I love teaching in my school (I wrote about playing games in an earlier article). In fact, I have a ball in English class when I am teaching. I mean that both ways: I have lots of fun while teaching, and I often hold, pass and catch a ball. There are several reasons why I like to use balls in my class.
Whole Body Learning
There is a lot of science studying the nature of grammar and memory. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of memory: descriptive memory and procedural memory. It turns out that grammar is NOT in descriptive memory. It is in procedural memory. This means that the best way to study is by doing, and the more of our sensory input we use, the better. Rather than just sit still and talk, using a ball in English class gets us to move and use our whole body when we learn English. This fosters learning and also helps us later when we have to use the English in a dynamic setting such as standing or walking around.
Social Dynamics with a Ball in English Class
When two or more people stand up and pass the ball around, the dynamics of the classroom becomes fluid. This means it stimulate sensory input a lot more. That stimulation also fosters deeper learning and memories. I tried an experiment. I chose a class where two students had sat in the same chairs every class for several months. At the beginning of the class, I told them to sit in a chair that they don’t usually sit in. At the beginning they looked dismayed. They appeared uncomfortable for the first five minutes. But after that, they were more talkative, showed more expressive body language, and smiled more often. This effect is even greater when we pass a ball in English class around between students, as everyone is constantly moving, at least a little bit. Sometimes we move a lot when we drop the ball. That also engenders laughter and enjoyment.
Get on the Same Wavelength
Another odd scientific fact comes to mind related to using balls. When two or more people are cooperating on the same activity with a clear goal, such as passing a ball with the intention not to drop it, their brainwaves actually synchronize (read more here). The scientists have not been able to explain why or how this happens, but they have measured that it does happen. This brings the social dimension alive in class as students align with the group and or the teacher. The synchronicity fosters communication and lowers the “I don’t understand” barrier. Often not understanding is a result of overthinking and the constant tempo created by passing balls brings students to the explanation faster than if they simply stopped at the part they don’t understand. In a sense, it helps see the forest instead of the trees.
A Ball in English Class is Just Plain Fun!
The last reason I like to use a ball in the classroom is that it is just plain fun! It can create a class atmosphere at the start of the class, or revive a lagging atmosphere in the middle of the class. Many of my children really look forward to the ball throwing session, and I use it quite (but not completely) regularly.
Derek Maeckelburg says