A couple of years ago, we wrote about kinesthetic grammar, and to our surprise, it became our most popular post by far. Intrigued, we did a bit of research and confirmed our theory. The body plays a role, not only in communication but also memory, recall, and even cognitive processing.
For the past year, we’ve been gathering and testing different ways to bring kinesthetic grammar into the classroom, and we are pleased to say that our latest book, 60 Kinesthetic Grammar Activities, will be out this spring from Alphabet Publishing. An ebook is also now available here.
If you are interested in adapting them for online classes, try this.
Throughout the process of researching and writing, we’ve learned that kinesthetic grammar is useful at the practice stage because it offers a window into developing language. When students struggle to place themselves on a cline, it’s clear they are not sure about meaning. When they perform an action, they reveal their degree of fluency, whether it is through multiple uh, uh, uhs, or incorporating target language easily. (Often confidence is accompanied by jokes and laughter.)
The gold standard for grammar activities is an integrated and meaningful activity such as acting out verbs or adverbs, but games, drawings, and experiences that allow for a meta-cognitive processing of grammar are also useful. The following are a few abbreviated examples from the book that give an idea of how embodied learning can be applied in the grammar classroom.
- Adverbs of frequency: Post adverbs of frequency around the room. Then read a sentence and have students move to the adverb of frequency that best fits them. Here are a few examples.
How often do you . . .
- stay up all night?
- Eat in a restaurant?
- Check your messages during class?
- Modals of advice: Divide the class into two groups. Tell them you need help making a decision. Then instruct one half to think of reasons for saying yes and the other half to think of reasons for saying no. Then have each group line up face to face with enough space for you to walk between. As you walk, tell each side to use the modals to try and persuade you with advice. After you’ve completed your journey down the “alley,” you decide which side has the stronger argument and announce your decision.
- Should I get a puppy?
- Should I join a gym?
- Should I become a vegetarian?
- Possessive adjectives and possessive pronouns: Have half the class leave the room. Invite the remaining students to bring an item to the front and leave it on the table or desk. Then have the others come in, select an item and try to return it to the owner by holding it up and asking questions to different people in the classroom.
A: Is this your water bottle?
B: No, I think it’s hers?
A: Is it yours?
C: Yes, it’s mine.
- Present simple subject/verb agreement: Have students stand in a circle. Say I like + a noun that represents something you like e.g., “nature.” Toss the ball to another student. Tell that student to recall what you like, e.g., She likes nature. Then student A must add something they like and toss the ball to a third student, B, who must recall what student A likes, reiterating with the same shift for subject verb agreement. Participants continue to toss the ball so that it travels around the room. The student receiving the ball only needs to repeat the immediate previous student. That way, the game stays lively, and everyone remains alert.
A: I like nature
B: She likes nature. I like salsa music
C: He likes salsa music. I like soccer.
- Compound sentences with and, but, so: Create a 3-headed monster by having three volunteers come to the front. Pick a comfortable theme such as family (or whatever you are working on). Student A says a sentence, e.g., “My mother is nice.” Student B says a connector, e.g., “but.” Then C must say a sentence that logically follows. E.g., “My father is strict.” Or, “Sometimes she is too nice!” Make sure the last sentence logically follows. Continue the activity with new volunteers rotating through the positions and providing corrective feedback as needed.
A: My brother loves cars.
C: He goes to a lot of car shows.