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MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Movement in the Special Education Classroom: The Effectiveness of Brain Gym


Activities on Reading Abilities

Juliane M. Pagel

Master of Science in Special Education


Action Research Project
May 2012

Southwest Minnesota State University


Education Department
Marshall, MN 56258
UMI Number: 1517660

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MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 2

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of Brain Gym

activities on reading fluency and reading comprehension scores of students who were

identified with special education needs. The study was conducted in a rural southwest

Minnesota elementary school. Two second-grade boys, Henry and KC, participated in a

single-subject study using AB research design. Henry and KC showed an increase in

their reading fluency and reading comprehension. Henry started out below first-grade

level in both reading fluency and reading comprehension. At the end of the study,

Henry's reading fluency and reading comprehension was at the beginning second-grade

academic level. KC started out at second-grade academic level and ended the action

research study at third-grade academic level. Results from this study show that the use of

Brain Gym activities in a special education classroom may enhance reading fluency and

reading comprehension; however, additional research needs to be conducted in this area.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 3

Action Research Committee

The members of the committee appointed to examine the action research of

Juliane M. Pagel find it satisfactory and recommend that it be approved.

Hinckley, Chair

Kari Meek
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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank some important people who helped make this research study

not only possible, but also paramount. First, I want to thank the two students for their

time and participation. I also want to thank their parents who allowed them to partake in

this study.

Thank you to all of my co-workers who strengthened me with their suggestions,

support, and assistance throughout this process. Their help was greatly appreciated.

Thank you, JoAnne Hinckley, for your worthwhile advice and critique of the

study. The dedication of your time will always be remembered.

Thank you, Dr. Debbie VanOverbeke, for all of your valuable feedback and wise

suggestions in order to better improve this research paper.

Lastly, thank you to my husband Emil and three children-Maryann, Clara, and

Oliver-for all of your love and understanding throughout my graduate career.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 5

Table of Contents

Abstract 2

Action Research Committee 3

Acknowledgments 4

Table of Contents 5

List of Tables 8

List of Figures 9

Chapter

1. Introduction 10

Statement of the Problem 11

Research Questions 11

Significance of the Study 12

Definition of Terms 12

Limitations and Delimitations of the Study 13

Organization of the Study 14

2. Review of Selected Literature and Research 15

Introduction 15

Brain Gym International 15

What is Brain Gym International? 15

How Brain Gym International work 17

Is Brain Gym effective? 17

Behavior/redirection 17
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Special Education Students 18

Student Achievement 20

Mind and Body Connections 23

Brain Gym International Activity 24

Movement 25

Transitions 27

Summary 28

3. Research Methodology 30

Population 30

Instrumentation 31

Data Collection Procedures 32

Data Analysis 35

Summary 35

4. Results 36

Demographic Data 36

Single Subject Findings 38

Observation 46

Summary 47

5. Introduction 48

Summary 48

Background of the study 48

Purpose 49
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Literature Review 49

Methodology 52

Findings 53

Conclusion 53

Discussion 54

Recommendations for Practice 55

Recommendations for Further Study 55

References 57

Appendixes

A. Letter to Principal 60

B. Letter to Parents 62

C. Letter to Participants 64
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 8

List of Tables

Table

1. Eight ways of Being Smart 21

2. AIMSweb Reading Fluency Scores 39

3. STAR Reading Scores 43


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List of Figures

Figure

1. AIMSweb Reading Fluency 40

2. AIMSweb Reading Fluency 41

3. STAR Reading Test 45

4. STAR Reading Test 45


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Chapter 1

Introduction

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) website (2011) reported that

approximately 14.9% of all students enrolled in school qualify for special education.

Students in special education require individualized environment and lesson plans that

differentiate from the general. All teachers are continually investigating ways to help

students succeed in school. However, special education teachers are faced with the

difficult task of creating an optimal learning environment for their students that will

support success no matter what the disability. Another challenge special education

teachers deal with is maintaining students motivation and interest in improving their core

class knowledge, especially within reading fluency and reading comprehension. Reading

fluency and reading comprehension skills transfer into all academic areas. It is important

for students to develop sufficient reading and comprehension skills in order to succeed

not only within the classroom, but also in daily living activities. With this in mind, the

author of this paper examined resources and ideas that potentially could help students in

special education improve their reading fluency and reading comprehension test scores in

the special and general education classrooms.

Brain Gym is a program that incorporates body movements with mind and

learning. Paul and Gail Dennison, founders of Brain Gym, designed the program to aid

teachers in developing a system that would help classroom teachers transition into new

activities and to improve students' academic performances. The Dennisons have been
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

developing this program over the last 15 years (Brain Gym International, 2010). In

Toby Maguire's 2002 Humanising Language Teaching article, he stated:

Brain Gym is a series of exercises designed to help learners coordinate their

brains and their bodies better. This holistic approach to learning also enables

students to find equilibrium between both sides of the brain and the body. When

well-leamed, it is a tool for life-long learning, (p.1)

In order to meet the high demands of state standard scores and adequate yearly

progress (A YP), teachers who teach in either a special education classroom or a

mainstream classroom need to have resources to help students succeed, especially in

reading ability. Therefore, this study will explore and add empirical data for the use of

Brain Gym activities with students identified with special education needs.

Specifically, this study will examine the effects of Brain Gym on the students'

AIMSweb and STAR reading test scores.

Statement of the Problem

This study was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the use of Brain Gym

activities within an elementary special education classroom. The study took place in a

rural southwest Minnesota elementary school using two second-grade boys in special

education.

Research Question

The author answered the following questions within this research study.

1. What impact does the use of Brain Gym activities in a special education

classroom have on second-grade students' AIMSweb fluency scores?


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 12

2. What impact does the use of Brain Gym activities in a special education

classroom have on second-grade students' reading fluency and comprehension as

determined by STAR reading scores?

Significance of the Study

The questions that drive this study are important to investigate due to a limited

number of empirical studies on Brain Gym activities within the special education

classroom. The studies that have been conducted have revealed inconsistent results (i.e.

some studies indicate positive results and some show no impact on learning). This study

will reveal Brain Gym's effects of reading abilities within the special education

classroom for special education students as measured by AIMSweb and STAR reading

scores.

School administrators, special and mainstream education teachers, parents, and

students can benefit from this study as the results provide positive data for the education

field on the academic effects of movement using Brain Gym activities in core-class

learning. The information from this study is not strictly limited to the individuals listed

above. However, this study is targeted towards any person working within the education

setting who desires to enhance the daily classroom environments and academic

performances.

Definition of Terms

The following definitions are provided to ensure clarity and understanding of

terms referenced throughout the study. The researcher developed definitions not

accompanied by a citation.
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AIMSweb. AIMSweb is a benchmark and progress monitoring system based on

reading fluency and continuous student assessment using curriculum based age

appropriate reading probes (AIMSweb, 2011).

Benchmark. A benchmark is the beginning reading scores of each student.

Brain Gym. Brain Gym is simple movements used to incorporate all areas of

the brain to help enhance learning (Brain Gym International, 2011).

Evaluate. The student's scores will be compared and contrasted after performing

an AIMSweb fluency test and STAR Reading comprehension test.

Impact. Brain Gym activities have an effect on the student's reading fluency

scores positively or negatively.

Special education classroom. Special education classrooms consist of small

class sizes and one-on-one instruction with students who qualify for special education

services.

STAR Reading. STAR Reading is a program that assesses the student's reading

fluency and comprehension (Renaissance Learning, 2011).

Limitations, Delimitations, Assumptions of the Study

1. The population of this study is limited to the students in one elementary

special education classroom in rural southwest Minnesota.

2. It is assumed that the selected students will participate in the Brain Gym

activities on a daily basis.


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3. It is assumed that the selected students involved would consistently work

diligently and perform to the best of their ability when taking AIMSweb and STAR

reading tests.

