On Saturday, February 28, I’ll be in Palo Alto, teaching a workshop for the Bay Area Montessori Association. We’ll be exploring ways to use the infant reflexes in group settings - both to release the triggers that create negative feedback loops, and to enhance new learning. I’ll be focusing on my Listenin’ Live for Literacy pilot curriculum. All are invited! Click here for information, and her to Register.
Circle Time means different things in different settings. Sometimes, it is simply the music delivery system – the time when shares songs and movement games are shared. Sometimes it is an “in-house” event, run by the class teacher, and sometimes it is taught by an itinerant specialist. Sometimes, in a family music class, for example, Circle Time is all there is. Sometimes, in a school setting, Circle Time functions as a kind of town meeting, a place where new information is shared with everyone equally, and old “agenda items” are reviewed.
There is something very egalitarian about “Circle Time” – all the children are equidistant from one another (although there can be some jockeying for positions near the teacher). And the teacher is sitting on level with them. Circle Time is about everyone playing together. It is a time to help structure and strengthen the organism that is that particular group.
Circle Time is also a great time to observe. As teachers, we tend to tip the balance of Circle Time either in favor of disseminating information – lessons to learn, rules to follow – or of entertainment – which requires us to be entertainers. But, like any good conversation, we really should only be talking about 50% of the time. The other 50% is watching and listening. Maybe the other 90% is listening!
Circle Time is a great time to practice reflex-watching. For example:
The child chewing his sleeves has an active Babkin Palmomental, a nursing reflex. He’s got some basic nurturing issues going; he’s probably anxious, too. We’ll take that hand/mouth pattern into a song that involves the hands. A song with a slap/clap pattern will help – Babkin is stimulated by symmetrical pressure on the palms, which activates the mouth. So a nice steady beat, putting that regular pressure on the palms, while singing (using the mouth), will help to turn that Babkin anxiety into Babkin integration. (Even if the child can’t both slap/clap and sing – or even if he can’t (or won’t) do either – if the group is doing it, he’ll “get it,” too, courtesy of his mirror neurons. He’s mimicking everything on an internal level, even if no one can see it). See Slap Clap, Movement Matters Feb. 2, 2011.
The child who seems to have created a corner to be in all by herself has an active Fear Paralysis Reflex; she’s locked in a “freeze” response. She’s scared! Wave Hello is my hands-down favorite for that. Rocking songs are good, too – rocking gets movement going across the brain and can unlock a “freeze.” See Too Scared To Come In: Moving Into Presence, MM, May 25, 2012.
The child who is gesticulating wildly, even hitting other children (by mistake?) is stuck in Moro, or “fight or flight.” Slap/clap songs are good for that, too! Something’s Coming Towards Me! is perfect for Moro, incorporating the idea of the scary thing which is really just a normal thing when you look at it closely.See Something's Coming Towards Me! MM, Jan 19 2013.
The child falling over sideways has an active Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex, or ATNR. A song with motions that reach to the left, and reach to the right – or getting up and side-stepping to the music – will help get that movement on track.
The nice thing about these activities is that they help everyone – not just the child who is explicitly exhibiting the “stuck” movement response. All humans are hard-wired for the reflexes. If a child does not need to do reflex activities in a remedial way, they then become enhancement activities. Each child in the group helps the others move forward in their own development, at their own pace.
Through their movement patterns, the children show us where their developmental challenges lie. By extending those movements into creativity and fun, we are giving their brains and bodies information that they can grasp and use immediately. The developmental ripples go out from Circle Time into the rest of the day, from music learning into every kind of learning.