We all know that young children love to be active, but what many of us don’t realise is how much their physical development affects their learning in the classroom. Many children enter their first classroom environment without the adequate skills to function in such an environment. The simplest things trip them up – having to sit still and listen, being unable to hold a pencil correctly or coping with multiple instructions at once. The unique Smart Steps program offered at the Australian International School aims to develop these all important body-brain connections to improve learning outcomes for children in the Early Years. Our Smart Steps teacher Laurine Virgilie tells us more.…
The ‘physical’ connection to classroom success
Movement is at the core of how the brain develops. It determines and shapes how children think, feel, behave and learn, which is why physical activity is imperative for the development of young minds. Simple classroom activities such as reading, writing and listening can all be linked to a child’s physical development. For example, a child’s ability to write can be affected by their physical ability to grip a pencil. Playing on monkey bars and doing other activities that build strength in the upper body, hands and fingers can help to address writing issues in the early stages of development. Similarly, a child who struggles with reading may need more time to develop eye fitness before tackling the highly-refined movements independent reading requires. Eye tracking activities will help to build eye stamina and will improve reading ability.
The Smart Steps approach
The Smart Steps program forms a fundamental part of the Early Years curriculum at the Australian International School. The program offers a well-balanced mix of activities designed to develop ‘automaticity’, making movement something which children do not have to think about. When a child automates control of their physical self, their brain can turn to other matters, such as thinking and reasoning, creativity and invention, and strategies and tactics they will use in the classroom, on the playing field or in any other endeavor they choose to pursue. In other words, developing a smart relationship between the body and the brain makes everything else possible.
The Smart Steps activities
The Smart steps activities are developed around six basic elements of movement – the senses, balance, intuition, power, coordination and control, all of which are underpinned by the development of language. There are a total of 50 different activities in the program and these range from tunneling to improve spatial awareness, walking on beams to improve balance and juggling bean bags to improve coordination.
These activities are taught once a week by qualified teachers in a dedicated Smart Steps movement room at the new Reggio Emilia-inspired Early Learning Village. Opening this July, the Early Learning Village has been designed for children aged 18 months to six years old and provides a unique environment that truly supports each child’s learning journey.
Reading the moves
You may recognize some of these children…
- The Fidgeter – the child who can’t sit still. Fidgeting isn’t necessarily a sign of disinterest. In fact, it may well be a sign that the child is trying to concentrate. Try balance activities to improve concentration
- The Slumper – the child who struggles to sit up straight. He looks bored but he may just need to improve his core muscle strength. More whole-body movement, especially games and activities that challenge the core muscles may help with his posture
- The Pencil Breaker – the child who often breaks things. The child seems aggressive, but it may be that he doesn’t know his own strength. He may need experience with delicate tasks that require adapting and controlling his muscles, such as pouring water without spilling it.