|Move4words Community Interest Company|
It can be hard for children to learn to concentrate on formal learning in school. Humans have evolved to pay attention to everything around them at once, so they can be alert to any dangers. Children have to learn how to switch off certain areas of attention, so that they can concentrate on their school work.
Imagine you have "poor attention". Picture what it must be like if the feel of the itchy label in your shirt, the colour of your pencil, voices talking in the corridor, the smell of school dinners, the sight of your teacher moving around the room are all vying for your attention, and you just can’t keep your focus on the work you are supposed to be doing.
No wonder that many children find it difficult to do well at school. It is very hard to learn if you can’t concentrate, so concentration is a vital skill. However, we tend to assume that children could concentrate if only they tried, so that will-power is all that is needed. We don’t know of any other programme that is designed to teach concentration skills.
Move4words is different from other school interventions, as its main aim is to help children learn vital attention and concentration skills through easy physical and visual exercises. It is much easier to learn to pay attention to physical tasks than to cognitive exercises like maths, reading and spelling. Key elements of executive function (the brain function which enables us to think, plan and act) are built by daily repetition and chunking of skill acquisition during the 12-week Move4words Literacy Booster.
The picture shows Year 5 children concentrating on focusing hard on their thumb while they move it slowly up and down, this is just one of many exercises in Move4words.
What mechanisms might contribute to Move4words effectiveness? -
a personal view by Dr Elizabeth McClelland
The fundamental answer is that this has not yet been investigated, so we can't actually know for sure! However, there is a lot known about how the human brain develops the skills of reading, and what can get in the way of this process, so here are my thoughts on the matter. If you know of anything that contradicts any point made on this page, please let me know, as I'm always happy to update my knowledge.
I believe that the two main effects of the Move4words programme are of raising the brain's ability to pay attention, and helping to build executive function. However, there are a number of other themes in the programme, and an outline of evidence for the contribution of each theme to development of reading difficulties and their solution is described below, along with a brief review of published evidence for the effect of other sensory motor programmes on learning of school children.
Is it OK not to be sure how it works?
A personal view by Dr McClelland: We don't actually know how Move4words works. The suggestions on this page are only suggestions.
I'm really comfortable with having experimental evidence which doesn't fit established theories. In 1984, I carried out some ground-breaking experiments with Naoji Sugiura in Toronto, which gave results which just couldn't be explained by current theory. We developed a theoretical model which flew in the face of established wisdom (that magnetic domain walls are fixed in place whatever the temperature of the material). We suggested that magnetic domain walls readjust their position continuously in response to changing temperature. Everyone else "knew" we were wrong, and no-one else repeated the experiments because it required the scientist to run the lab in 24 hour shifts (I'd slept on the lab floor for a few hours at a stretch for weeks to get our results). Because I already had an established reputation we managed to get our results into print (McClelland and Sugiura, 1987) but our colleagues thought we were being ridiculous! However, a decade later, technology finally advanced to a state where the high temperature behaviour of domain walls could actually be seen in an electron microscope, and we were proved right after all!
After all, a theory is just a theory. Good science requires that theories are continuously adapted to take account of new information.
Sir Robert Winston recently emphasised this on Steven Hawking's Channel 4 programme "Brave New World" when he said "It's only by unorthodox thoughts that science progresses, and I think the best discoveries are always shocking and fly in the face of given knowledge".
When we think and solve problems, we use many of the same bits of the brain we use to plan movements.
● “Exercise performed on a regular basis for several weeks alters brain functions that underlie cognition and behavior.” (Tomporowski et al., 2008) Effect sizes for the effect of exercise on learning are about 0.25 (Etnier et al., 2006), considerably smaller than effect sizes of 0.5 to 0.8 for Move4words interventions.
● 15 minutes of aerobic exercise in the classroom significantly improved attention for children aged 8 – 11. (Hill et al., 2010)
● There is evidence that poor readers do commonly have motor coordination difficulties. Wolfe (2007) demonstrated that motor fluency and control correlate positively with phonological awareness of reading-disabled children. Dewey et al. (2002), Jongmans et al. (2003), and Iversen et al. (2005) all demonstrated that significantly more poor readers, both dyslexic and non-dyslexic, had poor balance and motor coordination than control groups of good readers.
Relevant Movement References:
Dewey, D., Kaplan, B.J., Crawford S.G. &Wilson, B.N. (2002). Developmental coordination disorder: Associated problems in attention, learning, and psychosocial adjustment. Human Movement Science, 21, 905–918.
Etnier, J.L., Nowell, P.M., Landers, D.M. & Sibley, B.A. (2006). A meta-regression to examine the relationship between aerobic fitness and cognitive performance. Brain Research Reviews, 52, 119-130.
