Upside down Arnie gets the kids reading

1st April 2005 at 01:00
Whole classes of pupils could soon have their worlds turned upside down - all in the name of improved reading, David Henderson writes.

Head stands are the latest brain-based educational fad to be imported from California and could shortly become a regular feature of Scottish primary classrooms. Results from a study among pupils in Berkeley - the Berks Project - reveal significant improvements in core literacy when pupils learn to put their feet up in the morning.

Julie de Neucrasse, professor of educational development at the University of Central California (UCC), today (Friday) will present her remarkable findings to a seminar at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Professor de Neucrasse told The TES Scotland: "It may seem crazy but it works. Just because it comes from California does not mean you can ignore this in Scotland. Basically, the more we can encourage children to turn upside down, the more we can right their language development.

"It works quite simply because more blood flows to the parts of the brain that deal with messages about language. Neural connections are naturally made more easy and pupils are more receptive to learning."

The innovation stemmed from Indian yoga practices which are popular among hip Californians. Even Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, one-time Austrian muscleman turned movie star and Republican politician, is said to practise standing on his head. It is said that his English speech impediment has been eased by his early morning habit of turning his whole world upside down.

In the trial among primary pupils, literacy test scores improved across all age groups and social classes. Boys in particular are keener to make their mark on the wall of reading improvement and regard the instruction to take the weight off their feet with more relish than girls. Size of class did not appear to influence results.

Professor de Neucrasse admits there are difficulties. "Many Californian children are overweight and struggle to touch their toes, never mind do head stands against the classroom wall. Obviously there are also problems if girls come to school in dresses. Primary principals prefer if girls wear trousers. Single-sex classes help in that respect," she said.

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