Parents may not realize that infants and toddlers are already building their brains by developing an orienting system and movement skills that later support their more focal academic abilities. Skilled mentors use movement and play to help youngsters of any age access their inborn intelligence. Movement bestows a natural, lifelong adventure of learning. This is why a preschooler is capable of globally taking in the world, finding its meaning, and recreating it, and school-age children easily integrate the movement-based learning (with its multisensory rather than abstract orientation) that will be their entryway to linguistic facility. In contrast, when the muscles prepare for a fight-or-flight reaction, tension or restraint leads to stress, lack of new associations, and diminished learning.
Memory processing involves three levels: The human brain is designed to take in new information through memory and the senses. As the learner creates a field of associations, he interacts with each new event, sorts and identifies it, compares it to past associations (using short-term memory), and integrates it, through application, into his structuring of the world (using long-term memory). This ordering of the world in memory needs movement and sensory input for stable references. In this regard, the visionary educator Maria Montessori said that “The senses, being explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge.”
Educational psychologist Jane Healy confirms that sensory data is the first to be taken in by children for processing. This is the precursor to all other memory, and is, as she says,” the only part of the memory system that operates as efficiently in young children as it does in adults.”
Meaning is fundamental to memory. The greater the meaning of new learning, the more likely it is to be stored in long-term memory. And new learning, to be retained, needs to be meaningfully associated through the senses with what has already been learned. Healy describes the process by which all experience is internalized: “Children use many channels to store many little pieces, but meaning is the cement for the system.
So memories that are movement- and sensory-based—tied meaningfully to such specific senses as vision, hearing, and touch—are more likely to be retained. And, the more an impression is kept current in working memory by sensory review and rehearsal, the more readily it can be recalled.
Excerpted from Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition © 2010 by Paul and Gail E. Dennison, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc.: Ventura, CA, p. 3.
© 2013 by Paul E. Dennison. All Rights Reserved.
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