Strategies, Activities and Exercises
Balance Beam Activities
According to occupational therapist Regina Richards, balance beam activities develop visually guided movements and coordination between the two sides of the body. The student should try to keep his eyes on a target picture, shape, letter or word while:
- Walking across forwards/backwards and sideways
- Reaching for bean bags on his right to toss into a box on the left and reaching for bags on the left to toss into a box on his right
- Picking up toys placed on the beam and tossing to a person
- Reciting the alphabet, spelling words, counting or reading flash cards
Bouncing Ball Activities
Children love balls and they are great for developing ocular motor control. They can recite the alphabet, math facts and spelling words while:
- Dribbling a ball in place
- Dribbling the ball while walking across the room
- Tossing and catching the ball repeatedly
- Scatter picture, letter or word cards on the floor and ask the student to name the cards as he bounces the ball on it
- Kicking a bean bag to land on named letters
Begin by asking the student to toss (above her head) and catch a large ball. Next provide a smaller ball to toss back and forth between her left and right hands. Then work on tossing the ball a bit higher and eventually using two balls so that they are juggled. Students can be asked to recite a letter to the alphabet or spelling word during each movement.
Suspended Ball Activities
Suspend a ball from the ceiling. Write a spelling word on a board or piece of paper so that the student spells a letter each time he hits the ball. Grasping a plastic or cardboard tube to hit the suspended ball promotes using the two sides of the body together while performing this activity.
“Brain gym" is a series of movement exercises designed by educator and reading specialist Paul E. Dennison and his wife and colleague Gail E. Dennison to enhance coordination and learning through movement. The theory is that movements that involve using the eyes, hands and whole body while crossing midline promote communication between the hemispheres and laterality (awareness of right and left). The following are just a few Brain Gym based visual strategies that help promote reading readiness:
- Cross Crawl - while hopping in place or skipping across the room, touch a hand to the opposite knee or foot.
- Lazy Eights - draw a gigantic infinity sign on a board. Trace it with the right, left and both hands together.
- Double Doodles - grasping a marker in each hand, draw shapes, letters or write words at the same time.
Students can recite math facts, read flash cards or spell words while performing cross crawl movements. These reading visual strategies can also be performed while clapping hands or performing jumping jacks. Occupational therapist Lois Hickman recommends drawing letters on a trampoline with sidewalk chalk and them jumping from one to another to spell words.
Infinity walk is a methodology created by psychologist Deborah Sunbeck used to promote visual coordination and laterality. It involves walking on a large drawn infinity sign pattern. As the student walks on the pattern keeping eyes fixated on a target, she alternates making left and right turns. According to Sunbeck, this creates new communication pathways in the brain and brain dominance for vision is switched back and forth. In her book, Infinity Walk: Preparing your Mind to Learn!, Sunbeck describes many visualization, counting and spelling activities that promote reading readiness.