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Using Movement to Teach Early Reading and Reading Skills during Literacy Instruction

Krista Heim

A Literature Review Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the

Requirements for the Degree of



Masters of Science in Reading

Minnesota State University, Mankato

Mankato, Minnesota

December 2017


General Overview of Topic

Students often spend a significant amount of their school day sitting and acquiring

information. However, students need to be engaged and involved in the learning process.

Students also need authentic opportunities to make connections with the content that is being

taught (Kirk & Kirk, 2016). One way to help students with their engagement and authentic

connections is to incorporate physical movement into the literacy lessons.

It is essential that students develop a strong foundation of early literacy skills with

phonological awareness and their alphabetic knowledge (Kirk & Kirk, 2016). One way to help

young learners develop a strong foundation of early literacy skills is by providing an enjoyable

learning experience that is developmentally appropriate. Young children are typically very active

individuals who are often moving, so implementing movement into their literacy instruction can

promote an enjoyable experience for the students. Children who enjoy what they are learning and

how they are learning the information will have success remembering the information.

Movement during literacy instruction can have a positive impact on reading achievement

(Walton, 2014).

Statement of Problem

As the rigor for literacy in early childhood increases, the amount of time for movement

often decreases. Teachers need to find ways to help children learn through developmentally

appropriate methods. Since recess and physical education time can be limited at schools,

educators can incorporate movement directly into their literacy lessons. Movement is helpful for

memory and engagement (Kirk & Kirk, 2016). The purpose of this study is to see the positive

effects that physical movement during literacy lessons has on academic success. Limitations do

exist in this current research. Limitations include a limited amount of research on physical

movement during literacy instruction specifically. Other limitations include a small sample size

of participants, as well as limited research on physical activity with older students during literacy


Purpose Statement

The purpose of this literature review is to analyze, examine, and determine how physical

activity during literacy instruction has an impact on pre-reading and reading skills among

primary and elementary age groups of students. This review of literature will provide

information on how to maximize the effectiveness of literacy lessons for kindergarten students.

This literature review analyzes how movement during literacy instruction can help students learn

pre-reading and reading skills. This literature review examines the benefits of visual phonics to

teach letter sounds. The importance of movement during literacy instruction is also described.

An additional analysis is provided on the benefits of movement during phonological awareness

instruction, spelling instruction, and how movement in the classroom in general is effective to

promote academic growth.

Definition of Terms

Visual Phonics-

“Visual phonics combines auditory, kinesthetic, and visual cues and responses to teach phonemic

awareness and phonics skills” (Gardner, Cihon, Morrison, & Paul, 2013, Pg. 30).

Kinesthetic Learning-

Activities involving kinesthetic movements often involve the use of large body movements

(Rule, Dockstader, & Stewart, 2006).

Tactile movements-

Include fine motor movements (Rule, Dockstader, & Stewart, 2006).



The purpose of this literature review is to analyze, examine, and determine how physical

activity during literacy instruction has an impact on pre-reading and reading skills among

primary and elementary age groups of students. Furthermore, information collected and

examined during this literature review will be used to help determine appropriate teaching

strategies and intervention techniques to improve reading skills.

Background Information

Children need at least 60 minutes of physical movement each day (Kirk & Kirk, 2016).

Physical movement can be used in a variety of ways within a classroom. Activities involving

kinesthetic movements often involve the use of large body movements. Whereas, tactile

movements focus on more fine motor movements (Rule, Dockstader, & Stewart, 2006). Students

need a combination of both types of movements. Students often receive recess and physical

education time. However, many students need additional movement opportunities throughout the

school day to help with focus while they are learning. Educators have begun using brain breaks

as an opportunity for students to move throughout lessons. In addition to these breaks from

learning, movement can be implemented in a meaningful way into academic lessons. The

implementation of movement into an academic lesson can maximize learning time while using

approaches that are developmentally appropriate for children.

Main Research Question

How can movement during literacy instruction help students learn pre-reading and

reading skills?

This literature review will explore this research question by focusing on the history of

movement in educational settings, various opportunities to implement movement to impact the

teaching of letter names, letter sounds, phonological awareness, and spelling.

