Warming Up: Your Bodies


Do read (or reread!) my post on who I learned to teach from. That post will prepare you for the basic concept of this post.

When I first began teaching, I thought the activity to be a rather sedentary one. I entered the class, spread out my papers, sat in my seat and imparted knowledge. The most physical activity I had in class was standing, writing something on the board, then erasing that to write something else. Then I sat down again.

About two years into my experience as an ESL teacher, I began to have horrible, drill-like pains in my face. At first it seemed like a bad tooth. Then it became a ZAP through the cheek bone. These pains were violent, unsuspected, debilitating. They could come on out of the blue, last for hours or only for minutes, disappear as rapidly as they came, as if there had never been pain. It was like being struck by lightening.

A couple of dentists and a chiropractor or two later, an osteopath explained to me that he had several teachers as clients. I was suffering from a neuralgia brought on in part by TMJ (already diagnosed by the dentists) and complicated by my daily non-physical activity. The only remedy was physical rehabilitation and retraining of my body and working habits.

I decided, then, to incorporate the subsequent rehabilitation into my class activity. If the repeated activity in the class had contributed to causing this condition, the alteration of that activity in the same class, its replacement with the physical exercises involved in the rehabilitation would contribute to the remedy. Class, thus, began with physical warm-up.

Heads, shoulders, knees and toes

Almost an “internationale” for ESL teachers. First class with any group, from kids to adults, everyone on their feet, let’s sing it three times through, each time just a bit faster than the earlier. Lots of laughs when finished, students relaxed and their bodies a bit more “awake” for the activities to come.

Einstein on the Beach: Knee play 5

Everyone standing with room to extend arms to the sides, above their heads. Hit the play button, the song begins:

  • 1 2 3 4
  • 1 2 3 4 5 6
  • 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
  • 1 2 3 4
  • 1 2 3 4 5 6
  • 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

In the “1 2 3 4” students breath in slowly, raising their arms to the sides like birds.

In the “1 2 3 4 5 6” students keep their arms outstretched and hold that inhalation.

In the “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8” students exhale and lower their arms slowly to their sides.

It’s Philip Glass. So, the above is repeated again and again and again and again until the end of the knee play.

Once seated, ask the students what was said besides the numbers.

Any type of stretch

The above examples are just that, examples. Any type of stretch will do. A couple of toe touches. A stretch to the side. Just a couple of minutes to move the body. For more advanced (and intrepid) students, perhaps a free-dance to “The Age of Aquarius” from Hair. What is important is that teacher and students loosen up a bit before sitting back down, putting their weight on the coxis for an hour or two. It’s fun and prevents neuralgia.

Further reading: Warming up your mouths / your minds


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