How can teachers help young children develop their motor skills? A groundbreaking CD-Rom offers some excellent pointers. Yolanda Brooks reports
During the early stages of a child's life, physical milestones are important. Lifting the head, rolling, crawling and the first independent steps are often cause for celebration. But once walking has been conquered, it seems that physical development is no longer so closely monitored, unless something goes wrong.
By the time the child reaches the classroom, it is the intellectual and, to a lesser extent, emotional development that are the focus of attention.
Although the national curriculum sets down the skills and level of attainment in PE expected at key stage 1, there is little teacher training or continuing professional development in physical literacy. As a result, many teachers feel they lack the knowledge to provide the right support and environment that will enhance movement education and PE provision.
To redress the balance, the Physical Education Association of the United Kingdom (PEA UK), in partnership with the educational sports consultancy Tacklesport, has produced the CD-Rom Observing Children Moving. The creators hope it will help teachers and early years' practitioners raise standards of physical attainment right across the curriculum and become educated observers of movement.
Patricia Maude, author of the CD-Rom and PE tutor at Homerton College at the University of Cambridge, says: "Having spent 40 years of my teaching career watching children and trying to help children improve, both in the curriculum and extra-curricular activities, I feel there is a tremendous amount to be gained from communicating more readily how children move.
"If we can enhance the ways that teachers and trainee teachers, parents and other partners in children's education engage more in observation, I think there would be great potential for enhancing what children are doing throughout the curriculum."
Teaching the rules of a game is relatively straightforward, but how do you teach a child to be more mobile or agile if you don't have the knowledge or the precise language to do so? Or how do you help young children improve fine and gross motor skills when you are unsure about the different stages of development or exactly how to identify the components that make up a particular skill or move.
Observing Children Moving is intended to help teachers analyse and understand the movement of children aged three to seven. It features extensive video clips, basic and detailed descriptions of individual activities, advice on how to observe actions, written descriptions of video tasks, activity ideas and a whole section, entitled Now Make a Difference, that features development and extension activities for teachers to try with their own pupils.
Patricia Maude has previously written a book on the subject of physical literacy, but she says the CD-Rom is the ideal format for her latest project. "Books are a great medium, but if you want to communicate movement, a book doesn't actually do it. In literature, you can read about an ideal mover, a perfect performance of a catch, but we very rarely see that written performance in action. So we thought it would be really helpful for people learning to observe and analyse movement to be able to look at and read the same text and the same picture."
The video clips focus on 12 fine and gross movement skills that include rolling, throwing, jumping, catching, writing, striking, galloping and climbing. Users can watch clips of a child proficient in a particular move and one who has yet to fully master the skill. The clips can be watched individually or with a split screen. The children can be observed from different angles and frame by frame. The resource also allows teachers to focus on different parts of the body for closer analysis.
Observing Children Moving is extremely easy to navigate and it provides a gentle informative introduction to anyone with gaps in their knowledge. You will be able to understand how a child does a particular task and why they do it the way they do it, and offer suggestions for improvements. You will not become an expert in biomechanics, but you will know why a "dizziness experience" is important and be able to set up tasks that develop "sensory-motor integration" or "vestibular awareness" without batting an eyelid.
Developing kinaesthetic intelligence is not just about improving the chances of the school sports team, it affects all areas of the curriculum.
This resource provides comprehensive examples of how movement development dictates particular behaviour patterns and the acquisition of fine motor skills.
Tacklesport managing director Andrew Cushing, a former rugby player and coach, says: "Established educational philosophers tend to dismiss sport and physical activity as just games, but movement is a unique form of knowledge.
"Observing Children Moving is about providing opportunities for children to achieve their potential in physical literacy. Just as you work with the building blocks of language - words and sentences - we're working with the structures of physical literacy and the building blocks of movement patterns - co-ordination, strength, stamina, confidence in movement, self-esteem, being able to meet challenges, being able to select appropriate movement patterns for different activities and to help children build all of those physical capabilities that enable them to be healthy and active."
There may be no formal assessment for physical education, but Patricia Maude says teachers, parents and carers should not underestimate the importance of physical literacy.
"Children have an entitlement to be physically educated and to become physically literate people," she says. "The key message of OCM is how to make a difference for all children."
* Observing Children Moving is available from Tacklesport. Single-user licence, pound;29.99 (pound;1.75 pp); up to 10 users pound;50; up to 30 users Pounds 90. Reduced rates available for PEA UK members.
Tel: 01905 24713
Teaching the Nuts and Bolts of Physical Education: Building Basic
By Allison Colvin, Nancy Markos and Pamela Walker Human Kinetics pound;18
* Active for Life: Developmentally Appropriate Movement Programs for Young Children
By Stephen Sanders Human Kinetics pound;14.50
Tel: 0113 255 5665
* Physical Children, Active Teaching (Investigating Physical Literacy)
By Patricial Maude
Open University Press pound;16.99
Tel: 01628 502 500