In my perspective, multicultural education should not focus only on minorities. All students are equally important, although different from each other.
FIGURE ONE- VOWELS
Teaching kindergarten in a Title 1 school where so many of my families are stuck in generational poverty, I often see students who are lacking in motor and sensory development skills. My students struggle to cross the midline, sit properly in a chair, and even grasp a pencil. They have not been properly exposed to these necessary skills at home. This issue is becoming more common among school-aged children (Oden, 2016). With video games, television, and the internet at the forefront of this generation, children are not spending enough time moving. The current public school system is often focused more on the development of the child’s brain rather than their body as a whole. Many have reduced recess time, shortened physical education and art, and increased homework, causing students to spend less time in after-school activities (Oden, 2016). This comes across as staring off into space, talking to others, humming, fidgeting, and even behavior issues.
Last year, some colleagues and I began to notice our students falling behind in their motor and sensory development. These lack of skills were affecting their ability to write. One student could not hold his pencil properly to write. While he could sound out the sounds, he struggled to form the letters he wanted. He was lacking in fine motor skills. Other students could not cross the midline. Crossing the midline helps students use both sides of their brain while improving skills they are lacking. This affected their ability to write left to write (Lengel & Kuczala, 2010).
No matter how many times I would teach, model, and assist students in doing so, it did not seem to click. I began to do some research and learned that according to Williams and Shellenberger’s (1996) Pyramid of Learning and Oden’s (2016) Ready Bodies Learning Minds, academic learning cannot take place until our sensory, sensory-motor, and perceptual motor development skills are met. Some colleagues and I began to talk to our school’s occupational therapist who found a school near us that had incorporated a Ready Body, Learning Minds motor lab into their weekly schedule. “Ready Body, Learning Minds is a comprehensive approach to understanding how sensory integration and motor control drives learning, and therefore the performance, of our children” (Key Concepts, 2018, para. 4). We were able to go to this school and observe how they run their motor lab. We saw students jumping, hopping, balancing, crawling, rolling, tossing, pinching, and gripping different objects. Kindergarten students were crossing the midline while jumping on a trampoline, playing hopscotch while saying their numbers, and making letters on a Lite Bright. First-grade students were doing the same activities, but could add numbers while playing hopscotch and make spelling words on the Lite Bright. Ultimately, students were up and moving while engaged in learning.
This year, we have incorporated motor lab into our school for our kindergarten and first-grade students. We go to the motor lab for 30 minutes twice a week.
Our occupational therapist sets up the activities and teachers run each session. We begin by stretching to warm up our bodies and then begin stations. Students work with a partner and stay in each station for no more than two minutes. Students practice identifying their letters by tapping them on a board while simultaneously jumping on a trampoline, hit a balloon back and forth while counting to 10 and then back down, color a piece of paper that is taped to the underside of a table while laying on their back, and spell their names by pinching ABC beads and placing them onto a string. When we return to the classroom, we complete a quick breathing exercise to refocus our brains and bodies.
While we have only been doing the motor lab for three months, I have already seen it translate into the classroom. I have observed firmer grasps on pencils and students being able to cross the midline more confidently. My students look forward to the motor lab and ask when they can go back. Motor lab helps those students connect the body and the brain in a way that is beneficial and engaging.
Key Concepts. (2018). In Ready bodies, learning minds. Retrieved from http://www.readybodies.com/key-concepts/
Lengel, T., & Kuczala, M. (2010). The kinesthetic classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Oden, A. (2016). Ready bodies learning minds: Cultivating the complete child (3rd ed.). Spring Branch, TX: David Oden.
Williams, M.S., & Shellenberger, S. (1996). How does your engine run?: A leader’s guide to the ALERT program for self-regulation. Albuquerque, NM: Therapy Works.
Emily Keffer is currently a kindergarten teacher with Springfield Public Schools. She graduated from Evangel University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Literacy from Missouri State University.
Classroom Close Ups
Movement in Learning
Figure 1- Student working gross motor skills by spinning in a bowl
Figure 2 - Student spelling name with letter beads
Figure 3- Student using easy reacher