Young children are total body learners—learning with all of their beings. Dance, fingerplays, clapping activities, singing, marching, and skip-rope routines offer physical activities to love and learn from!
As teachers knows, reading is a complex skill that requires an understanding of the patterning of sounds, repetition of sound sequencing, and the rhythm of words. One reason children love books like The Cat in the Hat is that they emphasize these concepts—they spotlight the rhythm and beat of the spoken word. Reading also requires prediction—figuring out what comes next—based on the words and context of the story. Finally, reading involves using a variety of cues obtained from words, pictures, and context to determine the meaning of the story.
While physical activity by itself is critical to healthy development, it also helps to build the foundation so essential to children's reading skills. Here's how:
Marching, stamping, clapping, chanting, and dancing to a variety of musical rhythms involves children in the patterning of music, which helps to lay a foundation for the different patternings of speech and reading, along with an appreciation of different rhythms and patterns.
Participating in folk dances, singing games, and games with recorded physical directions ("Put your left foot in...") offers children joyful, repetitive activities, helping them learn to predict and anticipate what will come next, and gives them opportunities to internalize a sequence of events.
Playing games with sequences and verbal cues emphasizes the relationship between words and actions. (Children begin to anticipate what to do when someone shouts, "Green light!")
Tackling obstacle courses reinforces sequencing and predictability. ("First walk along the balance beam, next crawl under the tunnel, then climb over the steps.")
Taking part in creative movement activities helps children learn that they can use cues from the music each other. and their own feelings to determine physical actions.
Skipping rope and other activities that combine strong rhythmic and repetitive activity with words help children learn how important rhythm, patterning, and repetition are to language, and also how to break down language into these critical elements.