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Motor training to develop readiness, motivation and means of expression, as a basis for learning programs
Motor activity is fast becoming a valuable aid in the teaching of academic subjects to elementary school children. The realization of the place motor activity has in the classroom does not imply that physical activity is a prerequisite to learning but rather a method through which a child can learn more easily and understand more fully. Training in physical coordination is not only helpful in providing a child with a mode for expressing what has been learned, but it has become a factor in instilling in the child a willingness and readiness to learn and has also introduced itself as a base for a learning program.
One writer, Maritain (1966), has described the function of education as primarily a source of liberation. In the case of the child whose learning problems stem from a learning disability, this liberation would consist of allowing the child to move about, to explore, and to receive impressions, to respond and to express.
This call for movement as a basis of learning is further substantiated by Getman’s theory that the skill of motor control and coordination is a necessary prerequisite to every intellectual activity. Cratty (1970) further states that movement is learning; learning requires movement.
Some theorists seem to attribute all intellectual achievement to motor development rather than viewing motor activity as an aid to learning. One theory implies that certain motor activities when properly applied would prepare children in the intellectual areas of spelling, reading, and similar intellectual tasks during the child’s first year in school. Cratty 1970). This theory may hold true if the motor activities are somehow related to the intellectual processes involved. It is important to remember that normal children have other resources to draw upon, namely a brain which permits the thinking and processing of ideas; movement alone cannot guarantee intellectual achievement but motor activity incorporated with intellectual processes can be tremendously successful.
One of the most undisputed ways in which intellect is affected by motor coordination is in tasks involving the written expression of intellectual thoughts in a certain area. One clinical study involving children whose verbal intelligence quotients were fifty points above their performance IQs showed that these children experienced a great deal of frustration when directed to convey their thoughts to written word. (Hellmuth 1968). Although the problem may involve the children’s ability to express themselves there is a great possibility that they cannot write quickly or well and that the frustration experienced when placed in the writing situation interferes with their ability to formulate and express their thoughts.
It should be noted that this writer is aware of other causes of inability in written expression other than strictly motor incoordination. As stated by Johnson and Myklebust, (1967) some children cannot transduce visual information to the motor system. This does not necessarily result from a visual or motor defect but as this paper is not about disorders of written language it will not be explored here.
Since many of the so-called “show-what-you-know” tests are actually speed tests, a child with an eye-motor incoordination is handicapped by an inability to write quickly and accurately. If a child cannot move the hands accurately when putting thoughts on paper, usually academic difficulties will appear which could, in turn, lower the child’s self-concept and contribute to the cause of an emotional problem. Grace Fernald (1973) points out the importance of avoiding a negative self-concept, due to failures, and the resultant emotional disorder. Myklebust (1968) points out that training in any aspect of a child’s psychological development, such as motor, language, perception, and higher cognitive functions will help the child’s emotional adjustment which will in turn lead to the ability to learn in school. One cannot always determine if the learning problem is primary or secondary to the emotional problem. Myklebust (1971) states that the following authors feel that a positive relationship exists between the two variables of learning and emotional problems; Bender, 1956, Bryant, 1966, Fernald, 1943, Gates, 1941, Giffen, 1968, Harris, 1970, Natchez, 1968, and Rabinovitch, 1962.
Bryant Cratty (1969) recommends that children with visual-motor deficits be given special attention motorically and practically. The latter involves simply allowing the child alternative modes of expression, such as allowing the typing of tests and/or assignments or permitting tests to be taken orally with the same questions given to other classmates so that the child can succeed at a par with peers. The second form of compensation, for these children, involves concrete methods to improve their visual-manual skills through such tasks as a program for the development of visual motor perception, pegboards, tracing, blocks, and other tasks involving finger dexterity, hand-eye coordination and fine motor coordination.
READINESS AND MOTIVATION
Body image is the child’s own feelings about his/her body and total self-concept. The theory of perception that best illustrates the importance of bodily perceptions to the child’s perception of the environment was presented by Werner and Wapner (Cratty1970) in their sensory-tonic theory of perception in which they made the contention that “body tonus influences various spatial judgment.” Their data indicates that during the first seven years of life, a child is very dependent on his bodily perceptions. Barraga (Whitcraft 1972) emphasized that for the visually handicapped the range and variety of concrete experiences and materials in all academic learning during the elementary years were of primary importance. Barraga also acknowledged Gibson’s view of the importance of motoric involvement of each body part with the physical world for refining and discriminating perceptions and for receiving and interpreting environmental impressions.
Body image is an important factor in a child’s readiness for learning. However, one must not infer that good body image or training in the perceptual motor area will lead to or is a sign of good intelligence. Skubic and others (1970) state that “as yet there is little factual evidence available which indicates the precise relationship of perceptual-motor ability to conceptual ability and to intelligence, and the results we do have are still inconclusive.” She states that the following researchers have reported zero to low correlations between intelligence and various types of motor performance. Beck, 1957; Ryan, 1963; Schaffer, 1959; Singer, 1968; Singer and Brunk, 1967. Biddulph, 1954; Ismail and Gruber, 1967; Rarick and McGee, 1949, have reported more significant relationships.
Howard and Templeton (Cratty 1970), after a thorough survey of the literature on spatial orientation, shape recognition, and reproduction, concluded that young children are first able to recognize and reproduce shapes without ant concern as to their upright position. Later, after establishing their own body images, they can place the figures in the correct position relative to up and down and left and right. They suggest that some kind of body image concept must precede spatial orientation.
The child that develops awareness past his or her age norm may also be behind the norm in spatial relationships, which could hinder his ability to read, to write, and to perform other basic intellectual functions such as sequencing. It could therefore be assumed that training in body image might aid the child in establishing the concepts of spatial orientation and shape recognition.