History and current practices of physical activity during academic lessons

Several primary and elementary classrooms were analyzed by various researchers. A

common theme among these studies was that students spend a significant amount of time sitting

and learning throughout the classroom settings (Kibbe et al., 2011). Very few children are

obtaining the recommended amount of physical activity each day (Kibbe et al. 2011). Various

preschool programs were observed in a study by Rae Pica. Students were observed to participate

in physical activity less than 4% of their day (Pica, 2014). Traditional classrooms have students

sitting for up to six hours a day with little movement (Donnelly et al., 2009). Since students are

sitting for long periods of time each day, it is important that they have opportunities to move and

maintain their focus.

An analysis of the changes of kindergarten requirements have been studied from 1998 to

2010. This study presented information that the demands of students in kindergarten as well as

first grade have greatly increased (Bassok, Latham, & Rorem, 2016). Both of these grades have

had an increased role of academics. Similar information was also found with a qualitative study

of 2,500 public school kindergarten teachers who responded to prompts on a survey provided.

An increased amount of literacy time was noted in both grades. However, this limits the time

children get for free play which contributes for the need for physical movement during academic

times. Both studies suggest the need for movement for young learners within the school day.

Since students are in the classroom for a significant amount of time each day, research suggests

that the classroom is a meaningful place to implement movement (Kirk et al., 2014).

Physical activity has a variety of benefits and helps improve focus which will ultimately

help behaviors and learning that occurs in the classroom. Educators are currently seeking an

increased interest in implementing physical activity during academic lessons, especially in the

primary grades (Kirk et al., 2014)

The importance of movement during literacy instruction

Commonalities have been found between studies that demonstrate why movement during

literacy instruction is important. Physical activity helps with executive functioning which

ultimately helps with focus (Stylianou et al., 2016). A research study was conducted with 26

kindergarten students using various physical fitness tasks at a variety of intensities. The purpose

of this study was to investigate how physical activity of varying intensities can contribute to

cognitive functioning. The kindergarten students took an Eriksen Flanker Test before and after

each exercise session. The results of their test were analyzed and used to evaluate the study. The

results of this study suggest that students had an increased reaction time after physical activity

was performed (Chang, Tsai, Chen, & Hung, 2013). These results show a strong correlation

between movement and academic success, and a quick reaction time is important when learning

literacy components. An additional study by Chang regarding movement during instruction,

yielded similar results. As this study argues that the type of exercise did not change the results,

but rather any movement had a positive impact on the academic achievement (Chang, et al.,

2013). This means if educators are making an effort to implement authentic opportunities for

movement and interactions throughout their academic lessons, the students will experience the

positive benefits linked to academic success.

The accuracy of kindergarten students was also found to have a positive effect after

physical exercise (Chang, Tsai, Chen, & Hung, 2013). Tasks that involve movement are often a

core component of cognitive demands, and accuracy with word recognition is critical in

experiencing literacy success. Therefore, when movement and cognitive tasks are put together in

a meaningful way, students can benefit from the positive effects of both (Mavilidi, Okely,

Chandler, & Paas, 2016). When literacy content is taught through the use of movement, students

are able to have multiple ways to process the content. They are able to see, hear, and use

movement to learn the information. These multiple senses help link the content to long-term

memory as well as provide more routes to recall the information (Mavilidi et al., 2016).

The brain uses a significant amount oxygen to function. Oxygen is essential for

processing that occurs in the brain. When some movement is conducted, the brain is able to get

oxygen at a faster rate. Oxygen is critical for everyday functions of the brain. In addition to

increased blood and oxygen to the brain, movement also helps the development of critical gross

and fine motor skills, which are essential for everyday tasks. Movement is an enjoyable

experience for children, so children are able to make meaningful connections with tasks that are

taught through movement (Pica, 2014). Movement during academic instruction helps children

become aware of the space around them. This helps with understanding unfamiliar components

(Pica, 2014). Writing and reading use components of being directionally aware. This awareness

of direction can also be acquired through movement and interactions. Rae Pica, the author of

Preschoolers & Kindergarteners Moving and Learning, mentions that movement in education

can help students feel part of a group as well as being self-aware of their body (2014). These are

two important components which help students feel needed and part of a classroom learning


Two additional studies were found to have commonalities regarding movement and

academic success. Research by Alicia Fedewa and Soyeon Ahn (2011) analyzed 59 studies

regarding the connections with physical activity and cognitive achievement. The purpose of their

study was to determine the connection between cognitive success and physical activity

throughout time. The articles analyzed in this study were from 1947 through 2009 (Fedewa &

Ahn, 2011). Further research was completed by Stylianou (2016) and his team of researchers.

