A physical and emotional approach to learning

Wed, Sep 5, 2012, 01:00

EDUCATION:ALL WORK and no play does not help a child learn. Scientists have found that connecting physical and emotional experiences can help children learn.

Moved by Read is a new method developed by Prof Art Glenberg and collaborators at Arizona State University.

It encourages children to “play” while reading, physically acting out stories with toys to enforce the meaning of the words and improve comprehension.

Prof Glenberg is investigating why children who are competent at spoken language can sometimes struggle with reading. He told a session at the Festival of Science that child learning was grounded in bodily experience. He suggests that children with poor reading ability fail to link written words to an actual physical experience, and so don’t establish a comprehension of the words.

Understanding how our brains learn and store representations of abstract words and ideas relies on more than just a physical experience, said Prof Gabriella Vigliocco, professor of psychology at University College London. She has found more abstract words can sometimes have a stronger emotional association than words that relate to physical objects.

“Emotional development needs to be in place for children to learn abstract concepts,” she said.