A Kinesthetic Lesson for Teaching the Introduction

Teachers have done an excellent job providing students with strategies for planning the essay body and thesis preparation for timed writing assessments. However, the intro, where free-flow thinking begins, can throw the bodily-kinesthetic learner into a tailspin, leading to choppy, disconnected attempts to “get” to the thesis and body.   
We can help them draw upon physical mnemonics to ease the stress they encounter in these crucial beginning thoughts by creating a connection between body placement and their hands.

1. Provide this prompt to students:  Describe our class and its significance to you.

2. Students should copy the prompt a notebook, such as a composition book or spiral notebook (something they can easily carry).  For homework (or as a starter activity), ask them to create just a thesis for this essay. Nothing else. Just the thesis.  

Here’s a potential model (although I’m sure you’ll be more creative with it!):

    Prompt:  Describe our class and its significance to you.

    Questions:  How would I describe our class?  In what ways is it significant or insignificant to me?

  Model thesis:  Our class is like a flower ready to open, and that sense of readiness inspires me to teach.

3.  Explain to students that your focus lesson today will be on how to “get started” on an introduction for this essay.    

 4. With notebooks and pens/pencils in hand, walk the students outside of the class and face the door.  Explain the analogy of the body of the essay as being inside the class.  The thesis, then, (indicate with your thumb) is just outside the door.  

Holding your thumb up, say, “My thumb thesis is the door to my essay.” Have students do and say the same.

5. Now walk students outside of the building at a point where they can see a majority of the school building.

6. Explain that they have some things to do before they can “walk” into that door to the body of their essay. Hold your pinky up to indicate a “hook”.  Say, “My pinky is the outside hook.” Have them repeat with gesture.

Garner some responses as to what they might say about the school that houses their class.  Ask: What’s special about Blah blah High School, in general, before we move to the focus of our English class?

Students write a rough draft of their thoughts in the notebook.

7. Walk students to a logical point just within the building.  Hold up your index finger. Say, “This finger is more specific."  Have students repeat.  Ask:  What can we say about Blah blah High School a little more specifically?

Have students write a rough draft of this first bridging thought. Take them to a closer point to the class.

8. Hold up your hand, keeping your middle finger and ring finger together. (Expect some silliness here, be prepared.) Say:  “These two fingers are significantly connected.”  Students repeat.

Ask: What is a significant connection between Blah blah High School and our English Class?

What can move us even closer to the significant connection between BB HS and our English Class?
Students write rough draft of these two thoughts.

9. Take them to the outside starting point again, repeating gestures and talking points:

My pinky is the outside hook.

The ring finger is more specific.

These two fingers are significantly connected (index/middle finger)

My thumb thesis is the door to my essay.

However, this time, they’re going to read their rough draft ideas aloud (simultaneously). Yours might resemble:

Blah Blah high school is a powerful community of students and teachers. We pride ourselves on our collaboration of ideas and our rapport.   In particular, we’re willing to work together try out new approaches to understanding literature and composition. It’s very exciting. Our class is like a flower ready to open, and that sense of readiness inspires me to teach.
As you read your intros, walk to the points where you were before, stopping and repeating.  The first step might resemble:

Holding up pinky and saying: "My pinky is the outside hook." Blah Blah high school is a powerful community of students and teachers.

and so on. This part of the lesson should have a very quick, energetic feel to it, not unlike a sped-up Bennie Hill comedic episode. Don’t stop and explain. Walk, say, and do.

10. If you have time, consider having the students finish the essay. If not, then take the few remaining minutes to have them evaluate the lesson. Did it help them better understand how an introduction works? Why or why not?  How?

11.To test the effectiveness of the strategy, a graded follow-up activity should be giving them a more difficult prompt, and preferably, allowing them to walk through the steps (from outside to inside).   Then, have them compare a previous introduction to the one using the strategy to determine if this is a method that will help them out.

One nice thing about kinesthetic strategies, particularly in more traditional courses, is that all students seem to enjoy them.  The opportunity to do something different is always appealing… even for teachers! 

You'll probably come up with much better things to say and probably a better prompt. You know best for your level of students! 
Have fun! Let me know if you try it out and/or if you want to share an enhancement! Together, we can help our bodily-kinesthetic learners succeed! : )


  1. I really enjoyed this article. Love using the fingers as a reminder.

  2. Thank you, Veronica, for describing this approach for beginning essays. I have always been a fan of kinesthetic teaching and learning. Adding one or more of the arts (music, drama, poetry, paintings, digital graphic, etc.) to the writing invitation or prompt further strengthens students' connection to and enjoyment of their writing. As a career middle school teacher, reading specialist, and university professor, I have found that all levels and learning styles easily relate to kinesthetic pedagogy.

    Mary Anna Kruch

  3. Thanks, Mary Anna! This was initially a high school lesson, but I bet middle-schoolers would like it, too! I'm interested in hearing more about how you might add the arts to this lesson. The model prompt IS very bland, if only to solidify the concept of going outside and inside. What would make it more effective, in your opinion? Thanks again, ~Mindy