eventually be five to seven beanbags in the air, being thrown simultaneously between the teachers! Each teacher would call out the “name” of the person they were tossing a beanbag to, so the air was also filled with the many different names. People had great fun trying to distract each other as they threw and caught the beanbags.

“Simon Says”

We also added a round of a classic old game, “Simon Says,” before doing a series of Brain Gym activities, again with the purpose of noticing improvements in skills of listening and attention.

Finding Our Best Rhythm and Timing

The four PACE activities are from the Brain Gym®  101 course, and are used to assist learners in experiencing, in the moment, their best (most easy and relaxed) rhythm and timing for learning.The PACE activities can provide an experience of visual-postural coupling and of whole-body movement as a context for learning. The underlying purpose of each of the four activities is to help learners with hydration (Sipping Water) and then give them an experience of centralizing the eyes (Brain Buttons) and of whole-body movement while crossing the visual midline (The Cross Crawl), followed by vestibular activation (doing Hook-ups calls for balancing while standing or sitting rather still).

When children are first learning to do the Cross Crawl, they often look down; as they discover how to automatically coordinate their arms and legs, they naturally look up and around.

When children are first learning to do the Cross Crawl, they often look down; as they discover how to automatically coordinate their arms and legs, they naturally look up and around.

Here are the PACE activities, with descriptions (1) of how to do them (click the link at left to see a video with teens doing the activities.):

  • Sipping Water: When drinking the water, hold each sip in your mouth for a moment before swallowing.
  • Brain Buttons: Make a “U” shape with one thumb and index finger and place them in the soft depressions just below your collarbone and to each side of your sternum; hold your other hand still over your navel. Rub the Brain Buttons for about thirty seconds as you move your eyes slowly to the left and right along a horizontal line, then switch hands and repeat the activity.
  • The Cross Crawl: Stand comfortably and cross the midline of your body as you smoothly and rhythmically alternate touching one hand or elbow to its raised opposite knee and then the other hand or elbow to its raised opposite knee. Can you feel this contralateral movement originating form the core of your body? Once you feel comfortable crossing the midline while doing the basic Cross Crawl, explore variations that call for you to use your body in new ways.
  • Hook-ups, Part I: While standing or sitting, cross your ankles. Next, extend your arms in front of you and cross one wrist over the other; then interlace your fingers and draw your clasped hands up toward your chest. Hold like this for a minute or more, breathing slowly, eyes open or closed. As you inhale, touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth at the hard palate (just behind the teeth), and relax your tongue on exhalation. Part II: When ready, uncross your arms and legs, feet flat on the floor, and touch your fingertips together in front of your chest, continuing to breathe deeply for another minute and touching the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth when you inhale.

The other Brain Gym activity we did to improve our listening and attention skills is called the Thinking Cap.

A 4-year old does the Thinking Cap

A 4-year old does the Thinking Cap

  • The Thinking Cap: Use your thumbs and index fingers to pull your ears gently back and “unroll” them. Begin at the top of the ear and massage down and around the curve, ending with the bottom lobe. Repeat three or more times.

After doing the Brain Gym activities, the teachers reported a noticeable increase in their attention. Some were joyfully surprised about the increased ease of hearing their name called among all the other noise during “The Name Game.” During “Simons Says,” they all followed my verbal cues without letting themselves be distracted by my different physical cues, and it was much harder for me to trick them into copying my body moves instead of following my verbal requests. When one teacher reported that she could hear the birds outside despite the noise from the AC and other sources in the building, others agreed that they, too, could hear much better than before.

Some Beautiful Sharing

As we gathered on the second morning of the course, the feedback shared by teachers was beautiful, touching, and motivating. One young teacher, on taking her experiences home the previous day, had shared just the PACE activities with her only child. This four-year-old boy had, until that day, never felt much need to show affection to anyone, and had a much lower level of emotional expressiveness than his peers. After his mum completed the PACE activities with her son, she went about her daily chores. Half an hour later, the son suddenly came running to her, gave her a big hug, and said: “I love you, Mummy.” This was the first time he had ever verbally expressed his feelings to her. As this teacher shared her experience with our group, we could feel the happiness and love in her story, and none of us could hold back tears of joy.

Another teacher had shared PACE at home with her two sons, grades one and three, and her husband. Before starting the activities, she asked each to do a two-minute pre-activity: the younger boy copied a few lines of text, the older one wrote a little story about a visit with his friends, and her husband made a to-do list for their next holiday. After the two minutes, she saw that the younger son had written just a few letters of the first line, the older brother had set down a few disconnected sentences, and the husband had finished a very sketchy to-do list with one-word bullet points.

