Whole-body learning can boost children’s letter sound recognition — the first step toward reading: Children who move while learning sounds of letters significantly improve their ability to recognize individual letter sounds

Children who move while learning sounds of letters significantly improve their ability to recognize individual letter sounds. This is the conclusion of a new study conducted by the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports and Denmark’s National Centre for Reading, in collaboration with 10 Copenhagen area school classes.

Reading is a complex and crucial skill that impacts the ability of youth to perform as students, across social contexts and in their eventual working lives. Therefore, it is important to develop reading skills during childhood.

Children get twice as good with difficult letter sounds

Now, a team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Denmark’s National Centre for Reading has focused on whether whole-body learning in instruction, known as embodied learning, has a positive impact on children’s ability to learn letter sounds.

“Our research demonstrated that children who used their whole body to shape the sounds of letters became twice as proficient at letter sounds that are more difficult to learn compared to those who received traditional instruction,” says PhD student Linn Damsgaard of UCPH’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports.

With regards to difficult letter sounds, she adds, “There are many difficult letter sounds in Danish and these sounds are particularly important, because once children become proficient at them, it has already been shown that they will be better readers.”

The project included 149 children, 5 — 6 years old, who had just started school. They were divided into three groups: one that stood up and used their whole body to shape letter sounds; a seated group that shaped letter sounds with their hands and arms; and a control group that received traditional, seated instruction during which they wrote letters out by hand.

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