The Double Doodle, one of 26 Brain Gym® activities, is a drawing made using both hands. You can do a Double Doodle in the air, on paper, or even on someone else’s back (it’s calming, relaxing, and comforting!). There are many kinds of Double Doodle*, but most of them are created by drawing a symmetrical design, with the hands mirroring each other side by side.
The heart-shaped Double Doodle design shown here is a simple and easy doodle with which to start exploring the fun and benefits of making mirror-image marks. If you are new to the Double Doodle, I suggest standing and using a large sheet of paper—on a flipchart or taped down vertically on a tabletop. In Brain Gym, when possible we connect with a whole-body (proprioceptive) context for using our hands and eyes. So before beginning, do a few repetitions of the Cross Crawl. By letting your arms swing freely as you move, you can use the Cross Crawl to relax your arms and hands for a more free-flowing Double Doodle.
Next, center your body in alignment with the vertical midline of the page (if you need to more clearly distinguish the midline, you can make a vertical fold in your paper). Now place both hands near the vertical midline of the paper. Notice how your hands are now automatically centered with your body and also with the page. Now let your hands move slightly up and out, as if to make two large circles, then down, in, down some more, and around, circling in the opposite direction to finally come to rest in the inward spiral. Let go of any need for yours to look like this one. Most often, Double Doodles are unique to the individual. Let your drawing surprise you!
Notice how the brief and expansive upward and outward shape of the movement gently balances the downward and inward spiral. Using large motor movement in gravity like this, the shoulders and elbows easily relax as we let our hands flow alongside one another in their natural movement: down the page on the flip chart, or toward us on a flat surface—the entire motion taking only seconds to complete. Notice also how doing the Double Doodle engages your large muscles in a smooth motion (there is almost no motion at the wrist), without the strain or tension on fingers and wrists so often associate with drawing or writing. Many people feel their eyes relax, as well. Even though the spirals at the bottom of the heart go in opposite directions, they seem to help one another flow, and here on the right is the counterclockwise motion that starts the letter “o” that children often struggle to make.
After drawing the shape, people often want to begin again at the top, or sometimes to draw it from the bottom up, in which case you’ll most likely complete the final stroke with your hands opposite your sternum. From here, for a moment, there’s nowhere to go, nothing to do. It’s a good place to pause—a place of completion and new beginning. For fun, I added small tapping marks around the shape.
This simple heart shape that you’ve just drawn, with its spiraling base, is common to much American folk art. To make it more elaborate, you can add flourishes, additional spirals of various sizes, or a slightly larger shape to mirror and encompass the first. And now that you know how to make this basic heart template, you can also adjust it in size or shape to create many other heart-shaped structures.
A Little Background on the Double Doodle
Paul first learned to do bilateral drawing in the early 1970s when he read developmental optometrist G.N. Getman’s book How to Develop Your Child’s Intelligence, an insightful classic that is still available and full of great suggestions for parents. Paul began using “bilateral drawing,” as Getman called it, with the students at his Valley Remedial Group learning centers. He found that the activity helped learners develop essential skills of tactility (you can experience that by tracing your completed drawing with your fingers), hand-eye coordination, and directionality, as well as visual discrimination for reading.
Directionality means knowing one’s orientation in space—knowing where up, right, left, and down are in terms of the center of one’s own body. As you can see and experience, the body’s midline isn’t something imaginary, any more than the midline of a page is an approximation. And the exactitude of the body’s midline, immediately identified through movement, supports the accuracy of the bilateral motions of the eyes needed for reading and writing, supporting as well all the turning motions of the head.
When Paul later met Dr. Getman, they discussed what was then 30 years of optometric research on learning that had yet to be implemented in the classroom (it’s now been 70 years, and this research is still largely overlooked today). They also talked about how children’s perception depends on their movements that define their orientation, location, and differential manipulation, and how learning disabilities in basic school subjects are wholly preventable through the effective teaching of movement of the body, eyes, and hands. And when you did the Double Doodle, were you aware of moving in new ways by letting one hand mirror the movement of the other? Today, research is further investigating how novel, voluntary movement supports cognition and neuroplasticity.
When Paul and I began selecting the Brain Gym® activities to use in our 1986 book: Brain Gym®: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning, we had already been teaching our own free-form variety of two-handed drawing, as described above, that we called the Double Doodle (Getman’s original bilateral activity was more structured). Classroom learning tends to emphasize one-sided movement of eyes and hands, yet we see every day how doing the Double Doodle for even a few minutes helps learners experience two-sided (bilateral) integration with hands and eyes working together in synergistic collaboration.
