Reading, writing, and…rolling? When we approach teaching children literacy, we usually don’t think of rolling around as something educational. However, when it comes to literacy skills, movement is a key element. In fact there are multiple links between movement and literacy, and some great benefits, too (which we’re sharing below).
Adrienne King, M.S. Ed., who teaches our Book Bop! and Baby ASL classes at the Dancing Bear, shared with us that there are many ways to learn and communicate, such as writing, hearing, or seeing something. But movement is an especially important way for children to learn. “Adding movement to literacy activities keeps children motivated to read and learn, it engages the multiple learning modalities, and it is fun,” she says.
Link Between Movement and Literacy
As an important avenue of communication, movement is linked to aiding in a child’s literacy skills in various ways, such as:
Body Language — Movement and language are both forms of communication and self-expression. So, we can think of movement as the language of the body. Imagine a child who is so happy to be at the Bear that she is jumping up and down, smiling, and reaching her hands to the sky! (Actually you don’t have to imagine this since it happens often here) She is communicating her happiness through her body and movements and understands what the word “happy” means.
Multiple Senses at Work — “For young children, physically experiencing things helps them make connections in their brains and helps them remember,” Adrienne says. When acting out words — such as slow, scared, scary, or strong — children feel, see, and hear the word, using multiple senses to understand it. Because of this, words and their meanings take on new significance for a child when acted out or set to movement, as opposed to merely being printed on a page.
Rhythm — Rhythm provides a link between movement and literacy because rhythm is something found in music and language. When children link more controlled movements such as dancing or skipping with music, they learn to pay attention to rhythm, speed, and meter, which are all important in reading. For example, commas and periods signify pauses that determine the rhythm and flow of a string of words. Adrienne says that movement doesn’t have to mean a formal dance, though. With your child try skipping or walking to the beat of a song, and freezing when there’s a pause to the song— it’s super fun!
Benefits of Using Movement
Besides the fact that it’s fun, there are many benefits to using movement while teaching literacy.
Boosts Brain Power — Learning through physical activity creates neural pathways and connections in the brain, boosting brain power and development. Plus, rhythmic movement combined with speech and song aids in speech development and impulse control related to self-management and social skills.
Enhances Spatial Orientation — Because a child is using her body to move around a room or to form letters, her sense of space and direction will improve. When a child forms himself into the letter ‘A’ or curves around like the letter ‘S,’ instead of just writing it on paper, he can better understand these dimensions.
Increases Temporal Awareness — Dancing to a song or tapping to the rhythm of a poem can help children recognize the rhythm of language, sentences, paragraphs, and entire stories. By practicing this, children will learn to internalize a beat and increase their temporal awareness.
When you’re ready to move, here are some fun activities to get you started with combining movement and literacy.
- Create an obstacle course (indoors or outdoors) to learn prepositions. Move over the box, under the monkey bars, through the tunnel, around the bush, and beside the fence.
- Pretend to be animals to learn adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. Crawl slowly like a sloth; skip lightly like a lemur; stalk like a lion; pounce like a cat; slither like a snake; be gentle like a butterfly, strong like a bear, or enormous like an elephant.
- Play the game Roll and Play (available at the Bear!). Children roll a soft, multi-colored die and have to act out an action, emotion, or animal based on the color they roll.
- Act out books with vocabulary that lend themselves to movement, Adrienne suggests. “Or find action words within the story to help you move. Pretend you are moving through the scenery in the book or move like a particularly happy or even sad character.” Her top picks: Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia, Quick As A Cricket by Audrey Wood, That Is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems, or Pete’s a Pizza by William Steig.
No matter how you choose to incorporate movement into your child’s learning, there’s no wrong way to do it, Adrienne says. “Adding movement only engages your child in more ways and allows him to think more flexibly about language — there’s no wrong way to do that.”