MAT Blog

Accelerate Learning with Kinesthetic Vocabulary Activities.

Posted by Dreu Adams on Sep 8, 2011 5:20:00 AM

kinesthetic vocabulary activities 200x133One of the most challenging types of learners to address in the classroom is the kinesthetic learner.  Kinesthetic learners learn best by moving their bodies, activating their large or small muscles as they learn. These are the "hands-on learners" or the "doers" who actually concentrate better when movement is involved. These children are apt to move about in their seat or around the classroom.

Kinesthetic learners often struggle with retention of vocabulary because vocabulary is often taught in a way best suited to the auditory or visual learner–such as the recitation of lists, reading while in their seat or by direct oral instruction by the teacher.  However, there are a number of comprehension strategies that will benefit not only the kinesthetic learner, but will raise the comprehension level of all students, as well.

Comprehension strategies for kinesthetic learners involve moving their bodies in a way that maximizes the understanding and retention of a word, phrase or concept.  When asked to recall vocabulary in speaking, reading or writing, they will recall what action they were performing when introduced to that particular word. 

Experiential activities are the key to developing successful comprehension strategies for the kinesthetic learner. These activities are excellent to use across the curriculum, and will engage multiple intelligences:

  • Teach the American Sign Language alphabet and have the class use it when practicing spelling words.
  • Play a game of Pictionary. Students can draw a vocabulary word or phrase and ask the group to guess the answer. This works well with the whole group or in small groups.
  • Students can make puppets and use them to demonstrate a vocabulary word or concept.
  • Construct a classroom collage based on vocabulary words by cutting images from a magazine or the Internet and pasting them on paper.
  • Students can perform plays or skits they write themselves in front of the class or a small group.
  • Ask students to design a game board based on a story and demonstrate the rules to the class.
  • Act out new vocabulary words by dividing the class into teams and playing a game of charades.
  • Use clap-tap-slap game-songs to teach longer words or even to memorize bigger chunks of text. Here are some videos that demonstrate game-songs:




For kinesthetic learners in particular, a few unorthodox approaches in the classroom can help:

  • Allow the student to perform jumping jacks or a particular dance while reciting new vocabulary.
  • Allow the kinesthetic learner to draw while you are giving direct instruction.
  • Allow kinesthetic students to walk around the classroom while reading aloud.

Learning and retaining vocabulary by using comprehension strategies best suited to the kinesthetic learner not only benefits them, but you’ll find your entire class will have fun and gain from the experience of learning while doing

For more comprehension strategies to share with your classroom, read our free guide, K-6 Reading Comprehension Best Practices.

Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B

Tags: Building Vocabulary, Classroom Reading Strategies, Kinesthetic learners

CAFE serves up the perfect mini-lesson for reading comprehension.

Posted by Dreu Adams on Aug 27, 2011 5:02:00 AM

I have a confession to make. I am a reading comprehension geek.  I love talking about it, teaching about it, and thinking about it. It is just amazing to me all of the things that good readers do without even thinking about it… everything from making inferences in a text to realizing that something doesn’t make sense and knowing to go back and re-read until it does!  I get so excited thinking about these things when I read and find myself doing them; not to mention how excited I get teaching about it to my students! It is one of my favorite parts of the school day.

In my classroom, I use the structure of The Daily Five to manage my language arts time.  My students participate in three, 20-minute rotations of authentic literacy activities in which they have a “controlled choice” of what to do. Prior to each rotation of independent time, I teach a brief 10 to 15-minute mini-lesson on phonics, reading comprehension, or grammar.

My favorite mini-lesson each day is the reading comprehension lesson. I use the framework of comprehension-accuracy-fluency-expand vocabulary (CAFE) to explicitly teach my students the skills they need to be strong readers. I have an area of my room set aside with our CAFE menu where strategies we have learned are posted under the appropriate column so that we can refer back to them. Students then have a visual reminder of the strategies they can choose from as readers. I write the strategy and together we come up with an appropriate visual representation for the strategy which a student then draws on the card. I love having the visual of the strategy menu and the reminder with the illustration. 

To teach the comprehension strategies, I get to read wonderful pieces of children’s literature to my students and model my own use of the strategies I am teaching. For someone, like me, who has a huge and always growing collection of children’s books, a list of books that are well-suited for each strategy is a must have! I love this list from the Reading Lady.

As the week goes on, students have many opportunities to practice the skills on their own… we use lots of body movements to show when we have used a strategy. For example, when we “make connections,” we use the thumb and first finger of each hand, linked together like a chain.  When I see students do that during my read alouds, I know they have made a connection to the text… but more importantly, I know that they recognize that they have a deeper understanding of what is being read.

One of my favorite resources for comprehension lessons is Into the Book. Into the Book has lessons and even videos to help you tighten up explicit comprehension instruction in your classroom!

