Developing Connection with Our Bodies Using Self-discipline

June 24, 2021
Trudi Bennett
Sean Bradstreet


School: Ellenbrook Christian College

Year Group: 2

Teacher: Sean Bradstreet

Creative Practitioner: Trudi Bennett

Creative Practice: Nature Connection

How can we expect children to be aware of their surroundings and collaborate physically together if they are yet to connect with their very own bodies?

In the first Creative Schools series at Ellenbrook Christian College the adult teaching team, Sean Bradstreet and Pam Tyrell, with creative practitioner, Trudi Bennett, were often frustrated with the time it took for students to organise themselves in a circle or to engage fully in team work tasks. We recognised that these year 2 students came from two different very small year 1 classes, plus had the disruption of COVID-19 and therefore, were missing some foundational skills in body and spatial awareness. We noticed that when asked to stand in a circle, many children stood waiting for an adult to direct them to a place where they should exactly sit. Many students sat down without looking all around them to see if anyone was sitting behind them and others who saw that people were behind them did not activate themselves. It felt like many children were not aware of what was happening around them, struggled to identify the need of the community and didn’t recognise that they had the physical power to activate themselves to assist the community.

In class, there were a small handful of students that were willing to contribute to discussion while others were very shy to speak or felt unsure of engaging through oral language. The gift of this class is their great sense of humour and high energy levels where they love anything active.

The focus for our Term 4 project was to integrate developing connection to body and spatial awareness plus developing confidence through Drama skills. We originally thought of playing lots of drama impromptu games, but we found that the students responded really well to body connection activities that helped them ground their feet, activate core muscles and breathe using their diaphragm. The games we played concentrated on making eye contact, communicating and celebrating through body language combined with physical activity. We felt that being able to connect with the functions of your body, control your own movements, communicate using body language and holding eye contact, were both really important skills, not only for Drama, but also for all elements of learning and life.

One of the challenges for the team was to control the energy of the group. When the energy went high whilst playing games it was very difficult to gain the students attention and bring them back together. Then it was hard for them to drop their energy and focus to listen and understand the instructions for the next game. This is also a challenge in class, when something exciting happens or there is a good joke, it is hard for the students to come back to a state of focus. We started to talk with the students about self-discipline as a way of understanding and controlling energy in your body and some techniques that can be used to control this. We used breathing exercises and quiet games interspersed between high energy games. We also asked the students how they would like to be called back and came to an agreement on this together.

During the series we reflected on how many oral instructions are given to students and whether all these instructions are necessary, particularly when they know the rules or pattern of an activity. A favourite session was the day the teachers stopped talking. Sean and Trudi, held up signs, wrote on the board and mimed instructions needed. The leadership was handed to the students who were chosen at random by a letter of their name and a rock, paper, scissors contest. It was their turn to lead the games and they proved it could be done with a minimal amount of instructions. This gave the students not only a sense of empowerment, but also the chance to work on their confidence and leadership skills. It was also an opportunity to challenge the assumption that a teacher is always the one to give instructions. Now Sean has been using this idea to hand over other leadership opportunities in class.

In our final sessions, we returned to the outdoor space to play an ecology game, where the students took on the character of a bird. They were encouraged through the game to act and behave like a bird rather than a human and experience the adrenaline of when predators are around. This game gave a great opportunity to experience a high state of energy through heightened adrenaline and how to use it to be more alert and move faster and then how to control it and come down to focus and be still again.

The complexity of the game required deep understanding and persistence plus was mentally and physically challenging. The students’ full engagement highlighted for the teacher, Sean, the growth the students developed over the two terms in their collaboration and persisting skills. Sean has also seen these skills filter to other parts of their learning.

Learning for Sean as a teacher included letting go of control to another co-educator and even more so, to the students, allowing himself to step back and observe or be part of an activity with the class community. Sean will take with him the importance of using a variety of learning environments, not just within the four walls of the classroom, to help support students to be consistently engaged.