Stylianou’s study focused on the benefits of physical activity before school. This study had a

similar purpose when compared to Fedewa and Ahn’s study as this study was to determine the

benefits of physical activity on academics. Stylianou’s research examined students’ ability to

focus up to 45 minutes after the physical activity was completed. Students that were a part of this

study had the opportunity to run or walk before school twice a week (Stylianou et al., 2016).

Students were observed in their classrooms during academic lessons (Stylianou et al., 2016).

Notes were recorded and coded based on the students on or off task behaviors.

Both studies determined that a variety of physical activity movements help students

make connections to the content and experience academic success. Fedewa & Ahn (2011) found

a strong link between an increase in physical activity and a growth in academic success. This

could help students experience success while learning literacy components. Stylianou’s (2016)

study determined that physical activity such as running or walking before a lesson was very

beneficial as well. Students spent more time on task during the lesson when they had completed

physical activity before learning the content. This information also indicates that the benefits of

movement continue to be effective for focus even when the movement has stopped. These results

indicate that if students are on task, they have a better chance of acquiring the information being

presented. Although Stylianou’s study focused on the benefits of moving before a lesson, the

researchers mentioned its’ future implications. These researchers mentioned how future studies

could be conducted by incorporating physical movement in the classroom (Stylianou et al.,


A great relationship between physical activity and academic success was found in both

studies. However, Fedewa and Ahn (2011) argue that even despite this positive correlation, many

schools are reducing the amount of time spent doing physical activity in schools because of other

school factors. These two researchers used a common coding and analyzing procedure as they

researched the articles. Even though a common procedure was used to investigate the articles,

they mention that it is likely that there was biased in some of the published and unpublished

articles (Fedewa & Ahn, 2011). These results prove that physical activity is important for the

health benefits as well as the cognitive benefits. Physical activity in school is often limited, but it

is proved to have a strong effect on academic success. It is important that teachers are

incorporating physical activity before and during academic lessons.

Movement is proven to be effective for learning letter names. When students trace the

letters as they say the letters, they are able to participate in tactile-kinesthetic learning (Labat,

Vallet, Magnan, & Ecalle, 2015). This is more effective than simply just learning letters through

visual cues (Labat et al., 2015). Movement is important in learning. However, there is more to

multisensory movement than doing a different task each day with the content. Children who

learn best from moving are able to get the most benefit from the movement if they are using

multiple forms to learn information simultaneously (Butkus, 2015). Teaching which embeds

multisensory techniques allows the brain to receive information in a variety of ways. This helps

students make multiple connections with the content.

Movement can be used in literacy instruction to effectively teach reading skills

One way that movement can be used daily in primary classrooms is through the use of

visual phonics. Visual phonics combines auditory, kinesthetic, and visual cues and responses to

teach phonemic awareness and phonics skills” (Gardner, Cihon, Morrison, & Paul, 2013, Pg. 30).

Visual phonics allows students to make connections with the letter sound with an action that

correlates to how the sound is formed in the mouth with the tongue or throat. This provides the

students opportunities to make a meaningful movement connection while they are learning letter

sounds (Gardner. et al. 2013). Preschool and kindergarten students can have great success with

learning letter sounds as well as other phonological components by using visual phonics. Since

the actions correlate to how the letter sound is formed in the mouth, the students are able to make

meaningful connections through the use of movement during literacy instruction. Visual phonics

offers students who are learning letter sounds an opportunity to hear the sound as well as feel the

sound through kinesthetic interactions using their hands (Montgomery & Krupke, 2008). Visual

phonics can be implemented into any primary literacy curriculum as a strategy to teach the letter

sounds in a more interactive way (Montgomery & Krupke, 2008). The hand cues taught during

visual phonics instruction are beneficial for students to use for self-help strategies when they are

sounding out unknown words.