*The Double Doodle is one of 26 Brain Gym activities from Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition by Dennison and Dennison, ©2010. The introductory course Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Vision offers a full day of exploration built on mirror-image mark-making and painting. The Double Doodle and other Brain Gym activities are taught in Brain Gym 101: Balance for Daily Life.
** See Research Nugget: Visual Skills and Reading.
© 2013 by 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 instructor near you.
You might also like:
Double Doodle Play Brings Emotional Harmony Following a Stroke
Why I Love Teaching Double Doodle Play
Five Double Doodle Flowers for Spring (a tutorial)
Double Doodle Holiday Play (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 (a tutorial)
On Saturday, August 3, at the invitation of author and instructor trainer, Matthew Thie, the director of Touch for Health Education, the two of us had the privilege of presenting at the 38th annual Touch for Health Conference, held this year at the Serra Retreat in Malibu, California. Among the 100 plus participants we saw old friends and made new ones from near and far-flung areas of the world. What an honoring of the legacy of Dr. John Thie, who developed the Touch for Health program! We were inspired by chiropractor Sheldon Deal, who introduced valuable new techniques for calming the brain as he spoke of a life of service as the key to vitality and well-being. We were honored to be part of a panel discussion with Touch for Health colleagues on the future of teaching through movement, touch, and balance.
In our own presentation, we invited participants to experience their skill at balancing on one-leg, both before and after doing some Brain Gym® activities. Many thanked us afterwards for this simple yet surprising demonstration of the power of learning through balance and motor skills. We shared with the group how we’re realizing our dream of seeing movement-based learning unfold as a worldwide reality.
We explained that many people understand education as declarative only: the taking in of information. Yet without procedural knowledge, students are unable to put new learning into action. So one essential task of skilled teaching is to create harmony between declarative and procedural knowledge. Learners access declarative knowledge by use of words . . . by reading, thinking, and conversing. Yet it’s the procedural knowledge that gives us the physical maps to carry out our thoughts and purposes. So while motivation provides the zeal to declare a goal or intention, movement gives us a map for applying the intention and following through.
Purposeful movements like the 26 Brain Gym® activities improve balance and coordination. For years, a growing body of research has related vestibular balance to school-readiness. Most recently (in 2005), researchers Stoodley, Fawcett, Nicolson, and Stein found an impaired balancing ability in dyslexic children. The One Leg Stand (Schrager, 2001) has been incorporated into a more extensive test battery to identify children who have, or are at risk of having, ADHD, dyslexia, and other specific learning disabilities. Balance beams and balance boards are being widely used by special education teachers to develop balance abilities, for the ability to keep one’s balance is known to be highly correlated with brain integration and reading-readiness. Katy Bowman, an expert on the science of biomechanics emphasizes that, to the extent that balance is lacking, the brain, visual system, and vestibular system have to work harder to compensate. In Edu-K we find that the integrity of the moving physical structure provides a context for the cognitive function necessary for focal attention and new learning.
Moving activates the brain. Dr. John Medina, director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University, says in his book Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, “Exercise boosts brain power. Humans adapted during evolution by constantly moving (both to get food and to avoid predators).” Medina further asserts that people think better in motion.
Movement educators understand learning as a process of using activity, focus, play, and practice to make things ever more real, certain, familiar, and functional. They guide children in moving through a learning cycle that begins with an experience of openness to novelty (a goal). The next step is, through play or imagination, to perform a new function with the intention to master it. The teacher assists the learner in making a match between his goal and a previously learned skill (or familiar context) from which to move. The cycle is completed as the new skill is coded through words and expression until it becomes familiar and easy to recall. Finally, celebration of the learning provides a successful context for ever further growth. At any given moment, the teacher can lead the learner to a happy medium between exploring on his own and connecting with the group; both essential elements to the learning process.
What holds meaning and interest for learners is what will claim their attention. The learner’s entire experience consists of the places to which he directs his attention and the resultant neuropathways created in order for him to physically, mentally, and emotionally convey himself to those places. Ideally, the focuses he selects—as a self-initiating learner—will enhance his world and influence him to feel at ease and connected with others. True education is not about deficit management. Any learning challenge is recognized as the effect of effort still in motion toward a skill that has yet to be fully learned.
This blog is adapted from an article: “Movement-Based Learning for Life” by Paul and Gail Dennison, published in the Touch for Health 38th Annual Conference papers.