Organization of the Study

This research paper is organized into five chapters. Chapter 1 addresses the

problem, the researcher's questions, the significance, the limitations, delimitations, and

assumptions of the study. Chapter 2 provides a review of the literature and research

related to instruction of Brain Gym activities and adding movement into the special

education classroom. Chapter 3 describes the research design, the instrumentation, and

the data analysis procedures. Chapter 4 presents the finding of the quantitative portions

of the study. Finally, Chapter 5 summarizes the study, presents the conclusions, a

discussion, and recommendations for practice and further study.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Chapter 2

Review of Selected Literature and Research

Chapter 2 provides a review of selected literature and research related to regular

exposure to Brain Gym International (BGI) and how it affects the learning of special

education students. There is a limited amount of empirical literature that is available

regarding BGI and the behavior of students in special education. The chapter is divided

into the following sections: (a) Brain Gym International, (b) behavior/redirection, (c)

special education students, (d) student achievement, (e) Brain Gym International

activity, and (f) summary.

Brain Gym International

As a special education teacher, this author has noticed that students have a

difficult time staying engaged in their learning. A student's lack of engagement can be

due to a variety of different factors which might include, but are not limited to: learning

disabilities, attention problems, fatigue, stress, and poor nutrition (Epena, 2010). One

intervention that have been found to help students' learning abilities includes adding

movement into the classroom routine, which can engage and enhance the focus of the

students' learning environment (Vagovic, 2008).

What is Brain Gym International?

According to Spaulding, Mostert, and Beam (2010), who conducted an empirical

study on the effectiveness of Brain Gym as an intervention, Brain Gym is a popular

commercial program that claims its regimen will result in efficient learning. The official

website for Brain Gym International (2011) states the following: Brain Gym supports
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

self-awareness and ease of living and learning through safe, simple, and effective

movement. The founders of Brain Gym International, Paul and Gail Dennison, have

elaborated on the brain and body connection by breaking the concept into different

categories.

Brain Gym is comprised of specific sets of movements, processes, programs,

materials, and an educational philosophy. The Brain Gym movements,

exercises, and activities refer to the original 26 Brain Gym movements,

sometimes abbreviated as the 26. These activities recall the movements naturally

done during the first years of life when learning to coordinate the eyes, ears,

hands, and the whole body. Concentration and focus, memory, academics:

reading, writing, math, test taking, physical coordination, relationships, self-

responsibility, organization skills, and attitude are the areas in which Brain Gym

enhances. (Brain Gym International, 2011)

The Dennison's described brain functioning in terms of three dimensions of

movement: laterality, focusing, and centering. Hyatt (2007) wrote an article for a journal

that examined the claims behind Brain Gym as an intervention within the classroom.

Brain Gym is described as a process for re-educating the mind and body that would

result in learning any skill more efficiently and easily. Hyatt's review of Brain Gym

theoretical foundation and peer research did not support the claims of Brain Gym.

None of the Brain Gym activities include academic instruction as a component, even

though Brain Gym claims the movements will help academic learning.
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 17

Hyatt stated literality refers to the coordination between the right and left

hemispheres of the brain. Literality is viewed as essential for reading, writing, listening,

speaking, and the ability to move and think at the same time. Focusing is defined as the

ability to coordinate information between the front and back portion of the brain.

Focusing is related to comprehension, which is a factor/deficit in attention

deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Finally, centering refers to the coordination of the top and

bottom halves of the brain. This is described as necessary to balance rational thought

with emotion (Hyatt, 2007). There are further readings available regarding the use of

Brain Gym to influence academic performance.

How does Brain Gym International affect the brain?

Brain Gym is a series of simple body movements used to integrate all areas of

the brain to enhance learning and build self-esteem according to Orlowski and Hart

(2010). The Brain Gym movements facilitate the flow of information within the brain,

restoring the innate ability to learn and function at top efficiency (Cohen & Goldsmith,

2003). Brain Gym allows anyone to interconnect the brain in these three dimensions

facilitating learning through all the senses, to remember what is learned, and to

participate more fully not only in school, but within life (Epema, 2010, p. 16).

Is Brain Gym effective? Despite the limited empirical evidence demonstrating

direct and straightforward connections between brain research and educational

application (Goswami, 2006), many educators have been quick to believe elaborate

promises of improved student performance (Spaulding et al., 2010). The Brain Gym

International official website (2011) stated, "learn anything faster and more easily,
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

perform better at sports, be more focused and organized, start and finish projects with

ease, overcome learning challenges, and reach new levels of excellence."

Behavior/redirection. Remarkable results were reported when twenty-three

young men who were defined as "out of control" were successfully taught academics and

life skills using Brain Gym International. Although the class was held only once a

week, the students showed significant improvement in their academic learning. What

most impressed the student learners themselves was their increase of self-control,

especially increasing command over temperamental outbursts. By the time they had

finished the class, none of them were considered a behavioral problem (Maguire, 2002).

Whether identified with a learning disability, behavioral problem, or considered a

capable learner, Cohen and Goldsmith (2003) believe that "children often unconsciously

'switch off the brain-integration mechanism necessary for efficient learning" (2003, p.l).

Cohen and Goldsmith stated:

Whole-brain learning draws out the potential locked in the body and enables

students to access those areas of the brain previously unavailable to them.

Improvements in learning and behavior are often immediate and profound as

children discover how to receive information and express themselves

simultaneously. The result is significantly improved education and performance.

(P- 1)

Special Education Students

A clinical research article, by Michelle Ploughman (2008), found that young

students who exercise their body enhance their reading ability. Ploughman stated,
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 19

Neurotrophins, endogenous proteins that support brain plasticity, likely mediate

the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain. In clinical studies, exercise

increases brain volume in areas implicated in executive processing, improves

cognition in children with cerebral palsy and enhances phonemic skills in school

children with reading difficulty. (Ploughman, 2008)

Academic difficulties have been found in students of all ages. Specific protocols

and procedures are standard for students qualifying within special education across all

states. The requirements to qualify as a special education student vary depending upon

the student's behavior and academic perfonnances. Academic difficulties are determined

by meeting a combination of the proper criteria based on testing, student's grades, teacher

and parent concerns, and the state eligibility criteria by the Minnesota Department of

Education (MDE, 2010).

MDE provides a breakdown of each qualifying disability including but not limited

to Specific Learning Disability (SLD), Other Health Disability (OHD), and

Developmentally Cognitively Disability (DCD). SLD is a disorder in one or more of the

basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or written

language. The disability may be exhibited as an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak,

read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. SLD also includes conditions such as

perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia and

developmental aphasia (MDE, 2010).

The Minnesota Department of Education provides information and resources to

educators and related service providers to help meet the needs of students with OHD.
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

OHD includes a wide range of chronic or acute health conditions that may be mild or

severe. Medications, treatments, therapies and repeated hospitalizations can affect a

student's ability to learn and function at school. A student with such a condition may be

considered for special education under the OHD category (MDE, 2010).

DCD is defined as a condition that results in intellectual functioning significantly

below average and is associated with concurrent deficits in adaptive behavior that require

special education and related services (MDE, 2010). This includes moderate to mild DCD

and severe to profound DCD.

Student Achievement

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of2001 and the Individuals with

Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004 have enforced that schools hold

higher levels of student accountability (Hyatt, 2007). Using scientific, research-based

methodology is how schools are suppose to be providing instruction to students. How

students learn is a determining factor in their academic success. Academically all

students are required to meet certain standards. Schwed and Melichar-Utter (2008)

conducted research on how to improve studying strategies of students in grades 2-8.

"Eight Ways of Being Smart" is a multi-intelligence break down on how students leam.

