Establishing a Group Pulse
Establishing a pulse with the whole group creates a rhythmic structure in which all the children can play, invent, discover, explore and learn through moving in their own individual ways altogether. When I refer to a group pulse, I am talking about this on several levels:
- Creating an ongoing pulse over the duration of the class
- Providing a rhythmic beat which provides an underlying pulse
- Managing and shaping the waxing and waning of the group’s energy level
- Recognizing and engaging the pulse of each child with their individual level of excitement and intensity, and how this affects the group dynamics.
Powerful Synergistic Benefits
The group is much more than the sum of the individuals. The dynamic interactions between the children and in relation to the whole group create a powerful learning potential for all.
How the individuals relate to each other and to themselves within the group –contributing, encouraging, leading, following, inspiring, connecting, problem-solving, collaborating — provides a way to give and receive feedback and support, share ideas, work together, inspire innovation, nourish and foster creativity, make connections, and create a sense of connectedness.
Providing Cohesiveness and Collaborative Structure
Establishing and managing the group pulse provides a group cohesiveness and collaborative structure for the class, in which there is plenty of room for individual expression.
To begin each class, the children all gather equidistant on the circle. Using my drum and voice as their guide, the children move out and come back in whatever way they choose to the rhythm of the drum. Out, in out, in, out and back in again. This helps to establish a whole group pulse and a group cohesiveness with room for creative, individual participation.
When the drum plays, the children jump, twirl, slither, crawl, leap, skip, and run. When it stops, they freeze and listen for the next directive. As the drum resumes, off they go again. They regroup back in a circle when they hear the rhythm of my drum and voice call out:
♩ Come ♩ back ♩ to ♩ the ♩ circle
♩ Come ♩ back ♩ to ♩ your ♩ center
♩ Come ♩ back ♩ to ♩ our ♩ circle
With each new directive, off they go again. Over the duration of the class, the children move through the room and then come back together in a circle many times.
Throughout the class, I watch the excitement levels of the children in the group — how they are relating to and expressing their own excitement, and relating to one another. I change the speed, duration, and timing of the activities in relation to the children’s excitement as they move around the room and then come back to the group circle. This helps to support and shape the group pulse and the pulse of the whole class from beginning to end.
Orchestrated Pulsation and Participation
We all pulse as individuals — our hearts beat, our brains pulse, all our organs, muscles, tissues and living cells in our body pulse. A longtime friend and colleague, Peter Wright, once described the coordination of all the varied rhythmic pulses in our bodies as “a symphony of orchestrated pulsation”. We all pulse within ourselves and we also pulse with others.
In my classes, I like to think of how the children pulse as individuals within the group as well as how they pulse together — a symphony of orchestrated pulsation and group participation. This dynamic approach creates a fluid, pulsing structure that incorporates and gives form to the children’s excitement and interest. This keeps teaching for me and learning for the children interesting and applicable for how the children are already engaging themselves and others.
More details about the “Ins and Outs of Somatic Practices”, see blog post “Pulsing In and Out”