Another way movement can be included in early reading lessons is by incorporating

movement into phonics instruction. One commercial product that is used in several instructional

settings is called Phonics Dance. This is another strategy that provides a daily review of critical

literacy components. Each day students practice vowel sounds, digraphs, and diphthongs

(Goouch & Lambirth, 2011). The movement piece of this strategy makes this a motivating

program for children to learn from. In this program, each vowel, digraph, and diphthongs have a

unique movement as well as a rhyme or chat that correlates with the sound (Goouch & Lambirth,

2011). The verbal chant associated with the literacy component is first explicitly taught, and then

it is reviewed daily applying the movement piece. The movements and the chants easily help the

students learn phonics connections which can help with reading and writing in the future (Dowd,


Movement can also be used when teaching sight words. Students need multiple exposures

to sight words to master the word and recall automatically (Butkus, 2015). Many songs have

been created that help students learn how to spell and read a word through singing and

movement. These songs are often easy to learn as well as recall. They are helpful to students

when they come across these words either in isolation or in sentences. Some movement also

helps students acquire as well as understand a variety of vocabulary terms. Prepositions,

adjectives, and directions can easily be learned either directly or indirectly when using physical

activity during academic instruction (Bassok, Latham, and Rorem, 2016).

Movement during letter name and sound instruction

Visual phonics is one way to effectively teach letter sounds by the use of meaningful

movement. There are common hand cues associated with visual phonics to help with the

consistencies for teachers while implementing the visual phonics approach. Although these hand

cues should be similar, teachers have creativity in how they implement visual phonics in their

literacy instruction (Narr & Cawthon, 2011). Several studies have been done on the benefits of

visual phonics and sound acquisition. All of the studies analyzed for this literature review

regarding visual phonics yielded positive results with visual phonics and its correlation with

learning letter sounds successfully. These studies also suggest that children can learn sounds

quicker by the use of visual phonics. Visual phonics was used in literacy instruction in a study of

200 students in elementary schools. The students were from a variety of different backgrounds

that consisted of 21 different states. The purpose of this study was to see how teachers

implemented visual phonics in their daily literacy instruction. In addition to the daily

implementation of visual phonics, this study was designed to see how effective visual phonics

was for a variety of children with a wide assortment of needs.

Movement while learning is critical for young learners. It helps students feel connected

with each other as well as motivate them to continue with the given activity (Shoval, Sharir, &

Shulruf, 2014). However, movement during learning is not just for young active learners. A

similar study was conducted by Traci Cihon and her colleagues. This study demonstrated the

benefits of movement with undergraduate students during literacy instruction with the use of

visual phonics. In this study, five students were studying Italian. The See the Sound Visual

Phonics technique was used with these students. The study was later conducted on ten more

undergraduate students learning a second language.

Surveys were collected in the study with the instruction of the 200 elementary students

who learned from visual phonics to obtain qualitative data. After examining the responses,

percentages of the participants’ responses were coded. 93% of the teachers that used visual

phonics in this study indicated that this approach to teaching letter sounds helped with decoding

skills (Narr & Cawthon, 2011). This is critical information because developing readers need a

strong understanding of decoding skills to properly sound out and read unknown words. Data

was gathered based on a collection of surveys from teachers. The surveys described the teachers’

experiences with implementing visual phonics in their classroom. The majority of the teachers

who participated in this survey were educators at the elementary level, and their main goal for

literacy instruction was to teach children to read. This survey presented strong findings with the

use of movement while teaching the letter sounds which can impact the success of young readers

learning early reading skills (Narr & Cawthon, 2011).