See Table 1 for a breakdown of the eight multi-intelligence. With the multi-intelligence

research, differentiating between learning styles makes incorporating creative academic

lessons easier.
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 21

Table 1

Eight Ways of Being Smart


Intelligence Excels At Learns Best When Related Careers
Verbal/Linguistic Reading, writing, Reading, writing, Authors, attorneys,
perceiving rhymes telling stories, public speakers,
and inflection thinking in words politicians
Mathematical/Logical Problem-solving, Categorizing, Engineers,
abstract thinking, classifying, seeing mathematicians,
math, logic, pattern relationships researcher,
identification astronomers
Visual/Spatial Drawing, creating Using the "mind's Pilots, architects,
charts and eye," working with surgeons, artists
diagrams, reading visual elements,
maps, mental such as pictures,
visualization, colors, graphic
puzzle-solving organizers
Body/Kinesthetic Sports, role- Manipulating Professional
playing, crafts materials, using athletes, dancers,
hands-on activities jugglers, actors
and movement
Musical/Rhythmic Singing, Putting ideas to Conductors,
remembering music, using composers, music
melodies, rhythm and rhyme, critics, performers
identifying rhythm, listening to music
pitch and tonality,
keeping the beat,
appreciating music
Interpersonal Understanding Working in Teachers, religious
other people, cooperative groups, leaders, therapists,
identifying moods sharing, talking to politicians
and intentions, others
leading,
communicating
Intrapersonal Vleta-cognitive Working alone, Philosophers,
thinking, goal reflecting upon and psychologists,
setting, self- evaluating self- novelists
perception learning
Naturalist Classifying Working in nature, Naturalists,
patterns, identifying botanists,
appreciating nature, patterns, observing environmental
identifying plants living things engineers
and animals |
(Schwed & Melichar-Utter, 2008, p.26)
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

A Westminster Institute of Education professor conducted research on

intelligence, finding the mid-way between educational neuroscience and neuroscienctific

education. The article estimated that 1,000 United Kingdom (U.K.) schools are using

brain gym exercises throughout the school day to enhance brain functions (Geake, 2005).

The European countries have embraced movement and learning. They believe bridging

the gap between the types of learning will help educators and students learn to the fullest.

A study conducted by Cecilia Freeman and Joyce Sherwood involved students

from grades K-5 in California, some of whom used Brain Gym weeks prior to

the reading achievement test of California. The study compared the children's

reading percentage scores from the end of one school year and the end of the

following school year. The results of the study were impressive. The study

showed the reading scores of the "Brain Gym group" had improved from 55 to

89 percentage points, while the scores of the control group that received no Brain

Gym support increased 0 to 16 percentage points. (Maguire, 2002, p. 2)

Janet Dubinsky, an instructor at the University of Minnesota, argues that

neuroscientists as a community should address the issue of how neuroscience informs

education by actively teaching neuroscience to teachers by using a program called

BrainU. BrainU is an introductory neuroscience course designed to help teachers better

understand how the youth brain works (Dubinsky, 2010). BrainU is another brain based

program designed as a way of understanding how the brain works, similar to Brain

Gym. This course is available for teachers who want to have a basic understanding of

neurology.
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

BrainU delivered basic neuroscience knowledge using an experiential approach to

learning about the nervous system. Teachers learned through observation,

experimentation, hands-on activities, and discussions designed to be used in their

middle school classrooms in hopes to teach the teachers how to present their

material with multi-learning styles. Teacher's who reported using this teaching

method saw an increase in student's academic achievement. (Dubinsky, 2010, p.

8058)

The article stated that, empowering teachers with knowledge about the brain and

movement base learning does benefit students.

Mind and Body Connections

New research ties physical activity and fitness to academic success. Exercise and

academics help boost the confidence and focus of elementary students (Vail, 2006).

Kathleen Vail analyzed interdisciplinary lessons within the gymnasium. Vail (2006)

stated, "There absolutely is an association with grades and fitness levels after working

with teachers who incorporated core class lessons while moving" (p. 31). A study

conducted by California Department of Education (CDE), found that students who did

better on achievement tests were also more physically fit compared to their peers. The

study compared middle grade level students' fitness gram assessment scores and the

students' reading and math scores from the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT). The study

indicated that the healthier the student, the better the scores (Vail, 2006).
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Brain Gym International Activity

For this study, the author used a four-step process of tasks known as "PACE".

According to Brain Gym International's official website (2011), PACE stands for:

P = Positive: Hook-ups

A = Active: Cross Crawl

C = Clear: Brain Buttons

E = Energetic: Water

It was developed by Dennison, P.E., PhD & Dennison, G.E. (1997), the founders

of Brain Gym International. PACE is a set of tasks that are performed before beginning

of Brain Gym activity. The PACE activities are designed to create a balanced energy

state. Each student has his or her own unique rhythm and timing for learning. The

PACE activities help to discover that rhythm and balance. Students can identify if they

feel positive, active, clear, and energetic after doing these four simple tasks. PACE

activities are completed whenever students find themselves slipping into non-serving

behavior patterns, such as (i.e. daydreaming). Once learned, students can complete these

tasks as needed, especially when they start to feel stressed or when things are moving

faster than their own pace. PACE activities are fast and routine. The steps are completed

in reverse order (Epema, 2010).

PACE is only one part of the comprehensive movement based learning program

known as Brain Gym. Brain Gym consists of many choices of movements.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Movement

Prior to participating in the Brain Gym exercises, the students complete PACE.

PACE helps prepare students for the actual Brain Gym activity. To begin PACE the

students drink one glass of water. Water is the medium that conducts electricity within

the body and is best absorbed by the body when provided frequently and in small

quantities (Brain Gym International, 2010).

After the students drink one glass of water, brain buttons begins which improves

circulation to the brain. Brain buttons stimulates blood flow through the carotid arteries

to the brain to "switch on" the entire brain before a lesson begins. The increase blood

flow helps improve concentration skills required for reading. Brain buttons are

performed by making a "C" shape with your thumb and index finger. Place the "C"

shape fingers on either side of the breastbone, just below the collar bone. Gently rub in a

circular motion for 20-30 seconds, while the other hand is on the navel. Repeat using

opposite hand (Maguire, 2002).

Following brain buttons, the students move into cross crawls. This exercise helps

coordinate the right and left side of the brain by exercising the information flow between

the two hemispheres. Cross crawl activities cross the midline of the body which

improves reading and comprehension. To perform cross crawls, stand move right elbow

to left knee alternating with left elbow to right knee (Brain Gym International, 2010).

Lastly, hook-ups which has a calming effect on the mind. While sitting on a chair

with leg stretched out, cross one ankle over the other, stretch arms forward with the back

of the hands facing each other, thumbs down lift one hand over the other (now palms face
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

each other), interlock fingers and begin rolling hands/arms towards the chest. While

hands/arms rest on the chest, relax the tongue on the roof of the mouth (Maguire, 2002).

The actual Brain Gym International system consists of 26 exercises which

change the way students learn. Here is a brief description of each exercise that will be

used during this study. See the Brain Gym International website (2011) for additional

information.

Double Doodle- Draw with both hands moving together, mirroring each other.

Space Buttons- Place pointer and middle fingers on upper lip. The other hand

should rest on the back just above the tailbone.

The Energizer- Sit in a chair with the head resting on a table. Place hands on the

table in front of the shoulders. Inhale and lift the head slowly beginning with the

forehead, then the neck and lastly the upper back, reverse motion.

The Elephant- Bend the knees and lay the head on the shoulder. While

imagining a figure eight on its side point across the room and trace the eight with the

arm and upper body. Switch arms and repeat exercise.

Lazy 8s- Choose an area at eye level to be the center of the 8. Beginning with the

left hand trace or draw the 8. The height and width of the 8 will vary but should involve

the full extension of the arms.

The Rocker- While sitting on a soft surface lean back on the elbows and rock

back and forth and in circles.

