Dr Lindie Moolman
Speech and language abilities are developed from birth by touching and naming things like body parts, clothing, people and objects. As the baby and toddler starts to experience their bodies and the world around them via their senses, they initially develop a listening vocabulary and receptive language ability (De Jager & Victor, 2013). According to Gettman (1987), the main purpose of language is to communicate. However, to make it permanent one has to present it visually, or in a tactile manner. Gettman (1987) goes on to argue that any child with the ability to hear, who grows up in an environment where there is constant communication with adults in their early years, will eventually learn how to speak. Unfortunately this is not the case with reading and writing. Because reading and writing are not universally regarded as instinctive human behaviour many children find it difficult tolearn this “unnatural” activity. Reading has to be learned and cultivated.
How then do we go about teaching our children this valuable skill? Let’s look at the building blocks of reading (preschool up to Grade 3).
Within the first two years of life a child sees, hears and experiences many things without having the ability to think about them in a rational manner. It is however necessary for the child to identify, understand and place these experiences into simple categories. This organisation at an early age is important for developing reading acumen because:
For example: go to the kitchen to show and name everything they can find there. Do this with every room in the house. Take a trip to an animal farm and explain to the child that we usually find different animals on the farm. It is a tangible learning experience which involves all the child’s senses.
Read books where objects are organised according to themes, or categories e.g. “Big book of Animals” or “My first 1000 words” or “My first dictionary”. In this way one piques a child’s learning spirit. Your child will realise there is a far greater world left to be explored.
The next building block is where the child realises that there are different sounds for each word. This ability is called phonetic awareness where a child is able to discern between different sounds and put them together (McGuinness & McGuinness, 1998).
Phonetics have existed in language long before written symbols were developed. Written symbols were primarily developed ages ago to represent the sounds they make when spoken in language. Therefore, when a child uses identification during the reading process the content is already known, in other words the child uses the phonetic patterns found in his or her language to represent symbols (i.e. the letters of the alphabet). It is also important to teach your child that letters do not make sounds themselves, but that they represent sounds.
The next building block for reading involves the child making the connection between a sound and a letter from alphabet. During this step it is important that the child also uses his, or her senses.
Mind Moves (De Jager, 2009) is a movement program that can be used by parents and teachers on a daily basis to help improve their students’ reading and spelling abilities.
Mind Moves Homolateral Walk
Lie on your back. Slowly lift your left arm and leg. Relax. Now lift your right arm and leg. Relax. Repeat at least 10 times. This exercise can be done while standing. NB Always follow up with the Bilateral March exercise.
This exercise develops the left and right brain and relieves a person of hyperactive and impulsive movements.
Mind Moves Bilateral Walk
Touch the left knee with the right elbow, twisting the trunk to bring the opposite shoulder and hip towards each other, extending the other arm and leg. Now touch the right knee with the left elbow, while extending the other arm and leg. This move is best done first lying down and then standing up. Repeat at least 10 times.
This move integrates the left and right parts of the brain and body, while crossing the midline. When eyes are moved into visual, auditory and kinaesthetic positions,
Mind Moves Antennae Adjuster
Start at the top of the ears and gently but firmly massage the whole ear lobe from top to bottom.
This exercise develops the senses, auditory processing, auditory perception and receptive language ability.
Mind Moves Bilateral Integrator
Hold two pencils or sticks with coloured lint between your thumbs and index fingers. Let the pencil rest in the gap between the thumb, index finger and middle finger. Move your arms as if conducting a choir. This can also be done in a tray filled with rice.
This exercise is a fun way to develop rhythm, hand-eye coordination, focus and peripheral vision as well as left-right integration and benefits fluency.
Mind Moves Mouse Pad
The eyes are the brain’s computer mouse – they activate different parts of the brain when they turn upwards, down, horizontally, left and right. Hold your thumb about elbow length away from your eyes and focus on it. Move your thumb in an upwards direction, initially around your left eye and then your right. Repeat five times. Switch hands and repeat the process. Always draw a circle around the left eye and then the right.
This exercise stimulates visual, auditory and kinetic abilities, while crossing the middle line integrates the left and right sides of the brain.
Mind Moves Finger Fight
Press the index finger against the thumb and hold for eight counts. Relax. Switch fingers and repeat until all four fingers have had a turn.
This exercise divides the different parts of the hand. It also develops muscle tone, handwriting skills, fine motor control and communication skills.
De Jager, M. 2019. Kopskuiwe. Weg met leerblokkasies. Welgemoed: Metz Press.
De Jager, M. 2019. Mind Moves – wikkel die brein wawyd wakker. Johannesburg: Mind Moves® Instituut.
De Jager, M. & Victor, L. 2013. SPEEL LEER SLIM. ‘n Kind is ‘n mens in wording. Welgemoed: Metz Press.
Gettman, D. 1987. Basic Montessori. Learning activities for under-fives. NY: St. Martin’s Press.
McGuinness, C. & McGuinness, G. 1998. Reading reflex. The foolproof phono-graphix method for teaching your child to read. NY: Simon & Schuster.