Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) practitioners have tried hard over the years to encourage schools to introduce more movement into classrooms. We understand the terrible pressure put on teachers and learners by curriculum demands, so have worked with pre-school teachers, believing that they have more classroom time to devote to all-important movement. Imagine our disappointment when we heard from one school that had followed our movement programme with their Grade R learners for some years – with noted success – that they were obliged to stop the programme. The reason was that they now have to use that time to teach the preschoolers how to read.
This is doubly sad because not only are those children missing out on the chance to ‘catch up’ on any possible areas of delayed brain development, they are also missing out on vital time spent moving. There is much written these days about the value of movement and the positive impact that physical activity has on academic learning. With this knowledge, there should be no doubt that introducing movement into classrooms is worthwhile.
To our knowledge, many teachers are trying hard to do this, so I thought some information about the latest research might help justify their efforts. Also, some information about different types of movement might be helpful to get maximum benefit in the shortest possible time. Before discussing the research into different physical movement strategies, this article will briefly discuss ‘mindful movement’ versus ‘non-mindful movement’.
Mindful movement (also called ‘purposeful movement’) is referred to when physical activities are integrated directly with learning goals. For example, when children form the letters of the alphabet with their bodies, or illustrate the orbits of the planets by walking around a central sun. The quality of the movement is less important than the fact that learners are focusing on academic content. Movement is used here as a tool for reaching teaching goals.
Non-mindful movement is physical activity that is unrelated to academics. Examples would be running on the spot, running around the playground before a lesson, sitting on a wobbly cushion, pushing legs against a length of elastic tied around the chair legs, and so on.
In other words, mindful movement uses movement activities to teach and learn directly; non-mindful movement does not.
Generally, research shows that both types of movement can benefit learning. Teachers (and school administrators) may fear that movement takes time away from teaching and so will interfere with academic performance. The evidence gathered in recent years indicates that these fears are groundless. Learners benefit in more ways than one and a responsive brain results in more efficient learning.
To help teachers understand more about the value of movement for learning, the next few posts will share some of these research studies.
Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) tries to help children reach their potential by addressing all the possible barriers to learning. Visit our website www.ilt.co.za to learn more about our approach, find a practitioner near you to help and also see what courses we offer for teachers to better understand brain development, function and learning. Our courses are accredited with SACE (for CPTD points) and ETDP-SETA (for credits towards further qualifications in Special Needs Education).
You can write to us directly at email@example.com.
Remember to Like and Share our Facebook page to receive more posts like this one.
In last week’s post, it was explained that there is a difference between sight and vision. Having good eyesight means that the eye is doing its job well and is able to clearly see the world both near and far. This is what optometrists look for when children have their eyesight tested.
Vision, on the other hand, depends on how the eyes function as directed by the brain and also how children use the information from the eyes. This means that they have to be able to correctly interpret the information reaching the brain from the eyes.
The first category covers some of the visual abilities mentioned last week, such as fusing two images from each eye into a single, clear image (binocular fusion); being able to shift focus quickly between near and far images (accommodation); to be able to stablise the eyes so that they can locate a target and ‘fix’ that on the retina so that it is seen in sharp focus (fixation) and to be able to move the eyes along a sequence of numbers, letters or words (ocular motility or ‘tracking’).
The second category encompasses visual perception. This includes several abilities that are necessary for schoolwork:
Figure-ground perception: This is the ability to separate targeted images from surrounding ‘clutter’. For example, being able to discern
Direction in space: Being able to see the difference between letters that go up or down, left or write. For example, the difference between b and d.
Form perception: The ability to realise differences in shape, as for example, the shapes of letters.
Visual-motor coordination: The ability to coordinate body movements with visual information. For example, hand writing, copying, catching balls.
Visual imagery: The ability to picture an image in the mind’s eye. For example, to mentally picture a spelling word.
Visual-verbal match: The ability to match what we hear with what we see. For example, forming a mental picture of what is described as we read.
