Developing Confident Learners Through Movement

It has been more than half a century ago that I began studying young children and how they learn through movement. My focus was always on rhythmic education, movement education and educational gymnastics. I have studied and worked with teachers and children over the past 46 years in schools across the country, in children’s gyms internationally and at the Gerstung Movement Learning Center in Baltimore, Md. This is where we teach movement skills and develop confident learners from ages 14 months to 14 years.

It is my firm belief that the way children learn has a lot to do with the type of students and people they become. We all know young children learn through play and discovery. The coordination of intellectual and physical development, with guided play and fun activities, is vital to their development and must be one of the focal areas of elementary schools. Good movement education can teach what writing, reading and arithmetic cannot. What we physically experience, we usually keep for life, and developing the intellect through movement is natural and a whole lot more fun.

What is the secret behind movement education that educators should understand? For a better understanding let us first define movement education. It is an approach to teaching skills that involves an analysis of movement, much of what we know from methods of the European educators Rudlof Laban, Lislott Diem and Jean Piaget. Basic movement is the ability to perceive and relate to one’s body, space, effort, relationship and quality of execution. Creative games, educational gymnastics and dance are used to foster the child’s physical and cognitive development through these basic movement concepts:
  • body awareness (what is the body doing)
  • space (where in space is the body going)
  • quality/effort (how the body is moving)
  • relationship (where one is in relation to something, someone or to space)
It focuses on body management skills that provide the child with agility, core balance, a broader movement vocabulary and creative thinking solutions.

The method of instruction utilizes techniques of free exploration, guided discoveries, problem solving and ultimately directed learning. Teachers ask questions encouraging children to explore, to solve problems and to find movement solutions. It is important that we always try to find ways that challenge thinking.

Different mediums or space allow one to provide challenges that promote body awareness. The mediums used are:
       
  • floor space (locomotion skills)
  • apparatus (large equipment set ups for children to travel on)
  • rhythm/music (the ability to listen and move)
  • manipulation of objects (bean bags, hoops, scarves, cones, blocks to challenge coordination)

Movement education is clear and simple progressive child development. It is all about how the children learn and how they become better learners.

So, why do young children learn faster through movement education? Let us take a look at how infants and babies develop. During the most playful years, kids learn from their environment and develop in accordance to what information they have stored. Such information was not presented to them as facts, for it to become matter of fact knowledge is an action and an experience of the moment, and how information was experienced becomes knowledge and is stored in memory. Of course it is first experienced physically, through movement. Holding one’s head up, rolling over, sitting up, grasping an object, crawling and walking — all come with some stimulus and only when the child is ready physically and cognitively. Learning to jump, swing, climb, push, pull, go in, out, up, down, etc. can be creatively suggested with guidance from the parent or teacher.

Good movement educators do not tell students what to do. They put their request in the form of a question and then expect a movement answer. They continue to ask, “Is their another way?” Children should become more focused on the task for it to become a challenge that suggests a reward if mastered. Learning what is easy for them, what is difficult, simple and challenging allows the students to explore personal limits and become aware and secure of their own varied abilities.

The teacher is striving for each student to become more skillful, accomplished and as perfect as necessary, but not through focusing on teaching the subject, rather then focusing on teaching the child. The motivation factor is fun that derives from personal accomplishment. Competition should only exist in relation to one’s own ability, not in direct comparison to someone else. Challenging independent thinking, responding, discovering and creating demands a higher-than-usual level of participation with both sides of the brain, not just the body. Through age-appropriate activities and creative repetition, children learn and expand their skills and knowledge in many ways.

Learning is a fundamental process of repetitiously acquired information, physically and/or cognitively, that the brain stores as knowledge. Much of what we have learned physically we still remember, because “we” take ownership of the physical activities. That is why brain researchers draw a difference between how we learn and what we store in memory. Although learning and memory are not the same, one cannot exist without the other. Movement education provides the interaction between discovery and memory. It also creates the important environment for better learning. Children that are engaged physically and mentally will learn faster and retain more.

Those that have experienced the training of movement education are usually more centered and more accurate in their abilities to follow directions. They have developed the “five Cs,” starting with the courage to explore and to challenge their creativity. Through better coordination, they become more confident with a good motor base upon which to build new skills. At the end the child has become more competent in many ways and more able to conquer progressions that lead to more knowledge, physically and intellectually.

The earlier we are able to engage children in the process of learning through movement, in a happy learning environment, the earlier child and teacher can celebrate success. Here are 25 of the most significant contributions movement education can make outside the classroom:

  1. Reinforcing good listening skills.
  2. Developing a “movement vocabulary.”
  3. Responding to problems with movement answers.
  4. Encouraging creativity through physical expressions.
  5. Building coordination as a foundation for skill development.
  6. Practicing decision-making abilities.
  7. Learning to understand and solve problems.
  8. Growing in competency and self-esteem.
  9. Expanding awareness of efficiencies.
  10. Thinking ahead of the action to be executed.
  11. Understanding questions, problems and tasks.
  12. Practicing self-expression.
  13. Developing images and visions.
  14. Rethinking actions, possibilities and consequences.
  15. Learning how to evaluate situations.
  16. Learning to value quality in perfection.
  17. Becoming more courageous in trying something new.
  18. Getting used to finishing a task.
  19. Discovering growth and satisfaction.
  20. Investing in determination, effort and integrity.
  21. Gaining self-confidence through positive reinforcement.
  22. Feeling safe in assuming responsibilities for self and others.
  23. Practicing to apply knowledge and experience.
  24. Executing independent thinking and setting examples.
  25. Becoming an accomplished learner with a stronger body and healthier mind. 

You can contact Siegfried Gerstung, at Gerstung Inter-Sport by phone at 410/337-7781, or through e-mail at sg@gerstung.com.


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