After doing the PACE activities together, they repeated the writing challenge, and this time there was a big difference: the younger child copied all three lines completely and legibly, his older brother wrote a small story, each sentence meaningfully connected to the previous one, and their father wrote a new list and added some creative ideas—all written as short sentences and in greater detail. Also, each one finished before the two minutes were over.

A third teacher’s experience was a bit different. She had a nine-month-old baby at home, and did an extended version of pace with him, following up with the Thinking Cap. The baby seemed quite indifferent to what his mum did, and happily continued exploring his world, although he seemed a bit happier for the rest of the day. So when the evening came and they got ready for bed, the woman again did pace, including the Thinking Cap, with her baby, and then while the baby lay next to her playing with his feet, she started to fall asleep.

However, the baby wasn’t sleepy at all. He kept moving, making babbling sounds, and inviting his mum to join his play. Her attempts to soothe him to sleep didn’t work, and so after a while she again did pace and the Thinking Cap with him, hoping that this would help him sleep. However, he still showed no signs of being tired, and played for most of the night, rendering his mum somewhat tired the next day. When she told her story, she yawned repeatedly and looked as if she could sleep within a second if we let her.

I said, “Thank you for sharing your story! And, ladies, here you see an excellent sample of the beautiful power of these simple and easy-to-do Brain Gym movements. This story reminds me to add a possible benefit I forgot to share with you yesterday. It’s something I repeatedly noticed myself after doing the Thinking Cap, and others have told me about similar effects. For me, the Thinking Cap works like a big cup of strong coffee: it makes me awake and alert. So maybe, just maybe, you don’t want to do the Thinking Cap at night, ladies, right?”

The whole group burst out into laughter, and a merry tone was set for the rest of the day. We were together in this workshop for only two mornings, yet at the end of the workshop our hearts were heavy, and some had tears in their eyes when we said goodbye.

Those are just three of the stories the teachers shared, and at the end of the second morning they all were eager to use the Brain Gym activities in their classes. (I had given them a sample list for how to gradually add new activities over a period of 10 weeks.)

After the Workshop

Following the workshop, the teachers enthusiastically incorporated the Brain Gym movements in their daily schedules, modified each day’s academic content, and added more play time. The teachers had enjoyed this playful break from their daily routines; it improved their relationships with each other, with their students, and even at home. Their increased cheerfulness created a serene and joyful atmosphere for all concerned, and some previously shy and quiet students came out of their shells.

Within the next two weeks, many parents noticed changes in their children and called the school to ask what was going on. They noticed that the children had become calmer and more joyful, showed more social skill, and exhibited increased emotional intelligence. One parent reported that her child was speaking in longer, more meaningful sentences, even making up eloquent stories that had a beginning, a middle, and an ending—while before the Brain Gym course he would have recounted a story in short, unrelated sentences, the meaning becoming clear only after some clarifying questions had been asked. The parents of children who had previously spoken very little said that their children would now suddenly open a full conversation. Some parents observed much less sibling rivalry and better emotional expression among their children.

The teachers would send out to the parents little videos (like the one above) and photos of what the children were doing at school, and this increased the feeling of connection between the school and the parents. The teachers also reported that, although they now spent less time covering academic content, the children showed increased progress in getting ready to read and write.

I enjoy supporting people in groups and one-to-one settings in the areas of special needs, learning challenges, neuro-developmental delay, self-development, and mental health care. I offer more than 30 different courses and workshops like this one, tailored to the particular needs of schools, hospitals, companies and social groups, and centers for special education.

So this is the story behind this little joyful video.

 

Mona K. Al-Fajem is a German kinesiologist and educator for mental health who has lived with her family in Saudi Arabia for 30 years. A licensed Brain Gym®  Instructor/Consultant, she also teaches the Visioncircles and Brain Organization Profiles courses. She trained in Germany and North America with Brain Gym founder Dr. Paul Dennison and other international faculty members of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation. She teaches in English, German, and Arabic. Mona is also a licensed Touch for Health®  instructor of Synthesis Levels 1-4 and an instructor for Touch for Health®  Metaphors as well as Top 10 Pain Releasers® . She holds an international training license for Rhythmic Movement Training® , Levels 1 and 2. A certified instructor for Reality Therapy/Choice Theory/Lead Management®  and a faculty member of the Dr. William Glasser Institute (USA), Mona counsels people in the area of mental health, with a strong emphasis on the educational component. In her work, she combines the above therapies with the following modalities to offer a comprehensive program for optimal results. She holds a diploma in advanced clinical hypnotherapy and psychotherapy. She also uses her skills and knowledge in the area of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, specifically in cases of eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Editor’s Note: For many youngsters, Brain Gym is their first experience of self-organizing movement. In most situations, Brain Gym®  teachers lead the activities while children follow along and have fun doing them; we find that children gradually work out any mix-ups on their own.

