4 Keys to Teaching Literacy and Language with the Yoga Alphabet

Yog Literacy graphic Young Yoga MastersWhen I introduce the Frog Yoga Alphabet resources to participants Yoga Literacy Certificate of the kids yoga teacher training, I emphasize that the alphabet letters make words, words make sentences and sentences make stories. It’s good thing to remember because it reveals the importance of letter learning but also reminds us that the yoga alphabet can be used in so many more ways than just learning letters.

Since the Yoga Literacy Certificate is coming up this weekend, I decided to look into the latest research around teaching literacy. With that in mind here are some interesting findings which speak to the idea that letters make words and words make stories.   Here are 4 keys to teaching literacy to young learners:

1. A Letter a Day is Better than a Letter a Week

When introducing the alphabet, rather than presenting a letter a week, Ray Reutzel  in his paper Early Literacy Research: Findings Primary‐Grade Teachers Will Want to Know points out it is more effective to introduce a letter every day and then cycle through the alphabet after that. When cycling back, give more attention to more difficult letters:

…this protocol calls for teachers to introduce a new letter or set of letters each day in multiple cycles of repeated practice.  Over time, as the easier letters are mastered, teachers adjust the instruction through pacing and frequency of exposure. All letters are taught explicitly at least once. However, those letters that are harder for children to learn receive more attention and practice.

2. Six Ways Kids Learn Letters More Easily and Quickly

In the same paper above, Reutzel also identified six learning orders in which children learn the alphabet letters and sounds:

  1. Own-name effect – Young children most easily and quickly learn the letters found in their given or first names.
  2. Alphabetic-order effect– Letters at the beginning or end of the alphabet are learned more quickly and easily than those letters ordered in the middle of the alphabet
  3. Letter-frequency effect – The more frequently exposed letters are in printed materials, the more quickly and easily they are learned
  4. Letter-name pronunciation effect – Occurs when a letter’s sound is heard as the letter’s name is pronounced.
  5. Consonant phoneme acquisition order effect – That young children learn consonant letters’ names and sounds easier when they are mastered earlier in children’s oral language development
  6. Distinctive visual features letter-writing effect – The letters of the alphabet are recognized through detection of a smaller set of distinctive visual features. Teaching students to fluently produce this smaller set of distinctive visual features before teaching them how to write all of the alphabet letters has been found to lead to quicker mastery of letter transcription.

3. Self Regulation Helps Literacy

We know that one of the aims of yoga and meditation is improving self-regulation.  A recent study from Michigan State University found that literacy learning improves when combined with activities that improve self regulation. Lead researcher Lori Skibbe says :

Parents need to be aware of how their children can regulate their own behavior based on what’s going on around them. Parents can structure their home environment and routines in ways that support children,” Skibbe said. A full night of sleep, playing games with children and having time without distractions in the background are things you might not think help language and literacy development, but they do.”

4. Kindergarten Language Skills Are Good Predictors of Future Proficiency in Other Subjects

We know that teaching literacy is the foundation of building language skills in children but research from University of Washington found that a child’s language skills in kindergarten predict his or her performance in other areas, including math, reading and social and emotional learning later into their education. Amy Pace, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences and member of the team that conducting the study found:

Researchers found that of the skills and milestones evaluated – social/emotional, attention, health, reading, math and language – only language skills, when a child entered school, predicted his or her performance both within that subject area and most others (math, reading and social skills) from first through fifth grade. Reading ability in kindergarten predicted reading, math and language skills later on; and math proficiency correlated with math and reading performance over time.

Yoga Literacy Certificate

If you’re interested in yoga tools that help teach literacy and language to kids, the Yoga Literacy Certificate is for you. It includes a lot more than just teaching kids yoga how to use the letters of the alphabet. It also includes partner poses, games and activities for early readers to teens and we take a look at ways of doing yoga with kids while having fun and staying safe. Plus, participants of the kids yoga training learn effective relaxation techniques that help calm kids.

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