For more about balance and learning, see Paul’s article: Stand Up . . . Sit Down . . . Can You Do It?
© 2013 by Paul and Gail Dennison. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym® International. Click here for the name of an instructor in you area.
Josie, age nine and in the third grade, is an attentive student who loves sports, art, and to play outdoors. Reading came late to her, and she has never found it easy. She was tutored early on by her grandmother, Jane, who listened patiently and pronounced for Josie any new word she didn’t recognize. It was Jane who called me to set up a private session for Josie when she noticed that her reading had become more strained this school year.
When we met, I asked Josie what she liked about school. She responded in a halting, stilted way, saying that she liked playing with her friends. Josie then read a paragraph from a book she’d brought with her. I noticed that she read methodically, one word at a time, in a dull, flat monotone. She knew most of the words, yet struggled along with little apparent enjoyment of the process.
A closer look revealed that Josie was holding the book in her right visual field. I checked her eyes for left-to-right tracking across the visual midfield, where the left and right visual fields overlap and the eyes converge for binocular integration. Each time we crossed the midline, Josie lost sight of the target, unable to maintain her focus.
For beginning readers, the natural flow of informational learning starts with auditory perception as a child listens to people talking, or to fascinating stories being read or told. Like language, reading is first and foremost a verbal and auditory process. Relating it to prior experiences in memory benefits from integration of the auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and tactile areas of the brain and the ability to interpret such received information as meaningful.
Learning to read requires simultaneously holding what is familiar (stored in words as a verbal code) and relating new information to experiences held in memory. It’s imperative to the learner’s long-term thinking success that the wholeness of language and its meaning is not broken into small, disconnected information bits as he reads. Eye-movement patterns are necessary, yet incidental, to the mental aspect of reading, and need to be so fluid, automatic, and stress-free that the auditory-language processes can proceed without inhibition. Language and meaning must always lead, and never follow, visual input.
Yet, for many, reading is about focusing on linear input, one word or phonetic sound at a time. This is a lesser aspect of reading, and one that, in its overemphasis, teaches excessive eye-pointing and an inaccurate idea of the reading process. This fragmenting of language can affect not only the way a child learns to think, but even their everyday way of speaking, as it had for Josie.
I invited Josie and her grandmother to do some enjoyable movements with me. I played some music, and the three of us put on our Thinking Caps, rubbed our Brain Buttons, did the Cross Crawl, and explored some slow Lazy 8s and the Double Doodle. We completed with Belly Breathing. After about fifteen minutes of the activities, Josie was able to track a moving target of focus with ease and facility, both left to right and right to left, across her reading midfield.
I asked Josie if she felt ready to return to her book, and she started to read again from where she’d left off. It was like listening to a different person. Josie was now relaxed, and was telling us the story in her own natural speaking voice, with fully animated expression and obvious comprehension of where the narrative was headed.
“What was that about?” I asked. This time, Josie was able to answer without hesitation, easily turning her thoughts into fluent and meaningful language.
Jane was amazed. “How long will this last?” she asked. I told her that, like all physical skills, if this new way of reading is fully learned and becomes a new habit, it will last indefinitely. Josie will now prefer to read by staying in the midfield instead of avoiding it.
To reinforce the new skill, I recommended as homeplay the Thinking Cap, the Double Doodle, and Lazy 8s before and after reading, so Josie could quickly orient her body to her auditory and visual midfield to assure a happy reading experience every time. When they said goodbye, Josie and her grandmother told me they were looking forward to doing the activities together at home.
See also Discovering the Reading Midfield
Research Nugget: Visual Skills and Reading
Reading a printed page presents its own issues, as there is much more to reading than simply looking at an object. Experts have said that the eye muscles can move nearly 10,000 times in an hour of reading; that means the eyes must be able to refocus effectively in order to take in information without backtracking. http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/muscles.html
© 2013 by Paul Dennison. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym® International. Click here for the name of an instructor in you area.
We first met educator Thomas Armstrong in the summer of 1990, when he was a keynote presenter at our annual Edu-K conference, The Spirit of the Child. He caught our attention when he began his presentation, “Addressing the Giftedness in All Learners,” by introducing two major forces that shape personality: remembering and adaptation.
