As highlighted in an earlier post, all school staff members have opportunities to foster a love of learning through literacy or reading. Physical education teachers are role models and often build meaningful relationships with all students. Incorporating reading in PE with stories and children’s books provides an avenue to encourage creativity through movement, dance, and social interaction.
Years ago I listened to an outstanding professional at the Illinois Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance annual conference. This master teacher shared with us one of my favorite activities to do each year during reading month, on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, or whenever you need a quick 5-minute warm up.
Each year, I read the book My Many Colored Days, by Dr. Seuss to students in grades K-2. It is a very short book with beautifully colored images, and only takes a few minutes to read! The first time I read it to the students, I do not provide any additional directions other than listening. After I finish, I explain to the children that we are going to use the story to move around the gym. I flip through the pages again and ask students to share what the emotions, moods, and images might look like if we were to act them out. Finally, I ask students to find safe space and have them prepare to listen to the story again while acting out each emotion through creative play. I loudly read the story and pause before turning the page to allow for students to think and move. Students are led throughout the book to be horses, birds, bees, and more. The creativity comes alive with each child’s own interpretation of the mood and animal.
Listen or watch the story.
Early elementary students love the opportunity to blend books and stories into movement! It is no different than using music to lead movement and often will leave more to the imagination. I encourage you to always read the book at least once before starting the activity if you have not read it to them previously.
Here are a few other examples of books to use, as well as quick outlines of activity ideas:
From Head to Toe, by Eric Carle
- The book is perfect for a warm up activity as it is very low-impact. Have students find space and perform the movements as you read. Students can perform the stretches and actions in their own space. Read it again and have students partner up to perform matching/mirroring actions!
Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin/Eric Carle
- Throughout the book, new animals are introduced. Allow students to act out these actions in a safe space as you read the book.
Stomp!, by Ruth Paul
- Kids love dinosaurs! This book invites them to act out various locomotor movements (stomping, jumping, turning around, crawling, and more.) Several pages require additional imagination and creativity! A perfect task in their safe personal space but it also begs for the exploration of group work!
Pete the Cat And His Four Groovy Buttons, by Eric Litwin/James Dean
- Pete the Cat is about the coolest cat around and students love the story. The story has a reoccurring theme that can be read in a fun, rhythmic beat. Create some basic dance steps for “My buttons, my buttons…”. Ask students to act out emotions based on Pete’s button saga as you read and dance. Check out an audio/visual of this book!
Five Green and Speckled Frogs, by Priscilla Burris
- Have students in one large group. Number students off or come up with another way for students to know it is their turn. Designate another area as the pool. As you read students will hop to the pool and leave the original group. In the end all students end up in the pool. Also try in groups of five and have frogs leave their groups to go to center of playing area where a large pool party can form!
The bottom line is that there is no “one-way” to blend literacy and movement. You can keep it simple by introducing one book each month to a class, or a bit more complex by increasing the frequency to multiple times a month. Students love both reading and movement, and like mint and chocolate, it just works.