“The most powerful tool for fostering the growth and development of neural connections in your child’s brain is physical movement.”
(Gill Connell, child development expert)
Movement is essential for learning. Movement is primarily processed in the cerebellum, the area where memory and learning is processed. There is a direct correlation between the development of movement skills and concentration. Many young children nowadays are clinically more hyperactive and unable to attend to a new task for longer than a few seconds. If children have not developed appropriate movement skills in the early years, it can have a great impact on their learning.
How is movement essential for learning?
Physical movement improve actual brain function by helping nerve cells to multiply and by creating new connections for learning. Physical movement takes advantage of the brain’s plasticity to relay and rewire the brain for learning:
- learning to move,
- learning to balance,
- learning to coordinate and control,
- learning to focus and attend,
- learning to listen,
- learning to talk,
- learning to access the school curriculum.
Sitting in school: Larger muscles in the body are used to sit up and have good sitting balance. This in turn is needed to help the child to stay focus and attend on the lesson at hand. Good sitting balance requires core stability by having strong stomach, pelvis and back muscles. Sitting on a chair requires physical endurance to maintain an upright position while concentrating and listening to the teacher.
Hand function and fine motor skills: Fine motor skills are needed to colour, draw, write, cut and paste. Children need strong large muscles in their arms, shoulders and trunk for these finer more precise movements. They also need to cross their midline when writing from left to right, use their hands independently (e.g. hold the page while colouring), and have good eye-hand coordination. When writing, the student is required to have a good awareness of the spatial relationships with the environment around them and within themselves. This is called spatial perception and needed for every day navigation, e.g. spacing the letters in a word, the direction of writing (left to right, top to bottom). Students also requires good planning skills when writing. They need to know where, on the page, to start writing. They need to know how to form numbers / letters).
Copying from the board: Children do not only need good visual acuity but also well-developed visual processing skills when in a busy, visually-distracting classroom environment. Children have to watch and follow the teacher walk and talk around the classroom. This is called visual tracking. Children are required to take notes or copy information from the whiteboard. For this their eyes need to accommodate from far vision to near vision. They need smooth pursuit of eye movements when reading and good visual focus.
How is listening essential for learning?
Hearing is probably our most important sense as it gives us access to spoken language which is necessary for the development of speech, language and communication skills. Unfortunately most classrooms have been described as a hostile environment for hearing and listening. It is inadequate in terms of the:
- signal-to-noise ratio,
- background noise levels,
- distance from teacher,
- movements of the teacher,
- speech rate of the teacher,
- length of instructions given,
- the complexity of the language used.
Listening and movement
In the classroom children are required to engage in a wide range of different and complex movement tasks, using both gross and fine motor skills. While doing this they are expected to actively listen to the teacher, remember and process the information before responding. It is very hard to separate motor skills for listening which is why we, Aled Hughes & Marinet Brennan, will be investing some time to address these two important skills. Throughout our podcasts we will also endeavour to illustrate the importance of movement as a foundation skill to learning: move to learn, learn to move @CoDex360