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Setting Learning to Read in Motion


Nothing captures young children's attention more than music and motion, and an approach called Reading In Motion lets youngsters exercise their creativity (and their bodies) as well as their minds as they learn to read. Included: A description of Reading In Motion.

Music and movement catch the attention of most young children, and a musician named Karl Androes and some friends capitalized on that knowledge to create Reading In Motion, a program that uses music, dance, and drama to help children learn to read. Designed for kindergarten through third graders, the program starts in kindergarten by using music to help children develop phonemic awareness, and soon youngsters are forming letter shapes with their bodies and sounding out words.

Most of Reading In Motion's work is in the Chicago Public Schools, but representatives have trained teachers in other districts in Illinois to use the program and have started training teachers in California.

A non-profit organization, Reading in Motion is supported by grants from corporations and foundations, individual donors, and fees that schools pay for their work.

Androes, Reading In Motion's executive director, talked with Education World about how he developed the program and how it has helped students.

"We join something children love -- the arts -- to a critical life skill they're learning to love and understand -- reading," says Reading In Motion founder and executive director Karl Androes.
Education World: What inspired you to create Reading In Motion? What resources did you use in developing the program?

Karl Androes: Reading In Motion originally was created in 1983 by myself and two other musicians who believed in the power of the arts to help children succeed. From this broad goal, Reading In Motion narrowed its mission in 1995 to focus exclusively on improving children's reading skills in measurable ways. This shift was marked by a significant investment in commissioning independent research studies to prove the effectiveness of our arts-based curriculum on students' reading skills. We are very proud that eight studies, all conducted by 3-D Group of Berkeley, California, have confirmed our positive impact on student reading achievement. For example, the most recent study showed that 84 percent of Reading In Motion's students learned how to read at or above grade level, in contrast to only 27 percent of students in comparison schools as measured by the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) assessment tool.

EW: Why do you think Reading In Motion helps children learn to read more quickly? Do most schools use it just with at-risk students or all of them?

Androes: Authentic connections between key reading skills and music, dance, and drama skills are the basis for the Reading In Motion methodology. Aligned with the Chicago Public Schools' Reading Instruction framework, we join something children love -- the arts -- to a critical life skill they're learning to love and understand -- reading. We start teaching word knowledge in kindergarten, using music to teach phonemic awareness. By first grade, we begin using dance to help children connect letter shapes and sounds (individual letter decoding) and form simple words (word decoding). In second and third grades, we focus on fluency and comprehension by helping children read and then act out stories using a variety of drama techniques.

Reading In Motion defines at-risk children as children who are affected by two or more of the following factors: poverty themselves, single parent household, bad neighborhood school options, a high number of violent crimes in their neighborhood, or high density of poverty in their neighborhood. Because our programs are implemented in the Chicago Public Schools where many students fit into this definition of at-risk, the schools use our program with all students in a particular grade. However, because our program utilizes both small and whole group instruction, children with greater skill deficiencies, who may be at greater risk for reading failure, receive more intensive and frequent small group instruction.

EW: How are classroom teachers prepared to use Reading In Motion?

Androes: Reading In Motion's teacher training is based upon the adult learning model developed by Malcolm Knowles and presented in his book, The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. Knowles said that, "Adults learn best by experiencing, reflecting, conceptualizing, then applying." Applied to our trainings, which focus on teaching teachers how to implement our curriculum, the theory looks like this:

  • Experience:Teachers experience participating in an activity (as students would) while a Reading In Motion teacher leads the activity.
  • Reflect:Teachers reflect on their experience as a learner, writing down notes and questions.
  • Experience: Teachers become leaders. Teacher leads activity back to a partner or small group.
  • Reflect: Teachers reflect on their experience as a leader.
  • Conceptualize:Teachers get answers to questions they might have about leading their own students, (how students respond, age appropriate adaptations, etc.) so they can prepare for how they will lead it in their classrooms.
  • Apply: Teachers apply it in their own classrooms with their own students.

During this initial three-day intensive training during the summer, teachers are provided 32 weeks of lessons for whole and small groups, a 60-minute DVD demonstrating each key activity, music with 21 tracks of songs composed exclusively for our curriculum, work area kits with all the materials and lesson plans needed to run six literacy-based work areas in their classroom, and books and materials for whole group and small group lessons, as well as picture cards, letter cards and book sets by award-winning authors like Leo Lionni, Ezra Jack Keats and Eric Carle. Following the summer training, Reading In Motion staff supports the teachers throughout the year with weekly on-site support and coaching.

EW: Has the program been reviewed and/or approved by the U.S. Department of Education?

Androes: Reading In Motion has not presented its curriculum to the U.S. Department of Education for approval. However, Dr. Timothy Shanahan is our senior research consultant. Dr. Shanahan is the current secretary of the International Reading Association and a member of the National Early Literacy Panel. Additionally DIBELS, our assessment tool, was developed by the University of Oregon in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education and is proven as a reliable predictor of reading success.

Our curriculum is aligned with the Chicago Public Schools' Reading Instruction Framework and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Learning Standards and meets the No Child Left Behind regulations and the Reading First and Supplemental Educational Services (SES) requirements.

EW: What follow-up studies have been done to evaluate the effectiveness of Reading In Motion?

Androes: The rigor of our independent research studies has won national recognition. Two such examples include: in 2000, Harvard University researchers cited two studies of the Reading In Motion curriculum in The Arts and Academic Improvement: What the Evidence Shows, an analysis of the link between the arts and education. In addition, in 1999, The Journal of Educational Research, a juried academic journal, published an article on the results achieved through the Reading In Motion curriculum.

This e-interview with Karl Androes is part of the Education World Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.