Jo Anna Shaw, author, poet, and Mind-Body coach, incorporates Brain Gym and other movements in her transformational work.
After doing a few Educational Kinesiology balances with Matt’s mother, which included Repatterning* and other activities from Brain Gym**, I was invited to her home to see what I might be able to do to help her six-year-old, Matt.
She wanted to take him off Ritalin, which had been prescribed to manage his hyperactivity. More importantly, she wanted him to be reading at grade level when he entered the first grade at the end of the summer. I made no promises and suggested she invest in several balances to see if he would be willing to do some Brain Gym activities.
An important factor in getting cooperation from a child, as well as the desired results, is the child’s willingness to be better at something.
Matt wasn’t interested in reading or sitting still. In spite of his taking the Ritalin, I had to follow him around the house and yard as I got to know him. Matt was climbing in a tree and I was sitting on the grass when I asked him what he thought I was there for. He responded with an “I don’t know” shoulder shrug. I told him I was there to help him grow a more powerful brain. Then I asked him what he would like to be better at. He said, “Gymnastics!” and came down to show me how he did cartwheels.
A sample of Matt’s artwork – April.
As part of our play, I handed him one of his books and asked him to show me how he reads. He looked at a page, put the book down and proceeded to show me some more of his gymnastics. We took turns doing activities. Mine were all Brain Gym activities and neurodevelopmental movements. Eventually, he was able to do a Three Dimension Repatterning process* with my guidance.
The Results were Remarkable. I played with Matt, once a week in the month of May, in much this same way. His mother played with him a few minutes every day as well, doing some of the Brain Gym activities I taught her—what we in Edu-K call “homeplay.” In a short time, he began sitting more comfortably for longer periods of time and sharing daily reading time with his mother as well.
In addition to this remarkable shift from April to June of the same year, his mother reported that she took him off his meds in the summer and never started him back on them. By the time he returned to school in the fall he was reading at grade level. Δ
Notice the before (above left) and after (below) artwork from Matt’s journal.
A sample of Matt’s artwork in June.
*In Edu-K, Dennison Laterality Repatterning and Three Dimension Repatterning—both processes taught in the course Brain Gym 101: Balance for Daily Life—is used in teaching learners to notice and integrate side-side, up-down, and back-front movement skills.
**The Brain Gym activities are described in depth, along with suggested applications, in Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition (2010), by Paul and Gail Dennison, ©2010, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc., Ventura, CA. Inspiration for the activities was drawn from many sources, including Developmental Optometry, dance, long distance running, child development, the postural work of F.M. Alexander, the Touch for Health process, and the Dennison’s own inventiveness. The Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition and Brain Gym activity cards can both be purchased at Brain Gym Bookstore.
About Jo Anna Shaw
Jo Anna’s joy is empowering adults and children to move through life and learning challenges into their full potential. The foundation of her Mind-Body Coaching® practice is Educational Kinesiology (Edu-K for short). An author and poet, Jo Anna published Design and Live the Life YOU Love: A Guide for Living in Your Power and Fulfilling Your Purpose (foreword by Paul Dennison, Ph.D., and Gail Dennison). This self-empowerment resource is designed to enhance a reader’s ability to see and communicate with love. Learn more by visiting www.joannashaw.net.
© 2017 by Jo Anna Shaw. All rights reserved.
* Brain Gym® is a trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation. Click here for the name of an instructor near you.
by Deborah Scott Studebaker
Deborah Scott Studebaker teaching a small-group poetry workshop to middle school youth.
Drawing a Lazy 8 helps coordinate the eyes for smoothly crossing the visual midline.
I love Lazy 8s! Tracing this simple, flowing infinity pattern connects the eyes to the hands to the hemispheres. As a poetry teacher, I have seen it encourage writers of all ages to release their ideas onto the page. As a Brain Gym consultant, I have watched the movement literally transform behavior. But I had never felt the extent of its physical power until I started working with a very unique young man.
“Vincent” is a 13 year-old who came to me for issues of focus and attention. He loved books and stories, and his imaginative drawings showed the mind of an inventor. Vincent’s inner life was his safe haven. His mother said she was looking for creative ways to help him manage his tasks and confidently interact with the world.
Creative writing tools (pen, notebook, and poetry magnets) are laid out to use as pre-checks for a writing balance. Selected Brain Gym activity cards provide the “learning menu,” intended to invite a sense of curiosity and choice.