These perceptual abilities develop with age. Some children may not be ‘visually ready’ when they begin school and as a result, will ‘observe less, remember less, learn less, and in general be less efficient in what they do’ (From the book 20/20 is not enough, by Dr A.S. Seiderman and Dr S.E. Marcus).
Some of these children will learn to read but others may struggle as a result of developmental or perceptual lags. They may become labelled as having learning difficulties. So if a child is struggling at school, don’t only think of having eyesight tested. While good eyesight is crucial, there are other, important aspects of vision to be considered.
Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) considers everything that may impact a child’s ability to thrive in school. Visit our website www.ilt.co.za to learn more about our approach. We list practitioners who may be able to help and we list courses that we offer. These courses, accredited with SACE and ETDP-SETA, offer CPTD points and credits towards further qualifications in Special Needs education. They can be studied over distance.
You are welcome to write to us for further information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes I’m surprised at how children try to learn their spelling. They show problems with writing, spelling and often other academic areas but also demonstrate inefficient strategies for learning. Recently, a mom and her daughter showed me that when spelling had to be learned, the little girl had to write out the words several times – over and over again. Does this work? Not always – and it’s so tedious! Mindless repetition (known as ‘rote learning’) does little to permanently anchor anything in long-term memory. What is needed is active learning.
A good example of active learning applied to spelling is described by Don Blakerby in his interesting book ‘Rediscover the joys of learning.’ Here is his explanation of why this is an effective method and a summary of the strategy he recommends (p.2-28).
All good spellers share one characteristic way of remembering words. They create a very clear internal picture of the word. To teach them how to do this, follow these steps:
- Have the learner think about how to divide the word into syllables. These don’t need to be the correct syllables because it is more important for the child to think how the word can be composed of several syllables. For example, she may want to divide the word ‘tonight’ into to – ni – ght. Then she looks at the word to try to remember what it looks like. If the word is long, she might want to make a picture of each syllable and then put all the pictures together. Ask her if she can see the word written on paper or a white/chalk board in her mind. If she says she can (as young children usually do because they have strong visual learning abilities) then you know you’re on the right track.
- When using this method, I find that it helps to have the child analyse the word and identify the possible problem syllables. In the above example, she might well realise that the ‘ght’ ending might cause problems. This is part of the active learning as she is engaging with the learning material.
- Now, from her mental picture of the word, she should close her eyes and spell the words BACKWARDS (from right to left) out loud to you. Check that the spelling is correct and ask her to do this several times.
- Once she can spell it backwards, have her sound the word out while looking at the mental picture of the word. This ‘hooks’ the sound of the word to the internal image of the word.
- Then ask her to spell it from left to right off the mental picture she has.
- At this stage, she can write it down – to practice the way she will have to spell it out for the spelling test.
- Go to the next spelling word and repeat these steps.
Once all the spelling words have been learned in this way, practice by choosing words off the list and asking the learner to spell them. After practicing a word six to eight times, she should be able to just say the word, see the mental picture and spell it correctly without having to spell it backwards. If this is done over a few days, the words should be saved in long-term memory.
You might want to practice this new strategy by beginning with small and more familiar words. Gradually increase the size and complexity of the words on their spelling list.
Remember that the reason you have the learner spell the word backwards is to assure yourself and the learner that she has a clear mental picture of the word. They can’t smoothly spell the word backwards unless they can see it clearly.
As the learner develops her ability to visualise the words, she can drop the process of spelling it backwards because she will learn to know when she has a good picture.
Integrated Learning Therapy practitioners try to uncover the causes of learning difficulties. In some cases, however, we enjoy empowering learners with proven, practical learning skills and strategies to help them succeed at school. If you would like to receive more posts like this, remember to LIKE and SHARE our Integrated Learning Therapy facebook page.
Visit our website www.ilt.co.za to read more about our approach, the accredited attendance and correspondence courses we offer to teachers (and parents) and to find a practitioner near to you and learners who may benefit from their help.
 Published in 1996 by SUCCESS SKILLS, Inc. www.nlpok.com