Tips for Tutors

Tips For Tutors

This article talks about helping children learn reading basics through movement. These ideas work very well for young students, students with short attention spans, and English Language Learners. After the article there are some tips to try if you have the space available.

Learning on the Move

Workout incorporating letters, counting, shapes and more aims to turn out Smart Kids

Jody Lawrence-Turner, The Spokesman-Review

LidgerwoodElementary School kindergartners are moving to learn and learning to move through a program developed by two Spokane Public Schools teachers.

Smart Kids, which is taught in a handful of the district’s elementary schools, teaches 5- and 6-year-olds the fundamentals of math and reading while they hop, balance, skip and roll.

“Movement helps transfer lessons to long-term memory,” said Kari Cunningham, a Lidgerwood literacy coach. “This uses their whole body.”

The concept has been around for about a decade. Two Holmes Elementary School teachers brought the program to Spokane schools.

“Our learners are primarily kinesthetic learners as children,” said Emily Sobczuk, a Holmes kindergarten teacher, meaning young children learn through touching and movement. “If we can impact and close developmental gaps kids have early on, we can change lives.”

Each school using the program adapts it to their students, Cunningham said. Many of Lidgerwood’s students, for example, enter kindergarten without the benefit of having attended preschool, so they need to learn basic concepts.

Using Smart Kids, instructors teach spatial concepts such as in front of, behind, around, right and left, as well as letters, counting, words, sounds, shapes and colors.

The students are usually led by a physical education teacher through a circuit of activities, accompanied by classroom teachers.

On Thursday, Lidgerwood students hopped over words after reading them aloud, balanced their feet on the edge of a flat ladder as they identified shapes, rolled a ball around pylon cones to understand the concept “around,” stepped on colored buckets as they pronounced letter sounds, and named the colors they walked on in a circle.

“We really want kids to be able to read by the end of kindergarten,” Cunningham said. “Knowing their letters and other sounds are those foundational pieces. We want them to be prepared for the first grade.”

After five weeks, teachers have already seen a great improvement in the kindergartners’ learning abilities, they said.

Volunteers from the Spokane chapter of Altrusa International Inc., an organization that focuses on literacy and anti-poverty projects for women, children and families, were at the school Thursday to help with Smart Kids.

The organization awarded Lidgerwood a grant to buy the equipment for the program, which cost about $1,900.

“When we saw the application, we thought this was fascinating,” said Anne Whitley, an Altrusa volunteer. “It provides additional ways for the kids to learn.”


Here are some ways to get kids moving as they learn:

  • When practicing sight words, have students stand up and sit down for every other word, or balance on alternating feet for every other word.
  • Have students alternate between standing and sitting while reading. You can alternate after every page.
  • Have students snap or clap quietly after each sight word or letter they say during practice.
  • When working with English Language Learners, narrate each thing you do like walking down the hall, e.g., “We are walking down the hallway,” or “Let’s walk slowly to our table,” or “Let’s walk quickly to our table.”

About Experience Corps Bay Area

Experience Corps Bay Area recruits and trains adults 50+ to tutor and mentor elementary school children, with a focus on K-3 literacy.
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