At our first meeting, Vincent quietly explored my office, head down. He was polite and cooperative; willing to engage in all sorts of movement pre-checks. Sustaining eye contact or conversation was harder; “I don’t know” was his default response to any question. With verbal noticing* and goal-setting clearly unavailable in that moment, I turned immediately to the drawing out model: a magnificent Brain Gym method that engages both client and facilitator in curiosity and discovery.
Vincent used objects in my office to turn it into a construction zone.
My job was not to “fix” Vincent, but to empower his self-awareness. I would offer him choices, and follow his lead. I knew that Vincent’s mind/body system would chart our course. Where to begin? With movement and play!
Our first session took us into PACE**, onto the balance board, then over to observation and word games. Vincent was drawn to my wooden Lazy 8 track, and began to guide a marble around the pathway. He then chose a Dennison Laterality Repatterning from the learning menu (a process that invites core stability and contralateral movement.) After the balance, Vincent was newly aware of his hand position, and the pressure of his pen. He observed: “I’m usually going at a faster pace, but now I have more time for the ideas.” At the end of our first appointment, I noticed that he seemed taller. Were his eyes a bit brighter too?
Our work together had begun. Each week, I would offer Vincent his choice of movement games and activities. We tossed beanbags and bounced balls; we batted balloons around the room. He jumped on my mini-trampoline, drew fanciful characters, and arranged magnetic poetry tiles.
Vincent drew the Lazy 8s horizontally in the air, but always drew them vertically on the whiteboard, without creating a lateral midline.
When it came time to pick a Brain Gym movement, Vincent usually chose Lazy 8s. And while he could easily draw the horizontal pattern in the air, he would draw it vertically on my white board (see image at left). I resisted the impulse to correct him, waiting and watching his mind/body intelligence at work.
Vincent selected other Brain Gym activities too: Earth Buttons, Neck Rolls and Belly Breathing. I sensed that this young man was searching for physical grounding.
So we turned my office into a virtual construction zone! Vincent built dens, hideouts, and passageways using tables, chairs, blankets, buckets, blocks and anything else in the room that could be repurposed.
Vincent’s “hideouts” illustrate a grounding, self-organizing kind of play, calling on new spatial/motor skills.
I saw that, by arranging and moving around in his surroundings, Vincent was developing skills of grounding, centralized awareness, and self-organization (see Editor’s note).
“…he controlled the wooden Lazy 8 track with his hands, his knees, even his head.”
Over time, Lazy 8s continued to be Vincent’s go-to movement. He walked the pattern, enlarged, on the floor, drew it on paper, and controlled the wooden track with his hands, his knees—even his head (I’ve noticed that, when exploring sensory and motor skills, people are often led to do surprising things!)
On the day of our fifth session, as Vincent stood at the white board, his Lazy 8s became horizontal! With each loop of the marker, I saw a newfound ease and grace settle into his body: 8s made with one hand, then the other, then both hands. It was a breakthrough moment.
Suddenly Vincent began drawing horizontal Lazy 8s—a breakthrough moment!
Vincent’s growth has continued. Now, when he arrives, he comes in with a sense of purpose. He sits across my table, fills out a written pre-check form** and we chat. While I still initiate most of our conversations, I get a kick out of his quirky sense of humor. He draws his pictures, and frequently looks up and smiles. He seems happy and relaxed in his own skin.
A few weeks ago, we talked about school starting up again. Vincent said he was excited. I felt an opening in which to ask what he might like to work toward achieving in 7th grade. He told me that he’d “like to feel good about this year, and solve problems as they come along.” I was heartened by his wisdom—and the fact that he was able to articulate a goal.
Vincent’s Lazy 8s keep on evolving too. Recently, I asked him to draw a picture, do some 8s, and draw again. He created his horizontal 8 on the white board with a large, fluid, full-body motion. But it was the difference in his picture afterward that astonished me. Where his fanciful pre-sketch was cute and comical, his highly detailed post-sketch was drawn in a much more grounded and sophisticated style! And he wasn’t finished yet.
Vincent’s drawings before (left) and immediately after (right) doing some Lazy 8s.
Vincent then went back to the board and erased the center of the 8, leaving an empty space between the two sides. I wasn’t sure what he was doing. Moments later, he cross-hatched the opening, as if to build up a bridge between the two sides—just as we teach in Brain Gym, that the Corpus Callosum can be seen as a “bridge” between the brain’s two hemispheres. I was flabbergasted—it’s nothing Vincent and I had ever discussed.