Dr. Armstrong spoke of the continual balance that occurs between the need to preserve one’s personality—to stay awake to one’s inner spirit, uniqueness, and sense of self, which he calls remembering, and the need to acclimate oneself to social and cultural expectations—to look ahead, fit in, and forget the world of the child, which he calls adaptation. He reminded us of the curiosity, flexibility, wonder, and novelty of children—“the architects of evolution,” and the importance of acknowledging their innate abilities—a theme that runs strongly through our own Edu-K work. Armstrong pointed out that most learning approaches are top-heavy in requiring that learners adapt and change, and need to balance this by staying open to children’s natural genius.
“It seems that, in education more than in any other area, I can see this happening—this incessant demand on adaptation and this forgetfulness about who the child truly is,” said Dr. Armstrong. He described the tremendous neuroplasticity of the infant, the extraordinary rate of dendrite connections that occur before the age of two years, and the uncommitted nature of the cerebral cortex (with little specialization of the right and left brain hemispheres) in the young child.1 He quoted Neil Closeman as saying, “Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods,” and discouraged us from supporting our preschools as “paper factories.”
In his talk, Thomas Armstrong awakened us to alternative approaches in public education, starting with a look at Scandinavian countries that offer a wider grace period for learning math and language. In New Zealand, a country scoring the highest literacy ratings, “learning disabilities” are not recognized, he said, and integrated theme structures that honor children’s diversity are packed into elementary programs.
In Dr. Armstrong’s own research with thirty students from fourteen different states who’d been labeled as learning disabled, he discovered a surprising lack of validity in the tools used for measuring learning disabilities. He found the learners in his study to be bright and creative, with high levels of musical, mechanical, kinesthetic, and verbal literacy. Their wide range of unusual gifts and achievements included gymnastics and athletic skills, musical fluency, storytelling and narrative abilities, and talent with art and design.
Dr. Armstrong realized that his own preparation for teaching a Special Ed program had focused only on students’ difficulties and offered no tools for discovering their gifts. The assessment tools used measured only linguistic skills needed in our current classrooms, omitting any support or acknowledgment for other skills that might be even more critical to life success.
Armstrong described the skills that are actually measured and accredited in the classroom as “test-taking giftedness, worksheet giftedness, schoolroom giftedness, and logic/mathematics giftedness.” School, he said, has become a preparation for school, instead of a preparation for a full life.
Thomas Armstrong has gone on to become the Executive Director of the American Institute for Learning and Human Development, and an award-winning author and speaker. He has written fifteen books, and is perhaps most well-known for interpreting the work of Howard Gardner on multiple intelligences. Today, fourteen years after Armstrong gave this presentation, the American educational system is still seeking an approach that balances adaptation with an honoring of children’s natural genius.
1Ways to notice and honor hemispheric specialization are taught in the Optimal Brain Organization course; see in particular the X-Span Balance to Access the Resource State (of giftedness). For more about Edu-K’s approach to cultivating diversity of intelligence, see Brain Gym® 101: Balance for Daily Life, and Visioncircles: Eight Circles of Perceptual Development.
© 2013 by Paul and Gail Dennison. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym® International. Click here for the name of an instructor or for a course in your area.
~ The Energy Yawn ~
Neuroscientist and therapist Mark Waldman, co-author with Andrew Newberg, MD, of How God Changes Your Brain, says that, in culling research on the brain, he found that yawning is one of the top five things we can do to exercise the brain. In fact, yawning about 10 times has been seen to be as effective as doing 10 to 15 minutes of relaxation exercises.
According to the research cited in the book, yawning increases blood flow and oxygen in key areas of the brain. Yawning has been shown to calm an overly active frontal lobe, release busy thoughts, heighten consciousness and relaxation, generate the sensorimotor rhythm or “coherent state” that happens when the mind is both relaxed and alert at the same time, and build intimacy with those around us.
Further, the act of yawning is said to stimulate alertness and concentration; optimize brain activity and metabolism; improve cognitive function; increase memory recall; enhance consciousness, introspection, and athletic skills; lower stress; improve voluntary muscle control; fine-tune one’s sense of time; increase empathy and social awareness; enhance pleasure and sensuality; and relax every part of the body. Who knew?!
So get your yawn on with The Energy Yawn, an activity that we’ve been doing with our students in Edu-K for more than 30 years! Make a yawning sound and begin to open wide (pretend to yawn a few times) as you gently massage or stroke away any tight facial areas near your jaw, just below your cheeks by your back molars. Continue until you induce a few real yawns and tears come to your eyes. Make some long, deep exhalation sounds.
For a lovely story and illustrations of animals doing the Brain Gym activities, check out Into Great Forest: A Brain Gym® Journey, by Shelley Petch.