Writer: Adriana M. Chavez, 575-646-1957, firstname.lastname@example.org
They run up to her to give her hugs and high-fives. Some of them hold up their fists with their pinkies, index fingers and thumbs raised, the American sign language sign for “I love you,” as she walks by them in the hallways.
If Knapp is in the building, students in kindergarten and first, second and third grades know they’re going to have a good time in class. But Knapp’s visits are part of her research into whether kinesthetic movement while learning helps children retain information better, helping them to improve grades and test scores.
“We go into the classroom and move the lessons the teachers are doing with the children,” said Knapp, who is co-director of the Methods in Learning Kinesthetically research program, or MILK. “We put everything into motion. Spelling words and vocabulary words, we act out stories so that they can have one more learning input system to aid memory and also to help with engagement.”
According to MILK’s statistics, of the students who began the MILK program in the fall of 2013, only 32 percent of them were reading on their grade level. By the end of the school year in 2014, 68 percent of students were reading on their grade level.
Of those who were not reading on grade level, 15 percent improved their reading 1.5 grade levels, 65 percent improved by one grade level and 20 percent improved only half a grade level.
All participating third grade classes showed significant improvement on the Discovery Education Assessment test, according to MILK statistics.
Teachers at Fairacres who implement the program also reported fewer behavior problems among their students, longer student engagement, more collaborative learning, students investing in each other’s learning, less stress during tests, students becoming more comfortable reading aloud and an increase in reading comprehension over longer periods of time.
“The classroom is a little bit more quiet. We’re able to get control of them (students),” said Jeannette Frietze, a kindergarten teacher at Fairacres who participates in the MILK program. “They exercise and get their wiggles out before we start working. They love walking through the halls doing the kinesthetic movement.”
Kinesthetic movements include shaping their bodies to look like letters, using sign language to communicate and tactile sensing.
Alex Shane, a third-grader in Victoria Gier’s class at Fairacres, said she enjoys learning while having fun in class.
“It helps us learn better,” Shane said. “Some people, when they’re learning, they get all bored because it’s not really fun, but here we’ll do movements and we laugh and have fun when we do quizzes. We have lots of fun here in this class, and to me it’s the best third grade class.”