Yesterday I had the pleasure of leading reading/literary yoga with 6th, 7th and 8th grade students in our Reading Connections classes.  Students in these classes may be reading below grade level and need extra help growing their skills as readers.  Their teacher used the classic “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” as a common and accessible text for us to practice our skills analyzing and thinking about literature with a focus on these standards:

  • ELAGSE8RL2: Determine a theme and/or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • ELAGSE8RL3: Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
  • ELAGSE8RL4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
  • ELAGSE8RL5: Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.
  • ELAGSE8RL6: Analyze how differences in the points of view of characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.

I used this wonderful set of slides from Building Book Love as my starting point; however, I  uploaded the PowerPoint file and converted into Google slides before adding a few additional graphics and changing some of the wording on each slide to be a little more middle-school friendly and/or specific to our story we were analyzing and discussing together.   Once I had altered and modified the slides for our specific activity and learners, I shared with the teacher to preview and approve.  We excitedly then set our date to pilot this activity, and yesterday was our big day!

After a quick review of the story in the teacher’s classroom, the students arrived and joined us in our “yoga studio” featuring a wide open space, a chairs for balance or modifications as needed, soft lighting, and soft yoga music streamed through our projector and sound system from YouTube; normally we have tables in this area, but they had actually already been moved elsewhere in the media center for a guest speaker special this past Wednesday, so the timing for our learning activity was perfect!  We began with a welcome and then a warm-up I call “sprinkles and rainbows.”  We simply stretched out our arms, wiggled our fingers for “sprinkles” and then brought our arms in a swooping arc motion above our heads and then brought them back down to our sides.

I then used my slides to present each pose and thinking/discussion point; the slides make it easy to begin the conversation, hold the pose, and invite students into the conversation.  We spent 5-7 minutes for each pose/discussion point and before we knew it, the class period was over!  I did have some fun “grab and go” learning activities that could be used for any classes that may have had a few minutes left in the class period and/or to take with them for fun (literary word searches and crosswords—middle school kids love these!).   I so enjoyed how each class had a unique personality and the different insights, connections, questions, and ideas that the kids brought to our group discussion.

While I’ve done yoga for students in the past, this is the first time I’ve incorporated as a medium for learning and discussion.  This learning structure also fits in with my growth as a teacher and “toolkit” of active learning strategies and structures that I’ve been doing over the last ten years, and I enjoy trying new activities because they keep me fresh.  I am also so appreciative of this awesome teacher and her kids who trusted me enough to lead and do this activity with them—it was a great day and so much fun.

You do not have to be an expert at yoga to lead this activity as the moves are gentle and can easily be modified with a chair if needed.  I did well enough that one of the parapros who came with a class asked if I would consider leading yoga for our faculty!  We also had our principal and a few teachers drop in and join us; I think having additional adults added to the “cool” factor of our learning activity that was good for our minds and body!  One of the teachers (my question trail partner from earlier this month!) who joined us as she was passing through the library came by today and said to let her know if I did more reading yoga because she wanted to participate; we also talked about doing this with her classes in May after we survive state spring testing, so I am looking forward to that!

If you are interested in other ways to incorporate or share this idea with your teachers, check out this marvelous blog post from Building Book Love; I think this could also be modified for informational texts and in content area classrooms as well.