(1) The 26 Brain Gym activities are from Brain Gym® : Teacher’s Edition, 2010, by Dennison and Dennison; the descriptions of the PACE activities are from page 27.

(2) In Edu-K, we commonly use these and similar games from the New Games books, including Best New Games by Dale LeFevre, 2001.

(3) The music CD used on the video is by Tessarose Productions: Brain Gym®  Music for Encouraging Young Children to Complete the PACE Activities. The playful song is offered in six musical styles. It’s fun to do PACE to many different kinds of music. For a list of our favorite folk, classical, and children’s music, see Brain Gym® : Teacher’s Edition, pages 117-118. You might also like “Come and See My Rainbow,” Barb McIlquhamk; “Dance With Me: Songs for Young Children,” Sharon Novak with Sarah Waldron; and for more ambient rhythms, “Music for Movement and Imaginations,” Richard Maddock.

© 2014 Mona K. Al-Fajem. All rights reserved

Brain Gym®  is a trademark of Brain Gym®  International/The Educational Kinesiology Foundation. Click here for the name of an instructor near you.

“Possibilities!” Brain Gym® International Conference 2014

Paul and Gail Dennison

Paul and Gail Dennison

Dear participants in the Brain Gym® International Conference 2014,

Congratulations on joining together to celebrate learning through movement and the Brain Gym program in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado! We offer our deep appreciation to the Colorado network, Foundation staff members, International Faculty, keynote presenters, and all who will be contributing to make this year’s conference an outstanding event.

We’re excited that you’ll be meeting keynote presenter biomechanist Katy Bowman*, whose work has greatly influenced us over the last five years, and who will give you a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the sedentary, one-sided learner in the classroom, as well as some great options for addressing these. You’ll also meet a dear and heartful inspirer of play, longtime friend of Edu-K, Fred Donaldson, who is bound to take you into new and surprising play spaces. Author and consultant Patricia Lemer will support you in expanding your thinking beyond that of symptoms and developmental labels, and give you some simple options for supporting the whole person.

Our hearts are with you as you meet for the Welcome Reception on July 25 and continue celebrating through the three days of conference events and two days of post-conference courses and workshops.

Our own new way of working has allowed Paul so far this year to teach here in Ventura, California, as well as in Arizona, Puerto Rica, Canada, and in Europe–Verona, Italy; Lausanne, Switzerland; and Avignon, France. You can see photos of Paul’s courses on Facebook. Be sure to look for the picture of Paul fulfilling a lifelong dream to do the Cross Crawl on the bridge at Avignon! Later this year he’ll also be teaching in Coyoacan, Mexico; Innsbruck, Austria; and Damme and Kirchzarten, Germany. Meanwhile, Gail continues working on blogs and the latest book project. We are delighted with the continued growth of the Edu-K and Brain Gym work.

Now that we’re connecting with so many of you on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, we’re valuing the importance of developing a presence for Brain Gym® in the social media. As we read about and reflect on the rapid changes taking place in classroom environments worldwide, we are celebrating a growing awareness of the importance of movement, play, and structural alignment in one’s everyday activities, and especially in the learning environment. Where Edu-K once pioneered the field of movement-based learning, there are now many “move to learn” programs. We believe that the 26 Brain Gym activities, the Brain Gym 101 course, Seven Dimensions of Intelligence, and our other fine courses remain unrivaled in scope, simplicity, and a regard for the learner through self-actualizing activities. Neuroscience research continues to catch up with our commonsense recognition of the interrelationship of the human body and optimal brain function.

In today’s technologically driven world that requires both near-point focus and passive sitting, the Edu-K work is becoming more important than ever—not only for schoolchildren but for people of all ages. Please acquaint yourselves with our learning resource site, Hearts at Play: Move, Learn, Bloom, that continues to offer blogs and videos to answer many of the howwhat, and why questions about the Edu-K work that you’ve asked us throughout the years. We trust you’ll find this site useful in creating immediate interest in your courses and private sessions. May your lives be touched by the “Possibilities” of moving to fulfill your personal and professional goals, and may we all keep moving with joy!

Love to all, Paul and Gail

*For more about the 2014 Conference and keynote speakers, click here.

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