Arm Activation- Raise one arm and place it next to the ear. Push against the

raised arm with the other hand. Push front, back, in and away while exhaling through the
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

mouth.

Grounder- Place feet about one leg length apart. Right foot should be pointed to

the right and the left pointed straight ahead. Bend the right knee and straighten the right

leg.

Alphabet 8s- Clasp both hands together and using the lazy 8 form trace the lower

case letters from a through t on either side of the 8 form. Letters a,c,d,e,fg,o,q,s start on

the curve of the 8 and move up to the left. Letters b, h, i,j, k,l, m, n,p,r,t start on the

midline and move to the right.

Cross Crawl Sit-ups- Perform basic sit-ups while touching the elbow to the

opposite knee.

Neck Rolls- Allow the head to roll smoothly and slowly from side to side.

Breathe deeply while performing this activity (Dennison & Dennison, 1997).

Transitions

Part of a classroom teacher's daily routine includes transitions. Transitioning from

one activity to the next can be difficult for some students. Including movements during

routines and transitions can help keep students focused and motivated. Orlaowski and

Hart (2010) conducted a study looking at movement with elementary school age children:

"Good schools for children ages 5 to 8 provide multiple opportunities for physical

activity throughout the school day" (2010, p.88). At least 60 minutes of activity a day is

recommended. Brief movements of physical activity in the classroom can improve

children's attitude, attention, memory, and content (Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention (CDC), 2010).


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Orlaowski and Hart (2010) offer simple strategies for incorporating physical

activity into morning routines, daily transitions, and when students are waiting in line.

National guidelines clearly call for an integrated approach to physical activity. Physical

activity is an important part of school-based learning.

Transitions that include movement can help students focus and can provide

opportunities to connect mind and body. Julia Vagovic took a group of early elementary

students and introduced movement within the classroom three times a day and the results

were positively significant. The students' attention span improved, which in turn

improved their academic engagement. Students were more engaged in what they were

learning and did better with moving from one activity to the next (Vagovic, 2008).

Summary

The advertisements and information Brain Gym International represents are

persuasive and exciting. Unfortunately, there is limited empirical evidence to support the

effectiveness of Brain Gym International. Brain Gym International has its own

journal publication and, even so, no sound entries have been noted. Brain Gym

International has a commercially based following that encourages teachers to use the

movements within the classroom to enhance the learning of students.

Reviewing previously mentioned studies, Brain Gym movement helps with the

flow of information that is transported to the brain. Maguire (2002) found Brain Gym

helped improve 23 young men's behavior. Cohen and Goldsmith believe that "children

often unconsciously 'switch off the brain-integration mechanism necessary for efficient
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

learning" (2003, pi). Ploughman (2008) found that young students who exercise his or

her body enhance their reading ability.

MDE gives a description of special education, the various disabilities, and

qualifications. The No Child Left Behind Act of2001 and the Individuals with

Disabilities Education Improvement Act of2004 have forced schools to have high levels

of accountability (Hyatt, 2007).

Research done by Schwed and Melichar-Utter (2008) focused on how to improve

studying strategies of students in grades 2-8. The research listed eight ways of being

smart. Brain Gym activities start out by using the PACE method, then transition into a

short series of the 26 movements.

Brief movements of physical activity in the classroom can improve children's

attitude, attention, memory, and content (CDC). Students were found to be more

engaged in what they were learning. Despite the lack of research, Brain Gym

International has the potential to make a difference in learning. This action research

study will provide empirical data on the use of Brain Gym activities within a special

education curriculum.
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Chapter 3

Research Methodology

The purpose of this study was to identify whether the use of Brain Gym

activities within a special education classroom had a positive, negative or no change

effect on selected students' test scores. The documented student' test scores were

obtained from AIMSweb and STAR Reading. The researcher focused on how Brain

Gym activities affected a second-grade special education classroom and the students'

AIMSweb scores and STAR reading scores.

This chapter describes a group comparison method (i.e. looking at pre- and

posttest scores), a single subject design, along with procedures that were used to conduct

the study. It addresses the following topics: (a) the population of the participants, (b) the

instrumentations used in the study, (c) an explanation of the data collection techniques

used to answer the research question, and (d) a description of the data analysis

procedures.

Population

This study took place in a small rural elementary school in southwest Minnesota.

The population for this study consisted of two boys who were identified with special

needs within SLD and DCD and were in the same class. The two boys were selected

because they were in second grade, qualified under special education, and they

participated in the researcher's special education reading support and concept group.

There were no girls participating in this study.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 31

Instrumentation

The researcher used single-subject research (AB Design) to determine if daily

participation in Brain Gym activities would increase reading scores of students

identified with special needs. The students were assessed using two forms of research

based assessments before the Brain Gym activity treatment began. Hie two

assessments were AIMSweb and STAR Reading, each of the assessments was given

three times throughout the 15- week study.

AIMSweb is a benchmark and progress monitoring system based on direct,

frequent, and continuous student assessment (AIMSweb, 2011). This reading fluency

program reports strong reliability across grade levels ranging from .83 to .90 (AIMSweb,

2011). AIMSweb testing is a way to help schools monitor student's reading and math

skills.

STAR Reading is a computerized adaptive reading comprehension test. STAR

Reading has a strong split-half reliability score of 0.92, test-retest method of 0.91, and

generic reliability of scores of about 0.95 (2011).

The study started with collecting the baseline data from the students using three

standardized curriculum-based reading probes from the AIMSweb fluency program. The

scores from the three probes were averaged to accumulate the baseline score. To

measure the students' reading fluency level, the students read out loud, an age-

appropriate reading probe, for one-minute intervals. While the students were reading, the

researcher monitored correct and incorrect words read. This was repeated three times per

trial.
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Then the STAR reading test was administered which consisted of a timed

computer-based assessment that tested the students' comprehension. The students were

given a total of 27 questions based on how they were performing. The students were

given a passage with blank spaces. The students needed to choose the best word to fit the

passage out of four choices. If the students answered the questions correctly, then the

questions became more challenging. If the students answered the question incorrectly,

the questions became easier. The computer kept track of how long it took the students to

complete the 27 questions. After the test was completed, the computer calculated the

students' score and provided a recommended reading level.

After the baseline was collected, the first six weeks of the study consisted of the

regular reading group with no treatment. Then, another series of AIMSweb and STAR

Reading probes were administered. During the last six weeks of the study, Brain Gym

activities were introduced and performed on a daily basis. At the end of the study,

another set of AIMSweb and STAR Reading probes were given to determine the final

results of the study. An extra set of probes were administered after winter break.

Data Collection Procedures

A letter was sent to the principal, in July 2011, asking permission to conduct an

action research study within this author's special education classroom. (Appendix A).

Before proceeding, the principal of the elementary school approved the study to be

conducted. In August 2011, after the principal's approval, a letter was sent to parents and

students. This letter explained the purpose of the study, gave a description of
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participation, and asked for permission to use student participants. (Appendix B & C).

The study was then initiated after receiving parents' and students' permission.

The two boys participated in Brain Gym activities four times a week prior to the

start of the reading support group. The reading support group took place at 10:10 on

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for 30 minutes every week.

Baseline data were collected the first week of school, August 22nd - 26th, 2011,

using AIMSweb and STAR Reading probes. The researcher gave each student grade

appropriate AIMSweb probes conducted according to standard directions. Each student

was given the same curriculum-based reading probe appropriate for his age and given one

minute to read aloud. The scoring of the probe was completed by totaling the number of

words read and subtracting the number of incorrectly read words from the total score.

The average score was computed after administering the three reading probes. The

STAR Reading computerized test was also given within the first week of school.

The researcher's reading support group started curriculum-based activities August

29th, 2011. This included phonetic review, sound reinforcement, spelling, and other

reading strategies and comprehension skills. The students were instructed for 30 minutes

a day, four times a week for six weeks.

