Neuroscience has underlined the importance of movement and learning. Add to our five senses our sense of proprioception; that is, information we gain from our own movement and spatial orientation. The ancient Chinese saying appears to be true: “Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I may remember. But involve me, and I’ll understand.” This is particularly true for individuals who are more kinesthetically inclined. Here are examples of how I have used movement—in the form of dance or games to create unforgettable reading lessons for young children.
- After reading “The Groundhog’s Dance,” a Native American tale retold by Judy Sierra, I have all the children choose to be groundhogs or wolves and go to the side of the room designated for their animal. The groundhogs sing, “A-E-I-O, A-E-I-O, A-E-I-O—U!” As they sing, the wolves dance farther and farther away, but when they hear “U!” they rush back to their starting position. After each round, the children can change sides/animals if they wish. This game/dance reflects the main interaction between the animals in the story.
- After reading “Pajaro-Cu,” an ancient story from Mexico about birds sharing feathers with one little bird who has none, we dance/act out the story. Each child makes two “feathers” and holds one in each hand. All children stand in a circle with the “Pajaro-Cu” in the middle. The children chant, “Share. Share. Show you care,” as they each “fly” up to the Pajaro-Cu (as the bird of their choosing) and offer him a feather. After all have shared, the chant gets faster as the Pajaro-Cu does a dance of joy to show his gratitude.
In math, we act our word problems and turn board games into life-sized games. In social studies, we simulate experiences of famous and ordinary people in history, government, business, technology, and so on. Great movement activities for science include Project Wild’s “Oh, Deer!” and “Turtle Hurtles.”
If you have children who love to move—they may need to move in order to learn. Find ways to help them use movement as a path to learning and creativity.