The purpose of the study by Traci Cihon and her colleagues with visual phonics and

undergraduate students was to prove that visual phonics can also be an effective strategy to use

for older students who are acquiring a second language as well (Traci M Cihon et al., 2013). In

this study, students were taught eight sounds each session. Students learned four sounds each

session using the kinesthetic approach with visual phonics. The rest of the sounds were taught in

a traditional method. The results indicated that sounds learned using the visual phonics approach

were acquired in one session. Sounds taught the traditional way took several sessions to teach

(Cihon et al., 2013). This connects to the findings that for many students, meaningful

movements that connect to the context can help them acquire the information faster as well as

maintain the information (Montgomery & Krupke, 2008).

Visual phonics is not a curriculum. Instead, it is a strategy teachers can use to help

students making meaningful associations with sounds using movement (Montgomery & Krupke,

2008). These studies show that meaningful hand cues that correlate to how the letter sound is

formed and stated are helpful for learners of all ages. In addition to using visual phonics to learn

letters and sounds additional studies suggest, simple movements such as tracing the letters as the

letter name is said also helps promote learning of the letters effectively (Labat et al.,2015). These

strategies are helpful instructional techniques for teachers of primary age students to implement

as they are teaching basic literacy skills.

Both studies concluded that teaching sounds through the use of visual phonics can be an

effective way for students to learn the sounds as well as retain the sounds in their memory.

Students who learn letter names and sounds through active movement such as tracing or

highlighting, have an increase in their writing as well as their writing fluency in later

development (Labat et al., 2014).

Movement can be incorporated during phonological awareness instruction

Phonological awareness instruction can be taught in an effective way by combining the

teaching of essential literacy skills with authentic movement opportunities that correlate with the

content. “Children who are poor readers at the end of elementary school are most often those

who failed to develop early literacy skills during preschool” (Kirk & Kirk, 2016, page 156).

Since reading development is linked to early reading instruction and success, it is critical that

teachers are finding ways to help students learn reading skills effectively while students are

young (Kirk & Kirk, 2016). Students also need to be engaged and motivated with reading. One

way to help increase engagement, and therefore increase academic success, is by making literacy

lessons that are meaningful to young learners. Teaching literacy concepts through meaningful

movement opportunities is one way to make the instruction worthwhile for young children.

Movement during learning is particularly helpful for students who have difficulties expressing

themselves in a verbal way. Instead, physical activity during academic instruction provides

opportunities for students to use movement for social interactions (Shoval & Shulruf, 2011).

Students who are physically moving during learning experience more success compared to

students who just learn through typical social interactions. This seems particularly evident when

comparing data of students in the lower third (Shoval & Shulruf, 2011).

Stacie and Erik Kirk (2016) analyzed two groups of students who were learning with the

exact same curriculum. Participants included 54 preschool students enrolled in a Head Start

program in a large metropolitan area. As they analyzed the students, they observed physical

activity that was implemented during the instruction. A similar study was also conducted by

Erik Kirk and some additional colleagues in another early childhood Head Start program. The

purpose of both studies was to determine the effect that physical activity during literacy lessons

had on students’ achievement of early reading concepts (Kirk et al., 2014, Kirk & Kirk, 2016).

Results of the first study were conducted over a six-month period of time. Teachers used pre-

existing literacy lessons; however, they included physical activity throughout the lesson.

Both studies analyzed had children who were learning early reading skills while using

large gross body movements. One of the classrooms was purposely implementing 300 minutes of

authentic physical movement per week during the academic lessons (Kirk & Kirk, 2016). This

experimental classroom of students was compared to a control group. Data was collected through

both qualitative and quantitative studies (Kirk & Kirk, 2016). Both studies that Kirk conducted

in the Head Start programs focused on a group of students learning rhyming and alliteration as

well as picture naming. Two 15 minute academic lessons were taught using physical activity

each day (Kirk, et al., 2014). The educators kept track of their lessons as well as the physical

activity that was used to teach the lesson. All of these are important pre-reading skills. Students

used basic movements such as marching and jumping jacks as they went through the lessons.

The children also learned these pre-reading concepts by incorporating other simple movements

such as hopping, jumping, and other hand cues into the literacy instruction. In addition to these

simple movements, students acted out words to reinforce the terms (Kirk et al., 2014).

Children in the classes were assessed three times on their knowledge of these skills.