On October 7th, 2011, the STAR Reading test and another set of AIMSweb

probes were distributed in order to collect midpoint data. On October 10th, 2011, Brain

Gym activities were incorporated into the researcher's reading group. Brain Gym

activities were completed during the first 10 minutes of reading group every day for six
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

weeks. The Brain Gym activities consisted of a combination of left brain/right brain

movements.

Brain Gym activities consist of 26 different activities. This study used the

acronym P.A.C.E during the treatment period along with Lazy 8's, Butterfly, Tracking,

Neck Rolls, Energy Yawns, Rocker, and Belly Breathing. The treatment period was

when the students engaged in Brain Gym activities. As mentioned previously, P.A.C.E

is a small piece of Brain Gym that helps students transition into the other Brain Gym

activities. P.A.C.E. was used during this study. The other movements targeted the

study's research questions, which included determining if movements increased reading

fluency and reading comprehension scores.

A tri-fold board was created to help guide the activities. The board consisted of

pictures, an explanation of each activity, and a list of the focal area. The activities were

completed on alternating days. One day, Brain Buttons, Cross Crawl, Lazy 8's,

Butterfly, and Tracking movements were performed. The next day, Neck Rolls, Energy

Yawn, Cross Crawl, Rocker, and Belly Breathing activities were preformed.

On December 1st, 2011, posttests were completed using the AIMS web reading

fluency test and STAR Reading comprehension test. Additional data were collected on

February 2nd, 2012, to help the researcher collect another set of data to use within this

study. The data collected in Februaiy would determine if the students retained the gained

reading skills.
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Data Analysis

The researcher entered the data gathered from the baseline and treatment periods

into a Microsoft Excel program. The information was presented in charts, which

illustrated students' reading scores baseline, standard teaching, treatment, and post-

treatment data for each student. Once all the information was entered into the computer,

the researcher analyzed students' growth. The difference between test days was

calculated with this small group to help determine if there was a difference between pre-

and posttests.

Summary

Chapter 3 explained the methodology used to conduct this study including the

population, instrumentation, data collection procedures, and data analysis. Chapter 4

presents a detailed description of the results of the study.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Chapter 4

Results

Chapter 4 provides results of data analysis and findings of this study. The

purpose of the study was to answer the following questions.

1. What impact does the use of Brain Gym activities in a second-grade special

education classroom have on students' AIMSweb fluency scores?

2. What impact does the use of Brain Gym activities in a second-grade special

education classroom have on a students' reading fluency and comprehension as

determined by STAR reading scores?

Chapter 4 presents the results of this single-subject study. It includes the

following topics: (a) demographic data regarding the population, (b) findings related to

each student, (c) observations, and (d) a summary of the results.

Demographic Data

A second-grade special education reading support group was chosen for this

single-subject study based on class, time, and reading skill. The components studied

were reading fluency and comprehension. The group consisted of two boys. For the

privacy and protection of the students, KC and Henry are the boys' alias names used

throughout this paper.

Both of the boys lived in a small town in southwest Minnesota. KC and Henry

had an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis. Both boys attended

the same elementary school and were on Individualized Education Programs (IEP), which

specifically discussed their disability and how they were receiving specialized services.

The boys received 30 minutes of daily reading fluency and comprehension instruction
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

and practice. KC and Henry's reading skills were considerably below grade level. KC's

baseline test score from the STAR Reading test was 2.1, which indicated he was at the

beginning second-grade reading level. Henry's baseline test score was 0.9, which

indicated he was at the ninth month of kindergarten reading level at the beginning of the

study.

KC and Henry were in the same second-grade class and had similar special needs.

KC had repeated second-grade, and Henry had repeated first-grade. They both had

delayed processing speeds and a low desire for learning. It was questionable whether

academics were a priority in the home environment.

KC comes from a family with a stay at home mom and a dad who is a truck

driver. He had two younger siblings. This family has moved to different school districts

frequently over the years. KC's locker and desk were disorganized. KC's school

attendance was poor. He goes to the doctor frequently. The poor attendance hinders

KC's learning. KC takes multiple medications a day to help him focus and sleep at night.

This was KC's second year in second-grade. He was a second-grader during the 2009-

2010 and 2010-2011 school years. KC had the same teacher for both years.

Henry was one of five children. His mom worked from home and dad worked

two jobs as a city worker and farmer. Henry displayed limited interest in school and

academics. He enjoyed tinkering with objects in his desk and quickly raced through

assignments in order to "get it over with". He lacked outward emotions and rarely to

never demonstrated facial/body expression. He had little desire to learn how to read.

Henry's locker and desk were disorganized. In the middle of this study, he was put on
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

medication for ADHD and stated he could focus better, which may have impacted the

study. Henry also had vision problems. He had been through numerous tests to help him

strengthen his eyes. Henry had prisms in his glasses. He repeated first-grade. He was a

first-grader during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years receiving speech,

occupational therapy and resource room services.

When arriving at the resource room, KC and Henry poured themselves a 6 oz.

glass of water. Drank the water and then started Brain Gym Activities. On alternating

days, they did a series of Brain Gym Activities. Day 1 consisted of Brain Buttons,

Butterfly 8, Track, Cross Crawl's, and Lazy 8's. Day 2 consisted of Neck Rolls, Belly

Breathing, Energy Yawns, and Rocker.

After the Brain Gym activities, the students worked on increasing their reading

fluency, word exposure, and comprehension skills. They also practiced reading sight

words, long and short vowel sound words, and nonsense words. Reading fluency and

reading comprehension were measured daily by fluency and comprehension probes.

Single-Subject Findings

The data for this study were collected on four different days throughout six

months. A baseline assessment was administered on August 28th, 2011, within the first

week of school. For six weeks, standard teaching was completed (i.e. no Brain Gym

activities were used). The students arrived at the resource room and started working on

decoding words and reading short passages. After the first six weeks, another set of

assessments were completed. The following six weeks, the students began the 30 minute

class doing Brain Gym activities. The next Brain Gym activities were performed
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

during class time Brain Buttons, Cross Crawls, Tracking, Butterflies, Neck Rolls, Lazy

8's,Belly Breathing, Energy Yawns and the Rocker. After the second six weeks, another

set of assessments were administered. Brain Gym continued after winter break and the

last assessments were administered to determine if the students were still progressing.

The assessments given were two different tests. AIMSweb measured reading

fluency and STAR Reading measured reading comprehension. The upcoming graphs and

tables displayed the data collected during this study. The two subjects monitored during

this study were posted together along with the dates of testing. AIMSweb results were

charted on Table 2 and graphed on Figure 1 with Figure 2 showing the data in line graph

form. The STAR Reading comprehension test is charted on Table 3 and graphed on

Figure 3 with Figure 4 showing the data in line graph form.

Table 2

AIMSweb Reading Fluency Scores

Baseline Standard Teaching Brain Gym Brain Gym


Student 8/27/11 10/7/11 12/1/11 02/2/12

Henry 22 31 35 69

KC 81 69 90 95

The numbers listed under each column are Henry's and KC's actual reading

fluency scores for each trial. Henry's reading fluency number increased with each trial,

where KC had a significant decline on his second trial. The decline was unexplainable

and not attributed to any known variable. There were numerous factors to consider when
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

administering each probe. The student could have had a bad morning, such as missing

breakfast, having a fight with a family member, or maybe forgetting to take his

medication.

80
2 70 -

Henry
KC

Baseline Standard Brain Gym Brain Gym


8/27/11 Teaching 12/1/11 2/2/12
10/7/11

Figure 1. AIMSweb reading fluency comparison graph for Henry and KC baseline,
standard teaching, and Brain Gym implementation.
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

100
90
o 80
| 70
E 60
oo
W1
Henry

Baseline Standard Brain Gym Brain Gym


8/27/11 Teaching 12/1/11 02/2/12
10/7/11

Figure 2. AIMSweb reading fluency comparison line graph for Henry and KC baseline,
standard teaching, and Brain Gym implementation.

