“Your brain has two parts,” I’d tell students, “and the more the two parts work together, the better you can learn—words will flow, math will solve, concepts will sharpen, and interest will grow.
Then I’d tell them I knew an activity that could help make this happen, and I’d lead them in cross-lateral exercises—movements in which arms and legs cross from one side of the body to the other.
I wish I had known about cross laterals earlier in my teaching career. I learned about these simple movements in Eric Jenson’s book, Brain-Based Learning. Jenson explains how the corpus callosum functions as a sort of bridge across the fissure between the two brains. This bridge carries communication from one side of the brain to the other. And the stronger the bridge, the more information it can carry.
Cross lateral movements force the two parts of the brain to communicate with each other, strengthening the link between them. Examples of cross lateral movements are marching while tapping a hand to the opposite knee, opposite-side toe touches, raising a heel and touching it with the opposite-side hand. Students like following YouTube videos like Brain Gym (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VL4an7UC3wA) that show cross-lateral movements.
“You’re bridging your brain,” I’d say as they exercised. “This will help.”
Besides, the exercises rid them of fidgets and woke them up.
But beyond physical exercise in class, there are more academic ways to bring the brain together. Here are some examples:
- As students read math story problems, ask them to draw what they read.
- Sing the multiplication tables.
- Use art prints to introduce concepts. How does the artist visually show elements of literature that will appear in a short story students are about to read?
- With their bodies, invite students to create a frozen scene from a history lesson.
- Use charts and diagrams and story maps to make concepts visual.
- Play background music to stimulate the right side of the brain while students use the left side to read.
These activities bridge the brain, connecting the parts and bringing balance to learning.