Reading skills increase with movement.
Winter is taking its toll. Snow piled up, schools closed, and some of the coldest temperatures on record! Are your kids suffering from cabin fever? How are their reading skills? Keep them moving. Research has shown that movement aids in cognitive processing and focus.
Ask a ballerina. My daughter trained as a professional ballerina. One day I saw she was moving her hands while the dance director was telling them the steps he wanted to see them perform. As an educator, I leaped to attention with my uh-oh someone is off task reaction, ready to strike. Boy, did I find out how ridiculous my reaction was. When my daughter exited the studio, I immediately spoke and told her she needed to be paying attention in class and not standing there moving her hands while the director was speaking. Well, her response was a stunner. First, she rolled her eyes. Then she told me, “all the dancers do that” and I immediately interjected, “well, two wrongs don’t make a right.” That was a saying my father raised me on. She continued on to say “we use our hands to ‘mark’ the steps we are being told to do using hand movements. This helps us to remember and visualize the dance combination we are going to be expected to execute right after the director finishes. No time otherwise. Five, six, seven, eight…and off across the floor!”
As I worked with struggling readers over the years, I delved further into brain processing, movement, and reading. I think I already was aware of its value but it was automatic for me in my learning process (and by the way, I too was a classically trained ballerina), but my research opened my eyes to the plight of a struggling student. I learned quite a lot about how-to, and the value-of, the use of movement in our learning processes. It contributes to our short term memory, patterning, sequencing abilities, and processing speed. Wow! I started to incorporate movement in my reading intervention work with my struggling students. To be a successful reader you need the ability to recognize letter patterns and letter sequencing in words that you read and write. We need a good short term memory to accurately and correctly process the print on the page.
Our eyes gather all the letters we see in a word, send the images to our brain where it is held on the screen in our minds, and compared to the sound/symbol expectancies we know. Next the sounds and patterns are then put together by our brain and sent back to our eyes as the identified ‘word’ staring at us in the text. Our eyes then compare the identified word from the brain with what the eyes are seeing on the page. Do the letter symbols, sounds, and patterns match with that print? We need to develop proficiency with doing all of those steps at a comfortable, steady rate for fluency. Fluency helps our brains to remember.
So, as you and your children are sequestered inside this snowy winter, don’t just sit at the computer or TV. Get up and move. And better still, use movement during your child’s reading or homework time, especiallly if they are having a hard time with a concept or skill. Stress balls to hold and squeeze are valuable tools to maintain focus while reading and studying. If your child is young and learning their ABC’s…have them hop or skip while they say each letter. Use flashlights to shine the beam of light on their toes as they walk and recite the letters of a vocabulary word or sight word they are learning. Math is not exempt. Use movement for learning to count, add, or solve word problems. Take frequent movement breaks as your child reads and studies. Make up a signal to use that identifies, it’s time to put down the book and pencil and wave your hands in the air, stand up turn around, sit down and wiggle your feet!
Now, back to your book and homework.