AIMSweb reading fluency assessment measures student's reading fluency, which

is the speed at which the student can read. AIMSweb is a one-minute timed-prompt

reading probe that categorizes the student's reading speed. The probes given to the

second-graders were 250 words long. Second-grade students should be reading at 90

words per minute by the end of spring quarter according to our reading fluency goal set

by the school district based on state standards.

Henry started out reading considerably below grade level. First-grade reading

level is around 53 words per minute by the end of spring quarter. Henry is 31 points

below first-grade level, as a second-grader. His score reflects poor retention due to

summer break. Considering he repeated first-grade and has completed half of the second-

grade school year, he has not shown much progress. Henry made progress on each probe
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

day, but he still performed under academic level. He gained 47 words per minute

between August and February.

Henry's most significant increase of scores among trials was between December

and February. During that time, Henry started on ADHD medication. Adding

medication to Henry's daily routine may have helped him focus on the desired tasks.

According to Henry's data, incorporating Brain Gym activities results were

inconclusive on his reading fluency. Henry's reading fluency score increased but it's

undetermined if it was Brain Gym, medication or both. He went from 31 words per

minute to 69 words per minute after participating in Brain Gym activities. The

expected growth was 29 words per minute from fall to winter and 18 words per minute

from winter to spring. By the end of Henry's second-grade school year, he should be

reading at 90 words per minute.

KC's AlMSweb scores were within the second-grade district goal. His first score

was 9 points away from the second-graders district goal. KC was able to apply his

reading skills retained from the previous year of school and was at grade level at the start

of the school year. KC's second trial significantly decreased in comparison to his other

scores. The cause of the decrease is unknown. According to the last trial in February,

KC was reading above grade level.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 43

Table 3

STAR Reading Scores

Student Baseline Standard Teaching Brain Gym Brain Gym


8/27/11 10/7/11 12/1/11 2/2/12

Henry 0.9 1.3 1.5 2.1

KC 2.1 2.4 2.7 3.2


Note. The number in the ones-position is the year at which the student was performing
and the number in the tenths-position is the month of performance.

The STAR reading test was a computer generated test that looked at the student's

reading comprehension. The test asked a series of questions, gradually getting more

difficult as the student answered the questions correctly. If the student answered the

questions incorrectly, the test adjusted to easier questions. To interpret the scores, the

number in the ones-position is the year at which the student was performing and the

number in the tenths-position is the month of performance. For example, a score of 2.4

means the student is performing at second-grade, fourth month into the school year for

comprehension skills.

Research suggests, if a student has difficulty with reading, he or she will have low

comprehension skills. Students who struggle with reading spend a great deal of time

decoding words (i.e. breaking the sounds of a word apart) and putting the words into

sentences. As a result, the student misses significant details within the reading. As the

student's reading fluency improves, their story comprehension skills should improve also.

Henry and KC's scores demonstrated an increase in reading fluency and an increase in
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

reading comprehension. As their reading scores improved their comprehension scores

improved as well.

Henry's STAR Reading score was consistent with his AIMsweb score. He started

out the school year below first-grade comprehension level. Henry's August 28th, 2011,

score was 0.9, which showed he was performing at the ninth month of a kindergarten

school year. Henry ended the study at a 2.1 academic level of reading comprehension.

This was after six months of school and the introduction of ADHD medication. He had

the greatest increase in scores the month after the medication was started as both his

AIMSweb and STAR reading scores increased after the start of medication.

Was the increase due to medication or Brain Gym? The results of this study

are inconclusive regarding the effect of Brain Gym on Henry's reading skills.

However, it appears that the combination of Brain Gym activities and medication

enhanced Henry's reading skills.

KC's scores started out at second-grade academic reading comprehension level

and increased to third-grade academic reading comprehension level. His reading

comprehension score increased by 0.3 months after adding Brain Gym activities to his

reading support class. KC had the largest academic monthly increase between the

months of December and February. His increase was 0.4 months of academic learning

within six weeks. KC's scores increased with each trial, unlike his AIMSweb where one

trial score decreased. He had an 11 month academic increase in reading comprehension

from the start of this research study.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

1.5 i Henry
KC

Baseline Standard Brain Gym Brain Gym


8/27/11 Teaching 12/1/11 2/2/12
10/7/11

Table 3. STAR Reading Test score for Henry and KC baselines, standard teaching, and
Brain Gym implementation in a bar graph

Henry
KC

Baseline Standard Brain Gym Brain Gym


8/27/11 Teaching 12/1/11 2/2/12
10/7/11

Table 4. STAR Reading Test score for Henry and KC baselines, standard teaching, and
Brain Gym implementation in line graph form
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

The chart above gives readers a visual picture of how each student increased

reading comprehension throughout the study. KC's reading comprehension performed at

above second-grade level, and Henry's comprehension was at second-grade level. With

a combination of Brain Gym activities and medication, Henry was able to gain 12

months of academic level within 6 months.

The incorporation of Brain Gym activities showed more of an impact on the

students reading fluency and reading comprehension when the activities were performed

for a longer period of time. From the first trial in August to the last trial in February,

Brain Gym activities had a greater impact on scores than between August and

December.

Observation

At the beginning of this study, the students were unable to perform the Brain

Gym activities as presented to them. The students' coordination increased throughout

the study along with their confidence. The students did not care to do the activities at

first. KC stated, "It felt weird to do the activities." Henry did not comment on any of the

movements. He did what he was asked to do. By the end of the study, however, the

students were able to perform and label each of the activities.

When asked how they felt when doing Brain Gym activities and if they thought

it helped them, Henry said, "yes" and KC said, "no." Henry stated, "It helped me think."

KC said, "It was a waste of time." Henry requested to continue to do Brain Gym

activities, and KC did not have an opinion either way. KC had more absent days then
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Henry during this study. KC's scores had more of an increase then Henry's. Henry

embraced the activities, where KC would prefer to begin class without the activities.

Summary

Chapter 4 provided data to answer the research questions of this action research

study. It was found that Brain Gym activities could have had an impact on reading

fluency and reading comprehension for second-grade special education students. Henry

and KC showed an increase in their reading fluency and reading comprehension. Henry

started out below first-grade level in both reading fluency and reading comprehension.

At the end of the study, Henry's reading fluency and reading comprehension was at the

beginning second-grade academic level. KC started out at second-grade academic level

and ended the action research study at third-grade academic level.

As well as Brain Gym activities, it was also found that outside factors could

affect student reading fluency and comprehension scores. For example, Henry being

placed on medication could have resulted in increase reading scores. The unpredictable

factors of home life and school are likely to have had an impact on the students' scores,

too.

Overall, Brain Gym activities enhanced and did not hinder reading fluency and

reading comprehension abilities. The two second-grade students who participated in this

research study had data results that were positive and the routine of doing Brain Gym

created a positive environment for the students. Chapter 5 summarizes the study and will

present a conclusion, discussion, and recommendations based on the findings.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 presents an overview of the entire paper. The chapter is organized into

four sections. Summary, conclusions, discussion, and recommendations make up the

four sections. The summary includes the results of the study. The conclusion presents

the conclusion drawn from the data analysis. The discussion explores and explains the

results of the data analysis. Recommendations are the last section, which focuses on

future studies on Brain Gym and teaching practices for the classroom.

Summary

This action research study explored the impact Brain Gym activities had on two

special education second-grade boys' reading fluency and reading comprehension scores.

Background of the Study

Based on the literature review, there is a need for more data on Brain Gym

activities and the impact these activities have on academics. This study was conducted in

order to contribute more current and available data. With the changes in education and

the style of teaching, Brain Gym gives another intervention option to educators.

