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Getting young kids to match a letter to its corresponding sound is a first-order reading skill. To help students grasp that the letter c makes the plosive “cuh” sound in “car,” teachers often use pictures as scaffolds, or have children write the letter repeatedly while making its sound.
But a new study conducted in Denmark suggests that sound-letter pairs are more effectively learned when whole-body movements are integrated into lessons.
Five- and 6-year-olds in the study spent 8 weeks practicing movements for each letter of the alphabet. Kids moved like a snake as they hissed the sibilant “sss” sound, for example. The researchers found that whole-body movement improved students’ ability to recall letter-sound pairings, and doubled their ability to recognize hard-to-learn sounds—such as the difference between the sounds c makes in “cat” and “sauce”—when compared to students who simply wrote and spoke letter-sound pairings at their desks.
That’s a big difference for a life-changing skill, the researchers say. Educators should “incorporate movement-based teaching” into their curricula, and give special consideration to “whole-body movement.”