Muscle UP illustrates a fun way to combine semantic and procedural memory strategies for increase learning, motivation and recall. This is a cognitive thread I use with Kindergarten students with review in 1st grade.
Picture this... It’s the end of class and the first grade students are making their way to the circle in the middle of the gym to get ready for class closure. Some have chosen to get a drink and a few are finishing up with me at our celebration bulletin board identifying some of the habits and character traits they worked very hard to practice during the lesson or reflecting on the learning targets for the day. Sam starts the kids seated around the circle in “Muscle Up.” Who is Sam? He isn’t a student teacher or and Ed Tech. Sam is one of the students and he’s happy to be leading Muscle-Up today. Pretty soon all of students are reciting the names of the muscles as they match the movements they’ve learned over the past several weeks. They repeat the pattern that is stored in their long-term memory to retrieve the information and review before I get there and give them a short interactive formative assessment. When I get there, I run through the pattern with them once, then quickly make my way around the circle saying “turn-to, turn-to, etc.” until each child has turned and is facing a turn-to partner. I jump to the outside of the circle and give a clue. I don’t say a word. I just quickly perform one of the Muscle-Up movements then walk around the outside of the circle. The students quickly talk with their partner to come to consensus on what they believe to be the correct name of the muscle that goes with the movement clue. When I get back to the place where I started I tell them the correct answer and if they were correct they know to give their partner a gentle high five. I watch the high fives to determine how many partnerships got the answer right. And the next clue is... Pretty soon the classroom teacher is at the door and the kids are ready to transition back to their classroom.
Interested in trying this one? Here are the movements I use but you may want to put your own spin on it.
Students begin seated with their legs stretched out in front of them.
Qua-dri-ceps – Alternately pat the thighs – annunciate each syllable
Hamstrings – Quickly bend the knees and reach under the legs touching the hamstrings. Use a deep gruff voice with emphasis on ham.
Gas-troc-nem-ious – With legs still bent reach down and squeeze the calf. Whisper this one and emphasize stroc.
Gluteus Maximus – In the same position, support your weight on your hands and bounce a bit on your seat saying Glut-e-us Max-i-mus. The voice is a bit choppy as you bounce on your behind.
Biceps – Flex the arm making a bicep muscle with the right arm and as you do that reach over with the left hand and grab the bicep muscle. The voice goes low to high.
Triceps – Extend the same arm out in front and point to triceps muscle. The voice goes high to low.
Deltoid – Reach across the chest with both arms and grab the deltoid muscles and say Deltoid very quickly. Pectorals – Uncross and re-cross your arms making your hands into fists and say Pec-tor-als as you alternately touch each fist to the pectoral muscles.
Trapezius – In front of the body touch the pointer fingers together and the thumbs together to make a shape resembling that of the trapezious muscles. Slowly lift this shape over the head and down toward the back as you say Trap- eeeeeez-ious.
Abdominals – In the same seated position slowly lower your back to the ground as you say Abdominals. Say this like you would if you just chopped down a tree and said “Timber.” Then get right back up.
Rotator Cuff – Both arms are extended out to the sides as you rotate your shoulders so your palms look like you're twisting a doorknob. Say “Rotator Cuff” pretty quickly. Including the rotator cuff comes in handy when teaching striking with paddles to emphasize the shoulder rotation to change the angle instead of the grip.
Or... make up your own movements and ways in which to say the muscles. The same brain compatible principles will apply.
So why does this work when they’ve only been doing this for a few weeks and we really only take about 2-3 minutes at the end of each class? Teaching the names of the muscles (semantic memory) is paired with two other memory pathways: procedural (the names were combined with movements) and reflexive (I always create fun voices for each muscle name and the kids think it’s funny and love to match my voice pattern therefore it taps into emotion. Simple celebration such as giving a partner a high five to celebrate success also pairs learning with the reflexive pathway. Other reasons are that it’s an activity that grabs their attention quickly, it lasts only a few minutes, which is appropriate for their age level, after learning any new muscles there is time for processing, the information is reviewed on a regular basis, and it never gets boring. This results in more synapses being connected with pathways becoming more myelinated, which speeds the retrieval of the muscle names each time.
The first level of “Muscle Up” involves sitting with the kids and teaching the sequence. I often do add a few muscles each class period until we have them all. The turn-to partner quizzing comes next. The schedule for moving forward is dependent on when they really “get” it and are ready to do so. It’s easy to extend this activity and help students make further connections. You can mix up the order and see if they can keep up, hesitate on the name for a few seconds and see if they can identify the names before you say them, just do the movements and have the kids identify the names, during other class activities exaggerate a skill and ask kids to come up with what muscles are being used, use muscle picture cards in turn-to activities so they have to look at a picture and identify the muscle name (When starting this it helps to teach them to use the movement as a strategy to help them remember. This way they are accessing the procedural memory pathway to retrieve the name.)
I had a first grade substitute teacher come to me and relay this question from one of her students. “Mrs. Bryant... how do you spell but? I don’t mean Gluteus Maximus. You know... the other but.”
If you click the title above it will take you to one of my school pages. Scroll down the page of videos until you get to Go Team 1-2. This video has a cardiorespiratory call and return followed by muscle up.