Kirk’s findings in both of the Head Start studies revealed that using gross motor movements

during whole group literacy instruction was successful. Students seemed to have significantly

higher academic scores compared to the control group. Students learning through physical

activity scored 11% higher on alliteration concepts and 4% higher on rhyming concepts (Kirk &

Kirk, 2016). All of these movements can easily be implemented into literacy lessons for primary

aged students. Young children generally find these simple movements to be enjoyable which

helps them become excited learning difficult literacy concepts.

Early reading skills were effectively taught in both studies. These findings concluded that

it is likely young students learn best through movement because of multiple ways for students to

practice information as well as more attention is devoted to the particular skill being taught (Kirk

& Kirk, 2016). This study has a strong correlation with how physical activity during literacy

instruction can help young learners acquire essential phonological awareness skills.

Both of these research investigations found a strong correlation between engagement and

literacy success with the implementation of physical activity. Both results have a positive impact

on this literature review. Lack of knowledge with pre-reading skills can lead to future reading

difficulties for students. The researchers of these studies suggest that physical activity such as

basic gross motor movements can be a useful strategy to use while teaching critical early reading

skills (Kirk et al., 2014).

Spelling instruction can be effectively taught through movement

Students can learn to spell and recognize words by the used of planned movements

during spelling instruction. This theme was noted by several researchers. Heidi Butkus, an

advocate for physical activity during instruction, conducted a study with children in kindergarten

using movement and dance to learn sight words. The purpose of her study was to determine how

adding movement to sight word instruction can help kindergarteners learn and obtain sight words

(Butkus, 2015). Joseph Donnelly and Kate Lambourne conducted a similar study regarding

physical activity and academic achievement. The purpose of their study was to determine how

physical activity and fitness correlated to one’s ability to function in a cognitive way (Donnelly

& Lambourne, 2011). Over a period of three years, these researchers studied physical activity

and academics in 24 schools (Donnelly & Lambourne, 2011). During this study, teachers were

provided with a series of lessons in a variety of subjects. The lessons included language arts,

math, and geography. Teachers taught their normal curriculum, but the teachers implemented

lessons using the PAAC (Physical Activity Across Curriculum) model. The PAAC lessons

provided teachers with a resource to incorporate movement into their lessons. This study

indicates that educators can implement physical movement into a variety of subject areas for a

variety of ages.

These researchers described how movement can be implemented into most literacy

lessons with little or no change to the content or the curriculum (Donnelly & Lambourne, 2011).

In their study with the Physical Activity Across Curriculum (PAAC), Donnelly and Lambourne

describe how teachers can have students practice spelling by hopping from letter to letter on the

Alphabet floor mat (2011). This is just one example as the implementation for meaningful

movement during literacy instruction has endless opportunities.

Heidi Butkus reviewed and taught sight words daily using singing and movement in the

instruction. This study of sight word instruction though movement and repetition provided

positive results. Heidi Butkus tested her kindergarten students on 25 words. 35% of her students

could correctly identify all of the sight words taught (Butkus, 2015). An additional 15% of her

class had little as two errors with sight words. Her techniques of the use of simple movements as

well as singing could be used in a variety of preschool and kindergarten classrooms to provide an

enjoyable experience for the children while learning to read and spell sight words.

A three-year study concluded that students who learned with physical movement during

literacy instruction had higher scores in reading, writing, and spelling compared to a controlled

test group (Donnelly & Lambourne, 2011). These studies provide links on the importance of any

type of physical movement during academic lessons. (Donnelly & Lambourne, 2011).

Movement can be used in a simultaneous multisensory way

Another theme found to be evident in a variety of studies regarding physical activity

during literacy instruction expressed the importance of simultaneous multisensory teaching.

Simultaneous multisensory teaching promotes movement by using multiple senses at once

(Butkus, 2015). This gives the brain an opportunity to obtain information from multiple sources.

This approach is slightly different than the typical multi-sensory teaching style because multiple

senses are being used at once rather than independently (Butkus, 2015). While teaching with this

approach, children should say something, see the information, and complete an action with the

information at the same time (Butkus, 2015). This method is highly effective for teaching letter

names, sounds, as well as for learning sight words. “The ability to feel and see phonological

concepts helps to reinforce the literacy concepts” (Montgomery & Krupke, 2008, pg. 178).

