kinesthetic approaches to composition

Notes/handout from a 3-pronged movement activity [progressive body scan -> guided invention walk -> human movement coding activity] presented at WIDE-EMU ’16 with Kelsey McLendon and Natasha Wickenheiser.


Pedagogical Grounding:

Habits of mind refers to ways of approaching learning that are both intellectual and practical and that will support students’ success in a variety of fields and disciplines. The Framework identifies eight habits of mind essential for success in college writing:

  • Openness Movement supports “the willingness to consider new ways of being and thinking in the world) (Framework for Success). “Turning our gaze to ‘body’, commonly perceived as lesser than ‘mind’ (or reason), may very well be the springboard to that which lies beyond body and mind” (Ergas 6).
  • Engagement – “Rather than talk of bodies, we might instead talk of brain–body–world entanglements” (Blackman 1). Attunement to the body in meaning-making only deepens “a sense of investment and involvement in learning” (Framework for Success).
  • Creativity Movement is a catalyst for “the ability to use novel approaches for generating, investigating, and representing ideas” (Framework for Success). It can help “cultivate one’s awareness of the world” (Taber 60), which results in cognitive benefits including creativity (Oppezzo and Schwartz 1148).
  • Metacognition – Exchanging usability tests opens up moments for metacognition in that “it is in the specific forms of language as performed by situated self–other related individuals that we can observe the self, thinking, and consciousness” (Bertau 435).

The Framework for Success then explains how teachers can foster these habits of mind through writing, reading, and critical analysis experiences.  These experiences aim to develop students’

  • Critical thinking – Composing basic sets of instructions or “codes” to be enacted speaks to the ability to analyze a situation or text and make thoughtful decisions based on that analysis through writing and reading, as described in the Framework for Success. “This in-between is the interaction, the cooperation, or the language activity as autonomous event of specific quality and with specific effects: affecting the protagonists beyond their individual control and intentions” (Bertau 435).
  • Writing processes – Kinesthetic approaches to composition support the Framework’s “multiple strategies to approach and undertake writing and research.” “When a body is in motion, it does not coincide with itself. It coincides with its own transition: its own variation” (Massumi 5).
  • Abilities to compose in multiple environments – Movement encourages the composition of texts within the spectrum of “traditional pen and paper to electronic technologies” outlined by the Framework for Success. In our on-the-go world, we often only have time to compose while in motion; it serves us well to consider the ways composition can work when we are “taking everything one step at a time, literally” (Taber 59).

Moving Forward: Recommended Reading

  • Bertau, Marie-Cécile. “Introduction: The Self within the Space–Time of Language Performance.” Theory & Psychology, vol. 24, no. 4, 2014, pp.433-441. Sage Journals. 6 Oct. 2016.
  • Blackman, Lisa. “The Subject of Affect: Bodies, Process, Becoming.” Immaterial Bodies Affect, Embodiment, Mediation. London: Sage, 2012. 1-25. Print.
  • Ergas, Oren. “Overcoming the Philosophy/Life, Body/Mind Rift: Demonstrating Yoga as embodied-lived-philosophical-practice.” Educational Philosophy and Theory (2012): 1-13. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.
  • Fleckenstein, Kristie S. “Writing Bodies: Somatic Mind in Composition Studies.” College English, vol. 61, no. 3, 1999, pp. 281-306. ProQuest. 5 Oct. 2016.
  • Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2002. 23-28. Print.
  • Oppezzo, Marily, and Daniel L. Schwartz. “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, vol. 40, no. 4, 2014, pp. 1142-1152.
  • Taber, Andrew. “Reflections and Research into the Slow Walk.” Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice. Ed. Pauline Oliveros. Lincoln: iUniverse, 2005.

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