Training for increasing body image involves creating awareness of personal body parts and their position in space in relation to the world around the child. Hellmuth (1968) states that “if the child is not aware of these subtle kinds of things about the person and the environment, it is doubtful if the child can be expected to form later more complex judgments inherent in many classroom learning tasks.” Several methods may be utilized in developing a concept of body image. This writer feels that one should begin with a program of sensory motor integration as outlined by Jean Ayres (1973). A second program could be the Frostig Program for the Development of Visual Perception, which involves teaching the child laterality, directionality and body schema, resulting in an increasing awareness on the part of the child concerning personal body image. A third program is the diagnostic remedial program of Kephart’s Purdue Perceptual Motor Survey, which is a sequence, designed to utilize movement as well as tactile methods in introducing the child to the limit and outreaches of the body.
Along with the development of an accurate body image, Kephart (1970) also advocates basic motor, which he feels, will increase the child’s readiness for school tasks. He maintains that one must help a child to establish what are termed “motor generalizations”. These include:
1. Posture and balance. Both are necessary for accurate perceptual judgement because
they supply the stable base for the body.
2. Locomotion. Mobility allows the child to learn about spatial relationships within the
3. Contact. If the child does not have direct contact with the objects around him or
her there may be a deficit in manipulative skills, which would prevent the child from becoming aware of objects, shapes, and textures.
4. Receipt and propulsion. Throwing and catching balls, bean bags, rings, etc. help a child to learn about velocities, sizes, and distances in space.
5. Motor Generalizations. The two main motor generalizations, body image and laterality, are essential for the perceptual organization of the child's world which in turn makes it possible for the child to achieve sound intellectual functioning.
Singer (1968) points out that motor activity has also proved valuable as a means of "eliciting optimum levels of arousal" for the performance of a task. Several experiments have demonstrated a definite relationship between the quality and quantity of obvious motor outputs of children and their ability and/or inclination to engage in various tasks within the classroom.
Cratty (1970) has discovered that there appear to be "optimum levels of alertness, activation, or arousal necessary for the efficient performance of a task." He maintains that simple tasks require a higher level of arousal than complex tasks, perhaps because of a challenge or interest factor. This writer feels that there is some truth in this but feels that vestibular stimulation, as written about by Jean Ayres (1973) is the cause of the higher arousal.
Courts and Freeman (Cratty 1970) in a series of experiments observed that if a person's muscular tension was raised by pressing on a hand-grip with fifty per cent of their maximal hand pressure, that person would perform better on tasks consisting of memorizing word lists and similar cognitive-verbal tasks. The tension or release of energy resulting from the gripping seemed to raise the level of activation. Railo's Norwegian experiment in which he administered several hundred seventh graders a two- hour exam followed by a two-hour mental task and then another two-hour exam produced unexpected resu.1te. The children with good physical fitness per- formed more poorly on the final test than the 'unfit' children. Thus it was concluded that the fit children "with high capacities" for movement and presumably high needs for movement were hampered by the prolonged period of confinement while the less fit children felt less need for physical activity. Cratty felt that the results of this experiment would imply that active children need frequent opportunities to move in order to bring their "full attention and full intellectual energy to their academic work" and that the most effective way to remedy the situation is to integrate movement activities with academic work. This writer feels that this should be common practice, where needed, for all developmental and/or remedial programs.
The use of motor games as reinforcement for good performance or as a learning task in itself is another way in which motor activity serves as a motivation for a young child. The use of motor activity has also been a positive factor in experiments attempting to lengthen the attention spans of elementary school-age children. Mercy (1965) found a high correlation between scores elicited from directions like "draw a line as slowly as you can" and "walk from here to there as slowly as you can" and I.Q. scores. Slowing a child down and aiding him or her to achieve degrees of motor control will not necessarily improve mental capacities but it does present the child with an opportunity to exhibit intellectual knowledge. Another method of increasing the attention span of a child is through sustained tasks on the balance beam. Present the child with tasks to perform on the balance beam, such as walk from one end of the beam to the other and then gradually increase the length of the beam. (Gearheart, 1973).
Kephart (1960) maintains that we cannot think of perceptual activities and motor activities as two different items; we must think of the hyphenated term perceptual-motor. "Just as in our thinking we cannot separate what part of the child's activities in any task, such as copying a figure, is motor and what part is perceptual, in our teaching we cannot separate what parts of the activity are perceptual and what parts are motor. The total perceptual-motor process should be considered in every learning activity, which we set up for the child. Learning experiences should be designed for him in terms of this total process in order to obtain the desired results. "
There are several methods in use today which may be termed 'motor learning' or learning through the use of motor activity. Some of the most common ones are those by such people as Marianne Frosting, Musk Moisten, Newell Kephart, Gerald German, Ray Barch, and Bryant Crate. Marianne Frosting has a test based system (Gearheart, 1973). The classroom teacher may administer her test in groups. She has five subtests which measure various skills which she states "are necessary to success in academics". She has a series of training exercises in both gross and fine motor skills. Her test is limited to visual-perceptual skills, and the program is basically a visual-perception program.
Musk Moisten (Hellmuth, 1968) involves a theoretical framework in which a child can be led in an orderly manner from situations in which he simply responds to commands, to situations in which he actively engages in problem solving and can see for himself the quality of his decisions through movement.
Following Mosston's general guidelines, the Visual Motor Center of Montreal has developed a motor learning program for elementary children using an intrasensory approach. The program involves the use of large forms such as a climbing wall, a "people-size" barrel, and various sized balls attached to strings hanging from the ceiling. The forms are designed to improve the child's physical coordination while a multi-directional series of tasks serves to increase the child's mental capacities in coordination with his motor patterns. The series co
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