Cognitive and Academic learning is directly impacted by developmental milestones.

We are launching a series of videos to help and inspire parents and teachers bring some fun, creative and beneficial activities to their children/students during this time of COVID19.  The first series that is being posted is called Rhythm and Movement Exercises for children, youth and adults who are experiencing difficulty with reading, writing or math, or who have developmental delays and/or behaviour issues.

The second set of videos (coming in the near future) will introduce people to the art of Interactive Storytelling.   Stay tuned!

The Rhythm and Movement exercises offer neuro-developmental educational support which helps children build the underlying capacities needed for academic learning. This first set of five short videos focuses on activities using bean bags.  In the more extensive support program we use balls, skipping ropes, copper rods, as well as drawing and painting exercises designed to ameliorate many of the learning challenges we see today.

Background:
Over the last 25 years the relationship between physical movement and human development, and between movement and cognitive learning has been corroborated by neurologists and the growing understanding of brain plasticity. According to Dr. Norman Doidge, “Neuro-plasticity is the property of the brain that enables it to change its own structure and functioning in response to activity and mental experience.” (The Brain’s Way of Healing, preface)

During the first seven years of life, as the child is learning to roll over, sit up, crawl, stand, walk and talk, capacities are being developed that pave the way for academic learning. Some of these capacities include movement co-ordination, balance, spatial awareness, hand dominance, body awareness, sensory integration, eye tracking. Difficulties or “blocks” in one or more of these areas may manifest in less than satisfactory academic work, behavioural and social problems and lack of self confidence. Teachers and parents may be alerted by certain “red flags” such as awkward letter/number formations, difficulty copying from the board, awkward and/or tense pencil grip, legs wrapped around chair legs, sitting on the floor with legs in a W formation, frequently falling off chairs, holding the head up with a hand or awkward placement of paper when writing and drawing, poor posture, difficulty with reading, writing or math after age seven.
Poor body control can affect the ability to remain still and to focus attention. The child who struggles just to sit up straight or to keep his balance, cannot put his mind to the academic task at hand.
Too often children are pressed into a cognitive learning approach for which they may not be developmentally ready. Neuro-Developmental Educational Support is an interim step between recognizing that a child needs help and the traditional cognitive approaches.

Click here for the full article: Neuro-Developmental Support

Studies:

In 2000-2002, a study was done in the UK in which school children were given 10 minutes of physical exercises per day in the classroom. Significant improvements were seen in reading, writing and drawing. The exercises were based on movements that children make in their first year of life when connections are being formed between the developing brain and the body. These connections are necessary for the control of balance, coordination and eye movements needed to read and write.
Reported in Sally Goddard Blythe’s “The Well-Balanced Child”: H. Putman, The Effect of Developmental Exercise Movements on Children with Persistent Primary Reflexes and Reading Difficulties: A Controlled Trial, Department of Education and Skills, London. Best Practice Research Scholarship, 2000; S. Bertram (2002) The Prince Albert School Pilot Study. Paper presented at the Bangor Dyslexia Conference, Bangor, North Wales, July 2003.)

Studies have compared groups of children in New Zealand who started formal literacy lessons at ages 5 and 7. Their results show that the early introduction of formal learning approaches to literacy does not improve children’s reading development, and may be damaging. By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later. In a separate study of reading achievement in 15 year olds across 55 countries, researchers showed that there was no significant association between reading achievement and school entry age. “Too Much,Too Soon” by David Whitebread, Cambridge researcher on website www.cam.uk/research.

 Research shows a correlation between the amount of dramatic play in pre-schools and expulsion rates (in later grades). Less play, more expulsion. “Even more vital than the learning of reading is the learning of play skills which form the foundation of cognitive skills.” Stephen Hinshaw, Professor of Psychology, U. of California, Berkley.
In the 1970’s Germany turned kindergartens into centers for cognitive achievement. In a study between 50 play-based classes and the new learning centers, it was found that by age 10 the children in play-based classes were doing better, i.e advanced in academics and better adjusted socially and emotionally; they excelled in creativity and intelligence.

A sample of Resources:

Audrey E. McAllen, The Extra Lesson: Movement, Drawing and Painting Exercises to Help Children with difficulties in Writing, Reading and Arithmetic

Bill Hubert, Bal-A-Vis-X: Rhythmic Balance/Auditory/Vision exercises

Norman Doidge, M.D., The Brain’s Way of Healing
                                         The Brain That Changes Itself

Carla Hanford, PH.D., Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All in Your Head
                                       :The Dominance Factor

Sally Goddard Blythe, Attention,Balance and Coordination: The A.B. C. of Learning Success
                                        :The Well Balanced Child

Websites:

Movement for Childhood

Alliance for Childhood

School Starting Age

 

 

Meet the Author

Kathleen Purdy

Kathleen Purdy has been the Executive Director of the Alexander Society since its inception in 2000. She has been facilitating and developing Creative Arts programs for children, youth and adults since the beginning, working with musicians, storytellers and artists. Kathleen has a background in Modern Dance and public school teaching.

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