Jongmans, M.J., Smits-Engelsman, B.C.M. & Schoemaker, M.M. (2003). Consequences of comorbidity of developmental coordination disorders and learning disabilities for severity and pattern of perceptual-motor dysfunction. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36, 528-537.
Hill et al., (2010) “Exercising attention within the classroom”, Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.
Iversen, S. K., Berg, K., Ellertsen, B. & Tonnessen, F.-E. (2005). Motor coordination difficulties in a municipality group and in a clinical sample of poor readers. Dyslexia, 11, 217–231.
Pope and Whiteley, 2003. Developmental dyslexia, cerebellar/vestibular brain function and possible links to exercise-based interventions: a review". European J Special Needs Education. 18 (1), 109 - 123.
Tomporowski et al., (2008) “Exercise and Children’s Intelligence, Cognition, and Academic Achievement”, Educational Psychology Reviews (an academic research journal)
Wolfe, C.B. (2007). Motor control and reading fluency: contributions beyond phonological awareness and rapid automatized naming in children with reading disabilities. PhD diss. Georgia State Univ.
Links between rhythm and literacy - practical observations
● Rhythmic ability at age 6 is strongly linked with children's ability to rapidly put a name to a picture, their word identification and phonological awareness, and this is true at least up to age 11. (David et al, 2007)
● The effect of poor rhythmic ability is to produce an experience for a child with dyslexia which is similar to "listening to a non-native speaker speaking your language with the stresses in the wrong place", according to Professor Goswami, Cambridge University. On the basis of this, she says that it is important for teachers to use not only phonics with young children, but "broad-based approaches to language, such as clapping along to syllable patterns in nursery rhymes and making large movements to language".
● Being able to hear the rhythm in speech is necessary before progressing to phonemic awareness and reading. Holliman et al, 2008.
Relevant Rhythm References:
David et al, 2007. Rhythm and reading development in school-age children: a longitudinal study. Journal of Research in Reading, 30 (2), 169–183
Hinds, D, 2005. Linking Rhythm to Reading, Times Educational Supplement, 2 December 2005. http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=2199685
Holliman et al, 2008. Sensitivity to speech rhythm explains individual differences in reading ability independently of phonological awareness. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 26 (3) 357-367
Inefficient transfer of information between the two cerebral hemispheres is linked with problems with reading (at least for dyslexic subjects).
● “Various types of dyslexia have been associated with tactile-motor coordination deficits and inefficient transfer of information between the two cerebral hemispheres.” (Moore et al., 1995)
● Poor reading is correlated with impaired inter-hemispheric co-ordination of information while reading for dyslexic children (Shillcock and McDonald, 2005).
● Children with learning disabilities find it more difficult to reach across their body to achieve a manual dexterity task (known as midline crossing inhibition, Surburg and Eason, 1999).
● The region in the brain in which sensorimotor signals are transferred between hemispheres is generally smaller in dyslexic children compared to controls. (Von Plessen et al., 2002; the posterior mid-body section of the corpus callosum leading to the splenium)
● Perhaps the gradual build-up of movement skills leading to left-right coordination of physical activity in Move4words helps inter-hemispheric coordination of orthographic information, thereby improving literacy skills.
Relevant Inter-hemisphere information transfer references:
Davidson, R.J., Leslie, S.C. & C. Sarong. (1990). Reaction time measures of interhemispheric transfer time in reading disabled and normal Children. Neuropsychologia, 28, no. 5, 471-485.
Moore, L.H., W.S. Brown, T.E. Markee, D.C. Theberge, and J.C. Zvi. 1995. Bimanual coordination in dyslexic adults. Neuropsychologia l 33, no. 6: 781-93.
Shillcock, R.C. and S.A. McDonald. 2005. Hemispheric division of labour in Reading. Journal of Research in Reading 28, no. 3: 244–57
Surburg, P.R. and Eason, B. 1999. Midline-crossing inhibition: an indicator of developmental delay. Laterality, 4 (4), 333-43.
von Plessen, K., Lundervold, A., Duta, N., Heiervang, E., Klauschen, F., Smievoll, A.I., Ersland, L. & Hugdahl, K. (2002). Less developed corpus callosum in dyslexic subjects—a structural MRI study. Neuropsychologia, 40, 1035–1044
Visual, Auditory and other elements
● We only perceive the world in disconnected fragments and our brains fill in the gaps to make an apparently seamless reality. Attention is largely an automatic process and it is hard to control what we pay attention to. What our brains ignore is largely based upon our previous experience, and what we have learned to pay attention to is largely what we have learned is important for our basic survival needs. Children from deprived backgrounds may pay attention to and ignore rather different sensory stimuli compared to children from more privileged backgrounds.