Students' learning can be negatively affected by many factors such as learning

disabilities, attention problems, tiredness, stress, and poor nutrition (Epena, 2010).

Learning environment and differentiated lessons are two areas teachers consider

when working with students. The Brain Gym program can easily be incorporated into a

classroom environment and a teacher's lesson plans. This study looked at how Brain

Gym can be a resource for classrooms by providing another method to help meet the

needs of the students.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to determine if Brain Gym activities had an effect

on special education second-grade boys' reading fluency scores and comprehension

scores. The following research questions provided the foundation for the study:

1. What impact does the use of Brain Gym activities in a special education

classroom have on second-grade students' AIMSweb fluency scores?

2. What impact does the use of Brain Gym activities in a special education

classroom have on second-grade students' reading fluency and comprehension as

determined by STAR reading scores?

Literature Review

Brain Gym International is a company that provides a unique method of

teaching. One intervention, that adds movement into the classroom, has been found to

help students learn by engaging and enhancing the focus of the students' learning

environment (Vagovic, 2008). Brain Gym consists of 26 different movements.

Preparing the body and mind for these movements, Brain Gym International created a

set of steps known as "PACE". PACE stands for positive: hook-ups, active: cross crawl,

clear: brain buttons, energetic: water (Brain Gym International, 2010). After

completing PACE, the students move into the concentrated activities that focus on the

area of need.

There are some available empirical studies that examined Brain Gym within the

classroom. Spaulding, Mostert, and Beam (2010) conducted an empirical study based

around the effectiveness of Brain Gym as an intervention within the classroom regimen

and that it enhanced efficient learning.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Hyatt (2007) wrote a journal article researching the claims of Brain Gym as an

intervention within the classroom. Hyatt's review found that Brain Gym does not have

supporting evidence of an increase in academics. Brain Gym is a series of body

movements that incorporates all areas of the brain to help enhance learning. The research

found that Brain Gym does not have an academic instruction as a component to its

movement, even though Brain Gym claims to enhance academics.

A study by Maguire (2002) took 23 young men, who were part of a rehabilitation

behavior program, and had them participate in Brain Gym activities as part of their

academic learning. At the end of die program, which incorporated Brain Gym, the boys

no longer displayed behavior problems. The young men improved their academics and

learned how to control their temperamental outbursts.

European countries enhance their students' learning by incorporating Brain

Gym activities into their school day. An estimated 1,000 schools in the U.K. are using

the cross midline brain activities to help bridge the gap between the different types of

learning. The use of Brain Gym activities are used to help improve brain functions

(Geake, 2005).

BrainU is another brain-based program designed to help enhance student learning

through movement (Dubinsky, 2010). Janet Dubinsky teaches a class at the University of

Minnesota, where educators can learn about the human brain and the neuroscience behind

learning. Empowering teachers with knowledge about neurology and movement-based

learning can benefit students. When teachers know how the brain functions, they are able

to better understand why students behave and learn given different environments and
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

instruction material. Teachers are then able to adapt their lessons in order to meet the

needs of the students. Duhinsky links brain base learning and neuroscience together to

help educators enhance their teaching methods.

Kathleen Vail (2006) conducted a study on student fitness and academic success.

The study was done in California and found that students who participate in physical

activity did a better job on academic achievement tests. Physical activities had a positive

relationship with test scores. The more physically fit the student, the better the test score.

Vail (2006) stated that exercise boosted the student's confidence, which helped that

student better focus on his or her academics.

Orlaowski and Hart (2010) completed a study where simple movements were

incorporated into the morning, transitions, and when the students waited in line to move

throughout the school. This movement throughout the day improved children's attitude

and attention. Another positive study was conducted by Julia Vagovic, who took a group

of elementary students and did movements with them three times a day. The results were

positively significant. The students' attention span improved, which improved the

students' academic score (Vagovic, 2008).

The research on Brain Gym and movement for learning is promising. Research

has shown that brief movements of physical activity in the classroom can improve

children's attitude, attention, memory, and content (CDC, 2010). With the wide range of

learning styles and learning difficulties, Brain Gym provides an opportunity for

movement within the classroom that will likely produce a positive impact on academics.

With the help from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE, 2010) a breakdown
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 52

of all the qualifying areas of special education is provided to help with the understanding

of special needs. Each qualifying area has protocols that need to be followed when

qualifying a student. One criteria that must be met for qualifying students is

interventions. Brain Gym is an intervention that would fulfill the qualifying criteria.

Methodology

This action research used a single-subject methodology to determine student

growth in reading fluency and reading comprehension after engaging in the Brain Gym

program. Two second-grade boys were given a set of assessments four different times

within a six month period. The two assessments that were given were AIMSweb and

STAR Reading. The researcher used standard teaching for six weeks and added Brain

Gym activities for the remainder of the study to determine if physical movements

would enhance reading fluency and reading comprehension scores.

The standard teaching consisted of phoneme and structured reading activities. On

August 28th, 2011, the AIMSweb probes and STAR Reading test were given to

accumulate a baseline score. During the first six weeks, the students would arrive at the

resource room within their scheduled time for 30 minutes four times a week and cany out

planned activities. On October 7th, 2011, the AIMSweb probes and STAR Reading test

were administered again. Then Brain Gym activities were incorporated into the 30

minutes. When arriving to the classroom, both students would follow Brain Gym

instructions which were on a tri-fold board. This would take four-to-six minutes per class

period. Then two more series of tests were given on December 1st, 2011 and February

2nd, 2012, to collect data on whether or not the students were making progress.
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Findings

The findings of the study included single-subject analysis that measured student

growth within reading fluency and reading comprehension. Both students involved in the

study did improve their reading fluency and reading comprehension scores. A bar graph

and line graph were created to easily identify the students' growth.

Henry's baseline score for AIMSweb was 22 and his final score was 69. He had a

47 word per minute growth within 6 months. KC's baseline score for AIMSweb was 81

and his final score was 95. He had a 14 word per minute improvement. Henry's STAR

Reading base line score was 0.9 and his final test score was 2.1. He gained one year and

one month of comprehension skill's within a six-month trial period. However, Henry's

increase in scores may have been due to an extraneous variable of medication started

during the study. KC's baseline score for STAR Reading was 2.1 and his final test score

was 3.2. He gained one year and one month of comprehension skill's within a six-month

trial period. The data indicates student improvement; however, not all improvement can

be attributed to the use of Brain Gym.

Conclusion

The conclusions for the study are listed below:

1. The use of Brain Gym activities in a special education classroom enhanced

and did not hinder reading fluency and reading comprehension scores with second-grade

students.

2. AIMSweb scores showed an increase of words per minute read for the

students participating in this study; therefore, this concludes that Brain Gym activities

did not hinder the students' reading fluency scores.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

3. STAR Reading scores showed an increase of months for the students

participating in this study; therefore, Brain Gym activities did not hinder the students'

reading comprehension scores.

Discussion

The single-subject method of research used for this study showed that student

reading fluency and reading comprehension were enhanced and not hindered with the use

of Brain Gym activities. Did Brain Gym activities really impact the students reading

fluency and comprehension scores?

Scores in AIMSweb and STAR Reading increased for both students. Positive

findings on the use of Brain Gym have also been found in other studies. Kathleen Vail

found positive results with her elementary students and their academic achievement tests

(Vail, 2006). Brain Gym International (2011) claimed the Brain Gym activities

enhanced concentration, focus, memory, academics, attitude, organizational skills, and

self-responsibility.