A close-up of the cross-hatching marks he drew at the precise center of the 8.
Vincent’s Lazy 8s on the whiteboard, showing his crosshatching in the middle.
Perhaps Vincent’s most dramatic experience with Lazy 8s immersed him in the movement for a full 15 minutes. The rhythm, flow, and the sound of the marble on the wooden track took him into “the zone.” Slowly, it transitioned into a shared activity: we each held one end of the wooden track in the air between us. We operated it together, sensing the shifts in tempo, weight, and hand position required to keep the momentum going. I was literally “in the loop” with Vincent, a part of his creative process. I will never forget that moment of collaboration.
In Educational Kinesiology, we learn that doing Lazy 8 is an opportunity to define the left and right visual fields and the point midway between them, where the two visual fields must overlap. Using both left and right sides of the body this way appears to connect the two hemispheres. We often see improved eye-teaming skills and a lessening of letter reversals and transpositions. I’ve also seen how doing the 8s can relax the muscles of the hands, arms, and shoulders, and support balance and coordination.
Working with Vincent in this organic, collaborative way has shown me that drawing Lazy 8s can have a profound social, emotional, and creative impact that grows alongside the physical skills of learning.
Before I came to Brain Gym, I thought that everyone had to live with struggle and limitation. And even though I had experienced blissful moments of mind/ body integration, I didn’t have reliable tools to help get me back there when I drifted out of sync. Now I understand that movement, self-awareness, and intention bring enormous gifts for positive change. This happy sense of possibility fuels the work I am lucky enough to do with Vincent and my other clients.
Vincent chose the Lazy 8s for a reason unique to his own mind/body intelligence. I can’t wait to see what he chooses next.
Deborah Scott Studebaker is a Los Angeles writer, educator and speaker who is deeply curious about the link between language and movement. She is a Licensed Brain Gym® consultant and a certified Touch for Health Kinesiologist. Deb serves as Poet-in-Residence at The Willows Community School in Culver City, and also holds a certificate in Social Emotional Arts Education through UCLA Arts and Healing. In her workshops with young people and/or adults, Deb presents the physical skills of learning as a powerful context for creativity and social/emotional development. Deb is the founder of Inner-Genius, a consultancy that helps clients of all ages imagine, achieve, and succeed. To learn more, contact her via email@example.com or read about her work at www.movedtowrite.com.
*Working with Vincent has inspired me to find alternatives to spoken noticing, a process we learn in Brain Gym 101. One fantastic way to elicit a client’s thoughts and feelings is with a written pre-check/post-check form. Karen Petersen uses this technique with seniors in her lovely book, Move with Balance: Healthy Aging Activities for Brain and Body. I modified her form to use with clients of all ages.
**PACE: An acronym for doing four simple Brain Gym warm-up activities that help connect with a state of feeling Positive, Active, Clear, and Energetic.
***The Brain Gym activities are described in depth, along with suggested applications, in Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition (2010), by Paul and Gail Dennison, ©2010, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc., Ventura, CA. Inspiration for the activities was drawn from many sources, including Developmental Optometry, dance, long distance running, child development, the postural work of F.M. Alexander, the Touch for Health process, and the Dennison’s own inventiveness. The Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition and Brain Gym activity cards can both be purchased at Brain Gym Bookstore.
Editor’s Note: Author, educator, and researcher David Sobel, Antioch University, writes about children’s building of tents, dens, and hideaways as a way to expand their sense of self and their knowledge of the social and natural world.
© 2017 Deborah Scott Studebaker. Adapted from an article in the Educational Kinesiology Foundation Newsletter, Volume 1 Issue 6. Brain Gym® is a trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym International www.braingym.org.
Classroom students learn to follow rhythm and vocal pitch while exploring new language skills and enjoying the play state evoked by Education Through Music movement games.
Paul and I are delighted to offer this guest blog from Laura Walter, a workshop leader for Education Through Music (ETM). Laura, a dear friend and fellow advocate of learning through movement and play, first told me about ETM in 2003. Paul and I have since enjoyed exploring in ETM like-minded thinkers and movers, focused on providing play and cross-lateral experiences (walking, skipping, hand-crossing) for self-actualizing learners within a community-building setting. We soon realized that this was the same program that author and educator Joseph Chilton Pearce had recommended that we look into. It turns out that Pearce had recommended the Brain Gym® work to the ETM group, as well, including both programs as experiences he favored for the developing child. We love to play song games with our family members and ETM and other friends, and highly commend this enlivening program. —Gail
When I clap the rhythm to a song, the children listen with close attention and are always delighted to try figuring out which one of the songs we’ve sung together it could be. They eagerly offer ideas and together sing parts of the songs in order to settle on the answer. Then we all leap to our feet to play the corresponding song game as we sing the song.
