Integrating movementNov 08, 2021
Integrating movement into lessons is a key feature in Waldorf inspired learning. If possible, intentional movement should be incorporated into every lesson, or at least into every day! In early childhood, the youngster is still learning to be here on earth in their physical body. Therefore all of the work that is done is through play, movement, and imitation. The Rainbow Bridge that a child crosses into first grade, however, does not magically alleviate a child’s need for learning through movement. Many first graders are still in the process of incarnating as earthly beings, a process which is supported by moving our physical bodies purposefully.
Thinking, memory, and learning, is not only relegated to the head, an idea which is central to Steiner’s philosophies, and is being supported more and more by modern science. Purposeful movement does not just help to balance and align the physical body. In fact, many of the early academic skills are actually enhanced when learned through movement. For example, movement has been shown to help memory and recall, so any task that calls upon the memory (such as learning the multiplication tables, or memorizing lines of Shakespeare) will be eased when movement is incorporated, even if it is just walking. Developing a variety of gross and fine motor skill activities is essential when planning your daily lessons and routine.
In order for a child to be able to sit still and work at a desk, they must first have a sense of balance. Finding balance, therefore, is one of the tasks that children develop through play and movement in early childhood. A child who still struggles to stand or sit in stillness might struggle to then focus their attention on the writing, reading, and artistic work that is being asked of them in the grades. Exercises that encourage balance, such as walking on a balance beam, hopping on one foot, engaging in balancing yoga poses, or jumping from rock to rock, can actually aid in a child’s ability to learn, not just in the early childhood, but all through the grades.
As a child’s body and brain develops, the brain develops bilateral integration, a process of forging neural pathways between the hemispheres. Movements that incorporate body awareness including awareness of both hemispheres, and front/back space, and above/below are therefore also very important. A child’s ability to experience themselves in space, and move fluidly across their body, i.e. left to right, is an important indicator of a child’s ability to integrate both sides of their brain in gross and fine motor skills, as well as sequencing information. Challenges with crossing the midline in movement can often be reflected in a child’s academic performance as well as in their movements. Developing movement activities that encourage body and spatial awareness can help all students, not only those who experience challenges.
There are so many different aspects to this topic, and so many different excellent ways to integrate movement into your days. I encourage you to explore the many ways in which movement can help your child to learn, as there are many articles and resources available. Just be sure to get your child moving!
Here are just a few of many easy ways to incorporate movement into your lessons:
- Jumprope: jump roping helps the child to learn coordination and rhythm, both vital activities for many aspects of cognition. It also can have an incarnating effect on those students who seem to still be “in the clouds” and need a bit more earthliness. You can incorporate many rhythmic learning and remembering activities into jump rope time, such as counting or skip counting, multiplication tables, or work with the alphabet.
- Bean bag exercises: There are a multitude of resources available for various bean bag exercises, all of which can be tools or vehicles for learning, or activating various types of movement, including working with body awareness and crossing the midline.
- Ball bouncing or juggling
- Rhythmic walking/stomping/clapping to accompany verses, memorization tasks, or work with grammar or math.
~Ms. Jaia (Seasons of Seven Class 8 Teacher)
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