● With its focus on sensory awareness training (through the visual, auditory and sensory pathways) Move4words may simply help the brain to notice more of the world around so a more accurate picture can be created, allowing learning to happen in a natural fashion.
● It is easier to learn to pay attention by doing physical tasks than to try to concentrate on thinking skills.
Relevant attention and literacy references:
Shaywitz and Shaywitz, 2008. Paying attention to reading: The neurobiology of reading and dyslexia. Development and Psychopathology v20: p1329-1349
Our brains need to be able to process information automatically to be effective at anything! Once you progress from learning to read to reading to learn, reading has become automatic. When children have not yet become able to read automatically, then learning is considerably more difficult.
● Correlations between poor concentration and poor motor skills have been identified
● Authors have suggested that poor automaticity of motor performance are correlated with reading difficulties
Relevant Automaticity References:
Raberger and Wimmer, 2003. On the automaticity/cerebellar deficit hypothesis of dyslexia: balancing and continuous rapid naming in dyslexic and ADHD children. Neuropsychologia, 41 (11), 1493 - 1497.
Ramus, Pidgeon and Frith (2003). The relationship between motor control and phonology in dyslexic children,. J Child Psychol Psyc, 44 (5) 712 - 722.
Savage et al, (2005). Evaluating current deficit theories of poor reading: role of phonological processing, naming speed, balance automaticity, rapid verbal perception and working memory. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 101, 345 - 361
Most reading problems seem to have a fundamental sensori-motor cause (Stein, 2001).
● Children diagnosed with dyslexia often have visual, auditory and motor problems (Stein, 2001)
● The cerebellum is a part of the brain which has a clear role in coordinating movement. More recent neuroscience has highlighted the role that the cerebellum plays in reading, indicating that it plays an important role in word recognition (Fulbright et al, 1999).
● Poor reading is linked with general difficulty in performing skills automatically. Scientists have demonstrated that these problems are commonly linked to cerebellar impairment (Nicholson et al, 2001)
Multisensory problems references:
Fulbright et al, 1999. The Cerebellum's role in reading: a functional MR imaging study. Am. J. Neuroradiology, 20, 1925-1930.
Nicholson et al, 2001. Developmental dyslexia: the cerebellar deficit hypthesis. Trends in Neurosciences, 24 (9), 508-511.
Stein, 2001. The Magnocellular theory of developmental dyslexia. Dyslexia, 7, 12-36.
Reading is predominantly a visual experience as well as an auditory and phonic experience.
● Visual attention is at least as important as phoneme awareness in the development of reading, particularly as reading matures. (Bosse and Valdois, 2009)
● Eye tracking exercises can significantly improve reading age, as used by the Dyslexia Research Trust (Clisby et al., 2000).
Relevant Vision References:
Bosse and Valdois, 2009. Influence of the visual attention span on child reading performance: a cross-sectional study. Journal of Research in Reading, 32 (2), 230-253.
Clisby C., Fowler, M.S., Hebb, G.S., Walters, J., Southcott, P. & Stein, J.F..(2000). Outcome of treatment of visual problems in children with reading difficulties. PATOSS Bulletin Nov., 9-14.
Regular listening to rhythmic melodic music appears to improve reading and academic performance.
● Regular use of background melodic music in the Primary classroom improved reading scores (Dawson, 2003; Hallam et al, 2002).
● Baroque music helps the brain to organise incoming information and improves attention (Sridharan et al, 2007).
Relevant music and learning references:
Dawson, 2003. Listening to music and increasing reading achievement scores in vocabulary and comprehension, and total reading ability. (Doctoral dissertation, Western Michigan University).
Hallam et al, 2002. The Effects of Background Music on Primary School Pupils' Task Performance. Educational Studies, 28, 111 – 122.
Sridharan et al, 2007. Neural dynamics of event segmentation in music: converging evidence for dissociable ventral and dorsal networks. Neuron, 55, 521 – 532. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070801122226.htm
Teachers generally agree that children and students learn better when they are relaxed and feel safe.
● Secondary school students who were taught self-relaxation exercises performed significantly better in dictation tests, making fewer mistakes and scoring higher than matched students who did not do the relaxation exercises (Krampen, 2010).
● College Computer Science students achieved significantly higher scores in tests when trained in upper limb relaxation exercises than matched student controls (Yusoff and du Boulay, 2009).
● Poor reading and poor school grades is correlated with higher levels of depression in children starting Secondary School (Vincenzi, 1987)
Relevant relaxation and learning references:
Krampen, 2010. Improvement of orthography test performance by relaxation exercises: results of a controlled field experiment in basic secondary education. Educational Psychology, Volume 30 (5), 533 – 546.