However, the researcher found that for one student the increase in scores may

have been due to the addition of medication for ADHD. Furthermore, students are

expected to gain academic knowledge as the school year progresses, as did the two

subjects within the study. Moreover, home and school environments, learning styles, and

other outside factors are variables that the researcher could not control; thus, they may

have affected the results of this study. Additional research on the use of Brain Gym in

a special education classroom is recommended.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Recommendations for Practice

There are various ways to implement Brain Gym activities within a daily

routine in a school setting. It is recommended that teachers follow the instructional

information within the targeted academic area and use the movements listed from the

Brain Gym International website (2010). The website lists various targeted areas and

the movements that best fit the area, in which the teacher is trying to target.

Recommendations for Further Study

This study was limited to only two students from a special education classroom.

The results indicated that Brain Gym activities enhanced student's reading fluency and

reading comprehension scores. It is recommended that the study be repeated with a

larger group of students within special education and regular education classroom.

Conducting an ABA design study would benefit this type of study by compare standard

teaching to Brain Gym implementation and then repeating standard teaching.

Another recommendation for further study is to use a control group to contrast the

study's findings between students in a special education class that uses Brain Gym

activities and one that does not use Brain Gym activities.

To any study using Brain Gym activities, it is recommended that the students

write in a journal about how they feel before and after doing Brain Gym activities. This

might provide information about outside factors that may affect the students'

performance.

It would also be informative to analyze the long term effects of Brain Gym

activities used within a classroom. Starting the study after winter break and conducting
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

the study the second-half of the school year versus the first part of the school year to

analyze growth patterns is recommended.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Reference

AIMSweb. (2011). Curriculum based measures - reading. Retrieved from

http://www.aimsweb.com/

Brain Gym International. (2011). What is Brain Gym. Retrieved from

http://www.braingym.org

Cohen, I., & Goldsmith, M. (2003). Hands On: How to use Brain Gym. Ventura:

Education Kinesthetics.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). The association between school-

based physical activity, including physical education and academic performance.

Atlanta: U.S. Department ofHealth and Human Services. Retrieved from

www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/KeyStrategies

Dennison, P.E., PhD & Dennsion, G.E. (1997). Brain Gym Handbook. Ventura, CA:

Edu-Kinesthetics.

Dubinsky, J. (2010). Neuroscience education of prekindergarten -12 teachers. The

Journal of Neuroscience, 30(24), 8057-8060. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2322-

10.2010

Epema, D. D. (2010). Movement in the classroom: The impact of brain gym activities to

increase on-task behavior of students identifiedfor special needs in an integrated

Ist grade classroom. Unpublished master's thesis, Southwest Minnesota State

University, Marshall, Minnesota.

Geake, J. G. (2005). The neurological basis of intelligence: A contrast with 'brain-based'

education. Neuroscience and Education.


MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Goswami, U. (2006). Neuroscience and education: From research to practice? Nature

Reviews Neuroscience, 7(5), 406-413.

Hyatt, K. J. (2007). Building stronger brains or wishful thinking?. Remedial and Special

Education, 28(2), 117-124.

Maguire, T. (2002). Brain Gym. Humanising Language Teaching, 3, Retrieved from

http://hltmag.co.uk/may02/mart3.htm

Minnesota Department of Education. (2011). Special Education. Retrieved from

http://education.state.mn.us/mde/index.html

Orlowski, M. A., & Hart, A. (2010). Go! Including movement during routines and

transitions. Young Children, 65(5), 88-93.

Ploughman, M. (2008). Exercise is brain food: The effects of physical activity on

cognitive function. Developmental Nero-habilitation. 11(3), 236-240.

Renaissance Learning. (2011). STAR Assessment, Retrieved from

http://www.renlearn.com

Schwed, A., & Melichar-Utter, J. (2008). Brain-friendly study strategies grades 2-8.

Thousand Oak, CA: Corwin Press.

Spaulding, L. S., Mostert, M. P., & Beam. A. P. (2010). Is Brain gym an effective

educational intervention?. Exceptionality, 18,18-30.

doi:10.1080/09362830903462308

Vagovic, J. (2008). Transformers: Movement experiences for early childhood

classrooms. Youth Children, 63(3), 26-32.

Vail, K. (2006). Mind and body. American School Board Journal, 30-33.
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Appendix A

Letter to Principal
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Date: July 27,2011

Dear Amy Christensen,


As part of my Masters Program through Southwest Minnesota State University, I
am conducting a study entitled, "Movement in the Special Education Classroom: The
Effectiveness of Brain Gym Activities on Reading Ability." This study will be
conducted within the second grade reading support group. The purpose of the study is to
analyze the impact of small group Brain Gym activity on reading fluency and reading
comprehension of elementary special education students. A single-subject design will be
used to collect the quantitative data. Specifically, the study addresses the following
research question: 1. What impact does the use of Brain Gym activities in a special
education classroom have on second-grade students' AIMSweb fluency scores? 2. What
impact does the use of Brain Gym activities in a special education classroom have on
second-grade students' STAR reading comprehension scores?
The risks to the students participating in the study are no greater than those they
experience every day. The benefit to the school in participating in the study is that the
school will be able to determine if Brain Gym activities will improve reading fluency
and overall reading skills at the elementary level.
I would enjoy meeting with you to explain this study in greater detail. If you have
any questions, please feel free to contact me at home or at the email below. Also, feel
free to contact my Southwest Minnesota State University committee chair, JoAnne
Hinckley. She can also be reached if you have questions or concerns. Thank you for
your time and assistance.

Sincerely,

Juli Pagel JoAnne Hinckley


Master's Candidate Professor of Education
xxxxxxxx Southwest Minnesota State University
xxxxx@xxxxxxxxxxxxx joanne.hinckley@smsu.edu
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Appendix B

Letter to Parents
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 62

August 23,2011

Dear ,

Your child is invited to participate in a study entitled, "Movement in the Special


Education Classroom: The Effectiveness of Brain Gym Activities on Reading
Abilities." The study is part of my Masters in Education degree requirement at
Southwest Minnesota State University.
This study is designed to investigate the effectiveness of Brain Gym activities
on reading fluency and reading comprehension of elementary special education students.
The study will be done within the special education reading support group where your
child will receive reading instruction based on the school's curriculum.
Your child will be involved in the study by taking pretests measuring reading
fluency and reading comprehension, receiving 6 weeks of general reading instruction, a
middle assessment and 6 weeks of reading instruction incorporating Brain Gym
activities then ending the study with posttests measuring reading fluency and reading
comprehension growth.
The puipose of this letter is to allow your child to participate in the study and to
allow me to use the information gathered. The results will be kept strictly confidential.
If you have any questions regarding the study, please contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx,
extension xxxx. Thank you for your help!

Sincerely,

Juli Pagel
Special Education Teacher

Student name

Parent signature

Yes, I give my permission for my child to participate.


No, I do not give my permission.

***If this form is not returned by August 25,2011, it is assumed that permission is
granted.
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM

Appendix C

Letter to Participants
MOVEMENT IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOM 64

Dear ,

You are invited to participate in a study entitled, "Movement in the Special


Education Classroom: The Effectiveness of Brain Gym Activities on Reading
Abilities." The study is part of the Masters in Education degree requirement at
Southwest Minnesota State University.
This study is designed to investigate the effectiveness of Brain Gym activities on
reading fluency of elementary students.
Your involvement in the study consists of taking two sets of reading fluency
pretests, receiving 6 weeks of general reading instruction and 6 weeks of Brain Gym
activities incorporated with reading instruction, and taking two reading fluency posttests.
Your participation in this project is voluntary. You have the right to withdraw at
any time without penalty. There are no risks that are involved in participating in this
study; however, the benefit of increasing activity within the classroom and adolescent
reading skills is the goal of the study.
The data from the reading fluency scores will be kept confidential and your name
will not be associated with the data in any way when the study is published.
If you have any questions now or during the study, please feel free to contact me
at xxx-xxx-xxxx, extension xxxx. Thank you!

Sincerely,

Juli Pagel

Student signature

Date