These young people love singing in canon, and taking turns leading the Solfege hand signs in three parts while listening to how beautiful the combined parts sound. The classroom teachers comment on how interesting it is that, when the children come in to music, they’re attentive and ready to learn. In ETM, all of our motivation is intrinsic: the singing and the playing for its own sake . . . the sound for its beauty. Thus the children come along easily, with regard for each other and regard for the music.
ETM integrates singing with critical thinking games to teach the fundamentals of pitch and rhythm. Through weekly music activities, the song games help students discover skills of pattern recognition, social interaction, and working as a team.
As our society moves into more and more distractions, play and song can bring attention systems into greater focus. Teachers have particularly remarked on how those children who learn better in nontraditional ways, often through movement, are completely immersed in and captivated by the song game activities. Our program lets all participating children feel successful. They all sing and interact, as in this short video.
Patrons of the Ojai Music Festival enjoy a surprise interactive demonstration of ETM led by artist-in-residence Laura Walter and participating students from Ojai schools.
Some of our classes include special-needs children. A boy I’ll call Marco is one such child. He is nonverbal, moving with assistance or very slowly. With his automated talking board, he can touch a response to a question. On many days, the classroom children will choose Marco to have the next turn, and cheer for him as he runs around the circle at his own pace to participate in the game.
When one of the special-needs children is called on to offer an answer, the other children wait patiently to hear it, no matter its possibility of being correct. The kindness in the room is palpable. This is one of the hallmarks of arts education.
At the end of one year, one of the teachers mentioned to me that her class had played and sung ETM games every morning, to set the tone of their day. I told her that many teachers feel they don’t have the time to do that. She said, “They don’t have the time not to do it.”
ETM in a classroom greatly diminishes discipline concerns and impulse-control problems. When we sing and play with such joy, our brains are wiring connections for a productive and successful life.
Laura Walter is the Bravo Education Coordinator for the Ojai Music Festival. She has served on the faculty of Westmont College for more than 20 years. Laura has taught at Wright State University and Miami Valley Music Academy, and has been a featured guest lecturer at the Dayton Philharmonic. Formerly the Executive Director of The Richards Institute of Education and Research, a nonprofit group, she continues working with teachers and children, especially at‐risk youth, using interactive play to develop motivation, intelligence, literacy, and emotional stability. She is the regional coordinator of Education Through Music and leads workshops for teachers to incorporate the arts into the current STEAM philosophy. Her students have gone on to successful careers as musicians, doctors, scientists and major symphony conductors.
For more information see http://www.ojaifestival.org/education/bravo-program/ or www.richardsinstitute.org
“Sudoku on My Brain,” is an 8 X 10 shadow box, rendered in computer generated graphics, watercolor, and colored pencil.
By Emily Eisen, M.Ed.
I’ve always been fascinated by the working of the miraculous human brain. It wasn’t until 1995 that I became personally interested in how my brain works—when I learned I had a benign brain tumor on my pituitary gland. It was detected while it was still small, and so it never interfered with my vision or other faculties.
Serendipitously, a colleague told me about a three-day course called Brain Gym® 101, being given at a local hospital. I registered for it immediately. Since Brain Gym is an educational (rather than medical) program, my focus consisted of creating challenging learning goals and activating more brainpower by choosing from “menus” of the 26 different Brain Gym activities.
I experienced extraordinary improvements, and went on to take more Brain Gym courses on brain organization, balancing brain dominance, and so on. At the time, I was teaching art in Hicksville, New York. I used the activities I was learning with my art students, and observed much-improved focus and concentration as well as greater freedom of verbal and visual expression.
“Self-Portrait of EM with Words,” a 16 x 20 multimedia portrait, made from a photo transfer, acrylic paint, and watercolor pastels using the batik wax resist method to create the neuropathway networks. I enjoyed collaging the word tiles to describe what I enjoy my brain for!
Fast forward to the year 2000, by which time my tumor had shrunk to half its size. I flew to California, and was cured by an innovative neurosurgeon who took it out through my right nostril, allowing me to go to Universal Studios with my family just three days later!
