"Cross The Line"
Here are six effective teaching strategies that can be applied all while energizing and exploring content within your health or SEL curriculum:
- Get up and move!
- Play with a purpose
- Foster creativity and individual agency
- Use metaphoric structures
- Embed reflection
- Relieve stress
‘Cross the Line’ – There is a lot to like about this classroom friendly, low prop, and progressively challenging group activity. The structure can be adapted to a wide variety of content themes while consistently addressing important social and emotional learning skills such as appreciation for differences, self-expression, creativity, collaboration, and reflection. It also serves as a problem-solver and de-inhibitizer.
Learning Objective: Recognize various learning styles and modes of expression; Apply strategies for appreciating differences and maintaining positive interpersonal relationships in and beyond the classroom; Initiate exploration of any content theme (health, SEL - even academic or sports)
Metaphoric structure: This activity involves crossing, a structure by which the group starts at one point and crosses over to another as their destination. Along the way, they have an experience or mini-expedition. One that is transformative such that upon arrival they are no longer the same as when they started. In this activity, there are multiple crossings.
Time: 20 minutes
Props: 2 15-20 foot ropes or 4 cones/spot markers
- Clear an open space in your classroom.
- Place one section of rope on the floor in a straight line leaving enough space for the entire class to cluster behind it.
- Place a second rope 10-30 feet away depending on available space – and again with sufficient room for students to gather behind. Cones, tape, or chalk can also be used. The basic shape is a rectangle.
Framing: “Each of us has a preferred learning style or way we like to learn. It is important that we understand not only how we as individuals like to learn, but how our classmates like to learn so we can better support and encourage one another” (alternate are provided below under the ‘Variations’ heading)
- Ask students to stand behind one of the lines.
- Ask students to identify some ways that people like to learn. If necessary prompt them with examples. Say, “For example by reading, by touching, by talking with others, by taking time to reflect.” Be sure to dramatize the types of learning mentioned as you describe them. A dramatization of reading might be looking at a pretend book held in one hand while flipping pages with the other.
- The space between the lines represents the classroom on any given day and everyone will have the opportunity to move through this space in a variety of ways.
- The first crossing represents how students learn. Ask them to cross over the open space (from one line to the other) individually when ready. Cross in a way that represents how you like to learn. More than one person may cross at a time as long as people are individually expressing how they learn best.
- Remind them to attend to your own movement but also notice what others are doing. For example, you might think, “OK we have readers, wanderers, people going backward...”
- Once all are across the line, ask what styles they observed.
- Next, ask students to find a partner or form a trio and to cross in a way that represents how they might help each other learn. They should agree on one manner and synchronize within the pair/trio as they cross. Again first ask for ideas from the group if they need promoting. Some examples are pretending to have a discussion or take notes to share with others. If they move quickly to partner and begin to brainstorm prompting them with ideas may not be needed.
- After this crossing ask a few pairs/trios to explain (perhaps while demonstrating their movement) how they supported each other.
- For the third crossing have students organize into 1- 3 (depends on class size) equal larger groups. Ask each group to demonstrate how they like to have fun in class and discuss. Reminder about classroom appropriate fun may be needed.
- Finally, ask that the whole class synchronize their crossing in a manner that represents their healthy learning community. After crossing ask students to form small groups, discuss what will be required for the class to live the healthy values expressed then report out (Familiarity with the Project Adventure Full Value Contract process will support deeper facilitation around this theme).
Debriefing occurs after each crossing so this is an ‘embedded’ and on-going approach to reflection on the lesson. That said here are some questions one may ask after the final round as a means to explore the broader experience and ‘Cross the Line’ structure:
- What did you notice about peoples’ readiness to act out the different assignments while crossing? What supported or stood in the way of uninhibited expression?
- How do you think the structure of moving from solo to small then larger groupings impacted engagement and learning?
- How were ideas for acting themes and movement while crossing generated, accepted or rejected?
- How are some of these influences on decisions about themes and acting similar to, or different from day-to-day peer influences around health-related activity?
- I witnessed a lot of imagination, creativity, and laughter. What value or role do these qualities have within a learning community?
Variations: Develop crossing themes around other topics. Note that it is always important to assess your group to discern maturity and stage of group development since some classes may not be ready for exploring more mature topics in this manner. Given that disclaimer here are a few! Health professions (imagine the crossing of psychologists or brain surgeons); use of various substances; bullying and bully prevention scenarios; dating and sexuality (yikes!); healthy or unhealthy eating habits; sports or fitness training; outdoor sports; positive or negative peer pressure.
Source: Adapted by Larry Childs from the Project Adventure health curriculum, Creating Healthy Habits by Katie Kilty, a former PA trainer and current Sports Science professor at Endicott College