Visual phonics, moving while rhyming, and spelling while moving are all ways to incorporate

strategies that use simultaneous multisensory teaching.

Implications for teachers

Motivation is important for students to have in a classroom. Students are often motivated

to learn when they feel connected to the learning environment, feel they have the knowledge they

need to be successful, and have some choice in their learning (Daniels, 2010). Motivation for

learning increases when students are actively involved in the lesson (Daniels, 2010). Teachers

are a key component to the motivation that the students have. Educators need to be able to plan

engaging lessons that help the children experience success. Students look forward to the songs

and movement as they are introduced in the classrooms. Children will often join in with the

songs and movement followed by the reading of the text (Walton, 2014).

“Songs and movement are excellent methods to teach important pre-reading skills and

reading to Kindergarten children, and that these experiences significantly enhance the

effectiveness of the language and literacy programs typically used by Kindergarten

teachers.” (Walton, 2014, pg. 68). This excitement for learning is often created for young

students with movement and hands-on tasks.

Many of the teachers involved in the Physical Activity Across Curriculum (PAAC) study

continued to use some of the approaches of physical activity in their lessons nine months after

the study was conducted. 55% of the teachers in this study continued to implement physical

activity in their lessons at least two days a week (Donnelly & Lambourne, 2011). Studies also

suggest that multisensory teaching increases student engagement and promotes a fun learning

environment (Baines, 2008). These studies demonstrated the positive effects with literacy

instruction when it was taught using physical activity.


These studies suggest that movement during literacy instruction can be beneficial for

students for a variety of purposes. These studies analyzed how the implementation of visual

phonics as well as other physical activities during rhyming and alliteration provided meaningful

contributions regarding a positive academic outcome during early reading instruction.

Several strengths were found throughout these studies that support this literature review.

Some of the findings included information on how physical activity is helpful to help promote

focus as well as memory (Mavilidi et al., 2016). The studies also provided positive results with

the implementation of physical activity into literacy lessons because the movement provides

students with an engaging way to acquire critical literacy skills (Kirk et al., 2014). Important

phonological awareness skills as well as alphabetic knowledge can easily be taught with physical

movement. Literacy interventions that imbed physical activity throughout the lesson are easy for

teachers to use. They require little change to pre-existing lessons, and physical activity is cost-

effective. Studies have been conducted on physical activity and the benefits in general.

Although these studies provided many positive correlations with teaching early reading

skills with physical movement, some weaknesses and limitations existed. The studies analyzed

with visual phonics had limited sample sizes participating in the research study as well as a

limited control group to compare the data. Small sample sizes were also used when studying

physical movement during sight word learning. A large variety of research is present with the

benefits of physical activity before academic learning as well as in between academic tasks.

However, few studies exist that analyze the benefits of physical activity during literacy

instruction. The studies that did pertain to this information were often focused on preschool and

kindergarten students. Still, there are gaps in the research for students in upper elementary and

middle school ages.

Another potential limitation of using physical movement during literacy instruction is it

may not be effective for all students. Although this has been proven to be effective for a variety

of students, it is important to implement a variety of learning styles to meet the needs of all

students. It is also important to use a variety of learning styles, so children do not become bored

with the same teaching techniques.

More research is needed to be done to see how physical activity is effective in promoting

academic growth in literacy lessons. Future research is also needed to see how students are able

to maintain what they have learned in their memories by the use of movement during instruction.

In addition to research on academic achievement and memory, future research on classroom

implementation of physical activity at a variety of age levels would provide a more

comprehensive overview of this information. Many educators and publishing companies have

produced songs, and other movement-based activities that can easily be implemented into

primary age literacy lessons.

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Butkus, H. (2015). Research & Classroom Statistics. Retrieved June 28, 2017, from
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executive function in kindergarten children: An ERP study. Experimental Brain
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Cihon, T. M., Gardner, R., Morrison, D., & Paul, P. V. (2008). Using visual phonics as a
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