This week we are continuing the blog series on Early Years dance. Tasked with the job of creating a project to develop physical literacy in early years children, JumpStart (in conjunction with our local School Sports Partnership – Team Charnwood) has devised a dance project for reception classes. By the end of the programme, 12 schools will have received a 45 minute session for 5 consecutive weeks, led by my colleague Tahnee Lawson. Each week the children focus on a different book, such as ‘The Blue Balloon’ or ‘Superworm’, exploring the themes through creative activities and movement play. The sessions are engaging, accessible and fun, but also planned with specific content intended to improve the children’s physical skills.
The key areas we want to focus on during the project are:
- Developing children’s vestibular system. This system provides our sense of balance and spatial awareness and is located in the inner ear. Movements that stimulate the vestibular system support children’s ability to pay attention and be ready to learn. In order to develop this system, children need to move their body in all directions. Activities to support this development include spinning, rolling and jumping up and down.
- Developing children’s bi-lateral co-ordination. This may take the form of:
- symmetrical movements (both arms or both legs doing the same action at the same time eg. jumping, clapping)
- reciprocal movements (alternating arms or legs eg. leaping from one foot to the other)
- leading and supporting (one hand taking a lead role, whilst the other hand support)
- Developing children’s ability to cross the mid-line. The mid-line is the imaginary line drawn down the middle of the body that separates the left and right sides of the body. Crossing the mid-line helps children to develop their core stability and therefore their ability to balance and be stationary. Activities that cross the mid-line also help the right and left sides of the brain to communicate effectively with each other.
Opportunities to improve on the three skills outlined above have been embedded within all 5 lesson plans.
We are currently half-way through the project and during each session, we are asking teachers to write down their observations by completing a short questionnaire. The Dance Artist is also compiling case studies and observation forms. In a short space of time, we have already witnessed improvements in children’s jumping, hopping and balance. Interestingly, there has been a significant improvement in children’s focus too. Once the project has been complete and the data analysed, we will be able to share the full results with you. Exciting times!
Have you been running similar projects within your early years classrooms? We’d love to hear the strategies you employ to improve children’s physical literacy and examples of good practice. Thanks.