Dr. Connie Hebert helps kids, parents, and teachers by helping them become experts at catching "the teachable minute" anytime, anywhere! My Teachable Minute Blog offers quick tips on how to engage with younger and older kids. Comments, questions, and reflections are always welcome . . . let's catch a million teachable minutes together!

Using physical actions to help kids remember©2012 C. Hebert

We all have different ways of remembering different things. Do you remember how you memorized the names of the Great Lakes or the planets? Some of our teachers gave us pneumonic ways of remembering things that were difficult to recall at a moment’s notice. In many cases, we can still remember these facts or bits of knowledge solely because we committed them to our long-term memory by attaching them to something that we could remember.
Many falling kids struggle with their memories. There are any numbers of neurological, developmental, environmental, and genetic reasons why certain kids just can’t remember or recall certain things. They find it difficult to make connections on their own and this leads to frustration, disappointment, and defeat. It is our task to make the connections for these kids so that they can begin use them in moving forward with their literacy skills.
One important way to help children is to attach a physical action to whatever we want them to recall or remember. Here are a few examples of actions that you might use to help falling readers ‘remember’ the things you are teaching them:
*Vowel Sounds
*Short ‘a’: “Hold a pretend flashlight up to your mouth and say ‘aaaa,’ just like you would at if a doctor looked in your throat. Every time you need to know that short ‘a’ sound, hold the flashlight up to your mouth and say, ‘aaaa.’
*Short ‘e’: “Say ‘elephant.’ Now let’s say it again and hold that short e sound for a long time. Take your pointer finger and make a pretend line with your finger in front of your mouth to show me the shape of your mouth when you say ‘e’ like in ‘elephant.’ You finger is moving in a straight line, left to right. That’s the same way we start out writing the letter ‘e.’ So, if you get stuck on that sound, see if your mouth is making a straight line and then write the letter ‘e.’ They should match!”
*Short ‘i’: “With your 2 pointer fingers, push your cheeks up as you say, ‘igloo.’ Your cheeks want to go up on that first ‘i’ part, don’t they? Let’s try another one. Push your cheeks up towards your eyes when you say, ‘it,’ ‘in,’ ‘if.’ Remember to check your cheeks when you’re trying to figure out the short ‘i’ sound.”
*Short ‘o’: “What is your mouth doing when you say the short ‘o’ sound in ‘hot,’ ‘pot,’ ‘box.’ Trace your mouth when you say that sound. What letter are you making? Yes! An o! Check your mouth each time you wonder which vowel sound you need.”
*Short ‘u’: “Take your fist and ‘gently’ punch your tummy! What sound would you probably make if you really punched it? UHHHH! Yes! Now, let’s try ‘bus.’ As you say that middle sound, bring your fist towards your stomach while you say the ‘uhhh’ sound. That will help you remember the short ‘u’ sound if you hear it in a word. Don’t really punch yourself!”
It is truly amazing to look around the room and see kids actually using these physical actions to remember short vowel sounds in words they are trying to read and write. If you have modeled, practiced, and insisted that they apply these to new and difficult words, they will begin to independently apply these physical actions as a way of remembering ‘hard things.’ If you don’t believe me, try them and see what happens! Falling kids need whole hosts of ways to remember what many of us take for granted…


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