For hundreds of years, medical professionals, scientists, and educators have recognized the impact of physical activity on learning. In modern education, the arguments in favor of recess, physical education, and experiential learning are just a few of the ways in which we look to incorporate movement in the school day. Some recent research is now pointing to the connection between sensorimotor learning, speech, and language fluency.
What's the Story?
Studies like this one by Kim, Daliri, Flanagan, and Max are showing evidence of a connection between motor skills and speech. This research shows a correlation between young children's speech adaptations and their sensorimotor ability; in particular arm and hand coordination. From studies like this, we can start to imagine and develop educational interventions for student development in ways that support learning for all.
Meanwhile, researcher Kelly Lambert has been researching the impact of movement on brain development and mental health. She has found a correlation between physical effort and our neurochemistry. "When we move and engage in activities, we change the neurochemistry of our brain(s)." Thus, she is showing us just how important it is for our students' developing brains to move their bodies.
What Does This Mean?
Of course, research is never a direct prescription for action. However, we can comfortably conclude that movement is a critical requirement for healthy brain development and function. Subscribers frequently share stores of "listening activities" or activities students enjoy doing while they listen to stories that seem to help them process auditory content. In light of the research, we think listening activities are a great way to support students' sensorimotor development and potentially increase listening comprehension.
How Do I?
Following more research on the hand-mind connection, and how manual activity can support mental health, here are a few ideas for activities that will get your students' hands moving while their brains are working.
- Art - A very common listening activity, drawing, painting, even building and sculpting is a great way to provide a creative outlet, whether or not the resulting piece(s) are related to the audio content.
- Effortful Work - A foundational concept of the Montessori Method, effortful work describes moderately physically challenging activity to reach an outcome that requires focus. In the classroom, this includes activities like washing the desks or chairs. At home, this can encompass many household "chores" like dishwashing, folding laundry, or ironing.
- Taking a Walk - If you're someone who enjoys taking a walk or exercising while listening to music, you may have experienced the bliss of getting "lost" in the activity while your ears are occupied. Consider listening to a nature-related story while taking a walk around the playground or school.
- Fiber Crafts - Knitting and crochet comes up frequently as a stress relieving activity that also supports the hand-mind connection. Some of our subscriber schools have even started knitting clubs during which they listen to stories! This can also be a fantastic way to engage some of your community members as teachers and beneficiaries of the knitted projects.