Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Embodiment of Words, Emotions, and Meaning


Hello to all of you wonderful people who dedicate your lives to raising the next generation of children. It is us, the educational community of the world, that is creating the landscape of the future.  Every great historical event in memory started: 
  • with Creative Thought
  • combined with
  • the ability to Think Critically
Every great happening started with individuals who could:

  • Think in Abstract Ways
  • Think in Linear Ways
The Art form of Embodiment embraces all of that in context!


There are many ways to use the Art form of Embodiment, which comes from the world of Physical Theatre.  Think of Mime.  In this Art Form, the body can become anything and REPRESENT THE MEANING physically.  I have used this Art form with young and older children/students for many years and the result is:

  • larger vocabulary
  • improved comprehension
  • a desire to learn more
Here is one way in which you can start.  I recommend using these types of artistic techniques IN ADDITION to traditional approaches.  Enjoy!

A young child becoming a ball and showing his
prior knowledge of what a ball is and how
a ball moves.

When introducing the idea of embodiment to young children, it's helpful to understand the difference between discipline and self-regulation.  When engaging the energy of young children, some adults are uncomfortable with the moments when the energy surges...oh what joy!  What we all really want is for young to be able to self-regulate their own energy, behavior and actions.  What has helped me has using the words:

HOLD YOUR ENERGY! (said with joy)

This is very different than saying "Stop".  The difference is one is usually interpreted as "being disciplined" and the other is usually interpreted as "making the decision yourself."  Here are some basic steps to consider, knowing that the order and details change as often as the child's emotions do:

1.  Ask a child/children to become a simple object like a ball.
2.  Ask the child/children if they can show you what balls do?
3. Ask the child/children to "Hold the Energy of a Ball" to introduce self-regulation to them in a playful way.
4.  Ask the child/children to become other objects they know.
5. Once they have built this skill of basic embodiment, ask children to become objects in small groups.  This changes the PERSPECTIVE and also integrates the use of social-emotional and team building skills...and yes, it's risky!  However, to help guide young learners in becoming creative and critical thinking leaders, risk must be a part of the equation.  Otherwise, all we create are consumers (insert sad weepy face).

Children becoming swaying trees.  Questions you could
ask include, "What is making your tree move,"  "What else
happens when trees move like that?"

Once children have experienced becoming objects, begin to introduce the idea of becoming simple words.  Animals is once very simple and joyful place to begin, but remember you can introduce new cultures and new ideas with embodiment.  You can also show images to children to engage the visual learners and expand on their prior knowledge.  For example, you could:
  • Show the children an image of a tiger.
  • Then ask them to become the tiger.
  • Followed by holding the energy of a tiger.
  • Followed by asking questions related to what kind of environment a tiger lives in, how they move, etc.

Show the children an image to active new knowledge or build on prior knowledge

There are some fantastic resources out there which use this Art form at a very high level.  Some that come to mind are the many books by my colleague and friend, Debbie Clement, of Rainbows Within Reach.  Some of them incorporate Giraffes and others a multitude of affirming words.
Ask children to embody a tiger and guess what... you're assessing, in a loving way, a child's knowledge of tigers!


The next step in complexity is the embodiment of emotions.  We need to remind ourselves as adults that when we look up a word in the dictionary, it has multiple definitions.  Higher Order thinking skills needs to include defining words and situations from multiple perspectives.  With the Art form of Embodiment, we can do this in developmentally and joy filled ways, which embraces the idea of creating life long learners!  As an example, you could ask the children to show you the energy of any number of words, starting with ones they know (prior knowledge), such as:

  • Sad
  • Happy
  • Mad
A young child using the Art Form of Embodiment to show what he knows about the emotion "Sad."