Vincenzi, H, 1987. Depression and reading ability in sixth-grade children. Journal of School Psychology, 25, 155 - 160.
Yusoff, M.Z. and du Boulay, B., 2009. The integration of domain-independent strategies into an affective tutoring system: can students' learning gain be improved? Electronic Journal of Computer Science and Information Technology, 1 (1), 23-30.
Executive function is the "conductor of the orchestra" in the brain. It helps connect previous experience with present thought and action. It is used to perform activities such as planning, organizing, problem solving, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. Executive function is thought to be controlled by the pre-frontal cortex which conducts activity across the rest of the brain.
Without well-developed executive function, we cannot effectively think, act or solve problems.
● To develop successfully, children need repeated practice and to progressively increase the challenge to executive functions. These challenges need to be intellectual, physical AND social. Development which does not include all three areas is imbalanced.
● Three main elements of executive functioning, cognitive flexibility, goal setting and information processing appear to develop mainly during the age range 7 to 9 years (Anderson, 2002) and are usually relatively mature by 12 years of age.
● Deficits in executive functioning are thought to contribute to many learning difficulties, including autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Conduct disorders, depression, and foetal alcohol syndrome.
Relevant Executive Function References:
Anderson, P. (2002). "Assessment and Development of Executive Function (EF) during Childhood." Child Neuropsychology, 8 (2), 71-82.
Diamond and Lee (2011). "Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old". Science, 333 (6045), 959-64.
Gooch, D et al. (2011). "Time perception, phonological skills and executive function in children with dyslexia and/or ADHD symptoms." J. Child Psychol. Psychiatry, 52 (2), 195-203.
● Ulrich and Swalm (2007) reported significant improvements (p < 0.05) in reading comprehension for the bi-manual coordination programme group (called sports stacking) was significantly better than for the control group.
● Jordan-Black (2005); The Primary Movement programme, extremely slow exercises designed to mimic baby reflex movements. The experimental groups (Year 3 and Year 5) made significantly more progress (p < 0.001) in reading and mathematics than the control groups.
● McPhillips et al. (2000); a randomized double blind movement placebo controlled trial of the effects of the Primary Movement Programme, developed by McPhillips, on reading ability of dyslexic children aged 8-11 years. Both reading and naming speed improved significantly more for the experimental group (p < 0.001) than for either of two control groups (baseline control and movement placebo control).
● Byl et al. (1989). This study investigated the effects of a vestibular exercise programme with boys aged 7 to 12 years who had problems with attention and learning to read. The gain in reading grade was + 3.5 months for a comparison aerobic exercise group and + 8.5 months for the vestibular exercise group and this difference was significant (p < 0.05). Byl et al. suggest that the most important factor that was improved by their vestibular exercise programme is the subject’s attention.
These studies show positive impact of sensorimotor programmes on learning and literacy.
This evidence supports the basic premise of Move4words, which is that learning can be enhanced by developing specific physical motor skills.
To date, there have been no criticisms of Move4words.
However, in general, sensori-motor programmes do remain controversial to this day, because some high-profile techniques have muddied the waters, publicizing without adequate evidence, aiming for high prices, making exaggerated claims or giving pseudoscientific explanations.
Hyatt et al. (2009) concluded that research on perceptual motor programmes fails to support their use. Unfortunately, they based this argument exclusively on a primitive “meta-analysis” by Kavale and Mattson (1983) which used all available studies to that date and which had major methodological flaws.
There are modern, stringent standards to making meta-analyses, which are based on combining the "effect size" from a variety of studies. The 1983 analysis did not have the benefit of this knowledge. Kavale and Mattson quoted a range of effect sizes of +4.3 to -3.7 from the studies they reviewed, which unsurprisingly average out to a combined effect size close to zero.
Modern statistical methods do not allow the combination of such disparate effect sizes without a rigorous assessment of what causes the variation.
Early studies often had experimental groups with significantly lower ability than "control" groups, because of well-meaning intentions to give the support to the lower ability group. Unfortunately, this means that effect sizes calculated from these data are meaningless, unless compensatory techniques are used. Kavale and Mattson’s methodology produced a negative effect size for some of the studies used, because the experimental group’s post-test scores were still lower than those of the control group because of the large disparity in initial ability levels.
So, there is no convincing evidence that sensorimotor programmes do not work, and our evidence points strongly to the effectiveness of Move4words on literacy and learning.
Copyright © 2011 Move4words Community Interest Company. All rights reserved.
Last updated: Friday March 08, 2013.