The best part about using a very explicit approach to teaching reading comprehension is that having the “menu” in front of my students and using it frequently during my instruction means that I regularly hear them talking about comprehension using (and understanding!) the language skills I have taught them. There is something amazing to be said about hearing first and second graders talk to each other about the predictions they have made or how they need to remember to use the illustrations to help make inferences during a story!

CAFE Classroom Board Example*Each strategy is posted on the “wooden” portion below the appropriate heading.

*The white paper below each letter heading is where sticky notes with student names are placed. Through frequent conferring with students and talk about their strengths and weaknesses as readers, students declare their own strategy to focus on and post a sticky note under the heading where their strategy appears. When I meet with students for reading conferences, we are working on meeting their reading goals so they can choose a new strategy to work on!


Christina BainbridgeChristina Bainbridge is a seven-year teacher who currently teaches a first and second grade split class at Central Elementary in Centreville, Michigan. She earned her Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) from Marygrove College in 2009 and has incorporated her master-level teaching practices into an award-winning website: Mrs. Bainbridge’s Class. Her site is a treasure-trove of tips and advice for educators and parents alike. Also check out Bainbridge’s blog at


For more interesting ways to engage readers in the classroom, download our Free k-6 Reading Comprehension Best Practices Guide, and boost reading comprehension for every student at every level!

Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B

Tags: Building Vocabulary, reading comprehension, reading strategies, Classroom Reading Strategies, Christina Bainbridge

How Morning Meetings Build Community in the Classroom

Posted by Dreu Adams on Jul 16, 2011 5:30:00 AM


Marygrove MAT Morning Meetings 167x250Our second grade class conducts a daily "Morning Meeting” to develop social skills and establish an overall classroom community. This is a time when we come together to learn, celebrate our classroom family, and cheer one another on during learning activities. For consistency, it is important that our Morning Meetings follow the same format each day. Providing a predictable routine is one of the best ways to develop a feeling of safety for students in the beginning of the year.

We begin by gathering on our rug and sitting in a circle. We choose a greeting from a collection of cards and each student greets the person next to them (or whatever the greeting requires). These greetings can be anything from saying “Good Day!” in five different languages, to saying “Good Morning” in the form of a “knock-knock” joke. To make remembering the steps to greetings easier, I compiled them into a set of greeting cards that I laminated, hole-punched, and put on a ring. I keep this handy with our easel and other meeting materials.

In the beginning of the year, we spend time doing a "regular" handshake greeting. Students learn how to look the person they are speaking to in the eye, speak clearly, and give a firm handshake. They also learn how to politely ask a person's name if they have forgotten. After students are comfortable with the "regular" greeting, we move on to other fun greetings as mentioned above. Some of our greetings can be pretty silly, and my students can hardly wait to see what they will be doing each day!

After the greeting, we participate in a quick activity. I also keep a ring of activity cards that stay with our materials for easy access. Our morning activity usually reviews a grammar or math skill we are learning. Trivia, Mad Libs, comprehension activities and task cards are other things we might do on a given day. The key is to keep the activity brief; it should take no longer than five minutes. This is a great opportunity for students to laugh with one another in a non-threatening way.

Once the activity is completed, I move from being a part of the circle to a chair so that I can facilitate our shared writing during our "Morning Meeting Message." This is an interactive writing where we write together about our day or school events. Students share writing responsibilities and they also come up and lead us in reading the message, using a pointer. (My students really have fun with this!)

During shared writing, I always incorporate the grammar skill that our reading series is focusing on for the week. We end with a read-aloud of a picture book that focuses on whichever writing trait we are studying. This leads naturally into writing, as students leave the circle to practice the skill we have just talked about during our grammar review and author's craft.

This is one of my favorite times of the day and my students love it, too. It is a great way to build community and work together as a group. Overall, use your judgment about how long your meetings should run. Generally, I have found that for lower elementary, 15 to 20 minutes works very well.

Below are some of the books that can help you establish a great Morning Meeting; I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Professional Books:

Christina Bainbridge100x150Christina Bainbridge is a seven-year teacher who currently teaches a first and second grade split class at Central Elementary in White Pigeon, Michigan. She earned her Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) from Marygrove College in 2009 and has incorporated her master-level teaching practices into an award-winning website: Mrs. Bainbridge’s Class. Her site is a treasure-trove of tips and advice for educators and parents alike.

“I loved my MAT experience at Marygrove because I was able to work at my own pace and apply practical knowledge into my classroom on a daily basis.” Bainbridge said. “It really helped me focus in on my reading instruction, particularly in the area of explicit teaching of comprehension skills. I would recommend the MAT program at Marygrove to anyone who is ready to critically examine their teaching practices and increase their effectiveness as an educator.” Also check out Bainbridge’s blog at

Tags: Building Vocabulary, writing strategies, Classroom Community, Christina Bainbridge, Alumni

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