I returned home to Northport, New York, where I went on to become a licensed Brain Gym® Instructor, teaching professional staff development to Long Island teachers, conducting private therapist trainings, and seeing clients for individual brain balance sessions. Also, in the town of Huntington I currently conduct senior citizen programs under a grant from the Alzheimer’s Association.
So why “Sudoku on My Brain”?
Let me begin by saying that I hated math—and failed it in the fifth grade.
My dad was a crackerjack mathematician. I marveled at how he could add a column of four-digit numbers out loud so fast. He told me he would teach me to be a math wizard and that I’d never fail a math test again. And that’s what happened! Although ever since I could hold a crayon I had been doing art all the time, I now fell in love with numbers. I actually started college as a math major!
Within the first year, I came to my senses and became an art major. In 1975 I received my B.A. and M.Ed. for Art Education from Queens College. For the next 34 years, I had the best time in my career as an art teacher in Hicksville.
In a program I recently led for senior citizens, the presenter had just detailed a list of all the signs of Alzheimers! Oh my gosh . . . I perked them up with Arm Activation!
I love doing Sudoku puzzles because of loving the numbers, and also because of the way my eyes need to track all the different boxes to determine which number is right for the nine-box grid. After doing a puzzle, I feel calm, energized, and focused.
Since the inner space of the brain is as much a mystery as outer space, for the “I See Me” Huntington Arts Council Self-Portrait Exhibit, April 2015, I chose to depict my brain on Sudoku in a 3-D manner. I made a 3-D shadow box, entitled “Sudoku on My Brain” (see the graphic at upper left). This is one result of a process I learned from my friend, colleague, neighbor, and mentor Beth Atkinson, a Hicksville High School art teacher and New York State Teacher of the Year award winner.
Here, I lead seniors in doing more Brain Gym activities: The Energy Yawn, followed by some Belly Breathing. We then switched on our spirits by singing together, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning!”
I learned in my training to become a Brain Gym Instructor that, most of the time, the eye muscles get fixed in habitual patterns of tracking. Did you know that eye tracking stimulates the different brain centers? When we move only our eyes, we take our brain for a walk! Yet people with 20/20 vision can have tracking challenges and may have difficulty with balance, reading, driving, writing, painting, drawing, sculpting, comprehension, organization, playing sports, doing eye-hand work, and anything else that the eyes are used for.
Yet, according to Brain Gym author Dr. Paul Dennison, “Movement is the door to learning.” The eyes are controlled by muscles that, just like all muscles, need exercise. They need to have a full range of motion as well as the ability to lengthen and shorten.
Four* Brain Gym exercises in particular give the eye muscles a great workout: Brain Buttons (for left-right tracking), Earth Buttons and Space Buttons (for vertical tracking), and Balance Buttons (for near-to-far tracking). I teach these to my art studio students, and they notice great differences in how they draw and paint before and after this learning menu of movements! Δ
*Lazy 8s and the Double Doodle are two more Brain Gym activities that engage the eyes, in both cases focusing on hand-eye coordination and directionality.
This article was originally written for the “I See Me” Huntington Arts Council Self-Portrait Exhibit, April 2015.
Emily Eisen, M.Ed., is a licensed New York State K-12 Art Instructor/educational consultant, a Brain Gym® Instructor, the Director/Instructor of BRAINWORKS PLUS, a brain-body fitness instructor for elders, a Language of Mastery® instructor, a Total Immersion® swim coach, a ChiWalking® coach, a repertory actor, a keynote motivational speaker, and a fine arts instructor. To contact Emily: P. O. Box 778, Northport, NY 11768; phone/fax: 631-651-9207; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.brainworksplus.com
The Brain Gym activities are from Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition, by Paul and Gail Dennison, 2010.
Brain Gym® is the registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym® International, Ventura, CA, www.braingym.org. Click here for the name of an instructor in your area.
“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
Three busy pairs of arms create a Double Doodle group mural.
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.
Virgil invites an elementary student to do Iso-Doodles (photo was taken in the therapy room, thus the swing).
“Waterfall Study” by Virgil Anderson
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.
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.
Barbara’s Wolf, a student drawing done with crayon and colored pencils
Close up of “Field of Dreams,” by Virgil Anderson
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)
Children’s Double Doodle Halloween Drawings (1 min video)
Double Doodle Holiday Play (a tutorial of Christmas and winter images)
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 email@example.com
Rhydonia welcomes your comments, questions, and feedback, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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
- 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.