Once they have embodied simple emotions, offer synonyms to expand their vocabulary, such as:
  • Glum and Depressed
  • Excited and Exuberant
  • Angry and Furious 

The cover of a book that highlights the use of the Art form of Embodiment
to show what "Happy, Tree, and Balance" look like.
You can also combine different kinds of words which you choose to embody.  Fo example, as you see above, the image I chose for my book Living Like a Child is a combination of a number of words, including, but not limited to:
  • Happy
  • Tree
  • Balance
  • Free
  • Cooperation

International Mime Artist Rick Wamer demonstrating the Art form of Embodiment as he
becomes numerous emotional states.
As you go in depth with the usage of the Art form of Embodiment, it is critical to model different kinds of words yourself, even if this is outside your comfort zone.  It helps me to remind myself that:
  • I am there for the children
  • They are not there for me (although sometimes they do the most amazing things, right? :) ) 
The image above is International Mime Artist, Rick Wamer in one of his shows.  Below, is an image of me in rehearsal for the multi-media Theatrical Show Dancing in the Universe, which opened in January, 2013 and tours next year.  both are examples of us as adults modeling the Art form of Embodiment.  What do you think we're saying with our bodies and gesture?  Please comment!  It would be great fun to know what you think.

Composer, Pianist, Educator, and Founder of the Fostering Arts-Mind Education Foundation using the Art form of
Embodiment in rehearsal for the multi-media theatrical show "Dancing in the Universe."

There is of course more!  From full day professional development session to week long residencies.  Rick and myself work a lot together as individuals, with Arts Integration Solutions, and with SDE (Staff Development for Educators).  I'll continue to share in my future blogs and look forward to your input.  Next month I hope to post a blog on "The Men in our Life" for all the fathers out there.  Parenting is a such a huge part of the equation and I'm honored to be able to add my voice to those like fellow blogger here at PrekandK Dr. Danny Brassell.

I encourage you to use the following online location to post questions and comments to continue the discussion and elevate our practice as an educational community:

For online resources, 5 of my resources are up at the Early Education Emporium, with approximately 195 to be added...really, I'm not kidding!  Lol... I've been on the road, but I promise to catch up.  Thanks for your patience and have a wonderful day with the children you guide!

Enrique "Hank" Feldman
Founder, Fostering Arts-Mind Education Foundation
2-Time Grammy Nominated Film Composer
Author, Redleaf Press
Music Producer


  1. Fabulous post and I want all parents to read this information! So many adults do not know how to help children learn and how physical their learning can be. I just love this post! Your suggestions are wonderful and help children develop emotional IQ, for instance. Thanks so much! I can't wait to get your book on an ereader.

  2. Hey, there. You used a picture of my daughter (the bird) in this post without asking (did you pull it from my blog? or...?) which is very uncool. And then you made it pinnable. I'd appreciate you replacing the image with something that is not my child and, please, next time, consider asking before you take a photo. Your piece is lovely but photo stealing is not.

      I have looked at you website but I don't see that picture on any of your albums.

    2. Oh my, I deeply apologize. Here's what happened. I was traveling and presenting on the East Coast and had to write the blog while on the go. I did a quick search on google images and found that incredible lovely image of what I now understand is your daughter. I'm somewhat new to some techie things and I didn't see any kind of "brand" or "other marking" on the image, so I mistakingly thought it was a public domain image. I will, of course, remove that image immediately. Thanks for pointing it out to me and please accept my apologies for my error, which I completely own. Have a fantastic day and tell your daughter that's the best bird of I've ever seen... :)

    3. I've taken the image off my blog and off of pinterest as well. Thanks again for the heads up.

    4. Thank you, Enrique. I really appreciate that. No worries at all. Your website is fantastic and I'm grateful for your handling of this! Rebecca/GGC

    5. Sure Rebecca! Thanks for the kind words! Have a fantastic week!

    6. Sure Rebecca! Thanks for the kind words! Have a fantastic week!

  3. This post inspired a wonderful experience with my preschool music class. I asked the children to become seeds and hold their energy that way. They all immediately curled up their bodies on the floor. When I asked them to grow, they slowly rose and decided they were trees. Eventually they were standing on tip toe and reaching their arms toward the sky. They love this activity and keep asking to do it again! Now they enjoy taking turns pretending to be rain and sunshine to help the seeds (their classmates) grow.

    Thank you for the great ideas!
    Natalie Gibson Grimes


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