If we think of a song that we learned when we were little using gestures, like “Bate vântul frunzele” (Romanian song) for example, it would probably be impossible for us to reproduce it without mimicking those gestures. This is an example of how learning though movement leads to better retention of information in the long run.
So how can we integrate dance and movement into the learning processes?
Let’s find out together some ways in these help in developing cognitive skills.
Why movement is important in learning
Although very attractive and promising in revealing unknown brain processes, the concept of learning styles has been dismantled, due to the fact that this discussion relies more on abilities and learning habits. In addition, this categorization says nothing about the quality of the communication itself, which we should focus on. However, what could bring us real benefits in learning is the integration of movement and dance in school activities. Among many other things, these activities improve mood, release stress, oxygenate the brain, have positive effects on group relationships, and improve communication skills, self-discipline and motivation.
Research in the field has shown that people learn better when information is presented in more than one way. In other words, if we receive information in several ways – verbally, kinesthetically and visually – we are much more likely to remember it.
On top of this, the use of gestures when speaking results in much better recall, with the addition of even a few minimal hand gestures having a considerable impact on the children’s retention capacity.
Moreover, physical activity improves cognitive function, which is correlated with better academic performance. All these studies prove that any type of physical activity, not just the movement associated with the activities we learn, can bring real benefits to the learning process.
Ways we can integrate dance and movement into learning
To develop academic, artistic and practical skills in an integrated manner, educators and teachers can incorporate movement and dance into some elements of instruction. For example, in Waldorf pedagogy, educators / teachers can train children in movement and rhythmic dance while counting or saying the alphabet. Their role is to better prepare them for any static activity that follows in their programme.
Similarly, the Montessori method aims to develop children in a holistic way – physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively. Part of this approach includes integrating physical exercise into daily play and learning activities. In addition, this method recognizes that children’s early development is closely linked to physical movement, understanding that movement stimulates their brains in differently to when they watch and listen passively. Indeed Maria Montessori wrote that “one of the most important practical aspects of this method was to make the training of the muscles enter the lives of children, so that it is directly related to their daily activities.”
Similar theories apply to teachers in any school (not necessarily specialized in a particular pedagogy) when they bring intentional movement to children’s learning processes. Thus, we can integrate this type of physical activity into learning when we do outdoor play, dramatherapy, gardening, cube building or any exploration game such as “hiding” or treasure hunting. Dancing and singing can also be very useful in solving logical problems or in assimilating notions of vocabulary or storytelling.
While many of these practices that combine learning and movement are not new at all, scientific research on child brain development is still ongoing. In order for the little ones to get used to a healthy lifestyle that they can continue for the rest of their lives, it is important that we realize the importance of movement in learning and give them the opportunity to enjoy such activities as often as possible
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