Didi Hari Krishnan

This feature was first published in Journeys Winter 2018.

This article was written by communications writer Kinjal Shah.

The Harlem Globetrotters, Singapore American School dancers, and even athletes, all have it.

People like Homer Simpson, Mr. Bean, and me? Not so much!

What? You ask.

The moves.

These moves, or perceptual motor skills as we would call them, play an integral role in our lives.

What’s the big deal?
We are constantly calling upon them when we write, walk, play sport, name it. We don’t even know we need them!

Helping children develop to their full potential requires addressing their physical, mental, and emotional needs. Elementary schools across the world focus on academic and emotional development. How many actually address physical development?

Is it important? Can we do without it?

More and more current research shows that programs focused on improving children’s physical skills enhance not only their physical health, but also their academic and emotional health!

Perceptual motor skills allow sensory information to be successfully obtained and understood with appropriate reaction. Perceptual deals with obtaining information and motor refers to the outcome of movement. Perceptual motor activities require children to use their brain and body together to accomplish tasks—for example, playing catch while reciting the alphabet.

Addressing perceptual motor needs at SAS

Our primary goal in the perceptual motor program at Singapore American School is to teach students a range of fundamental movement skills, along with gross motor and fine motor skills. We do this in a fun, safe environment and aim to incorporate learning “My favorite thing about teaching the program is to see the joy and delight on a student’s face when they get excited about things and they squeal and laugh. When they push themselves, leading to that aha! moment as they experience or achieve something for the first time. The self efficacy that the student enjoys in that moment is priceless” says Mr. Donaghey. opportunities that are being explored in the regular kindergarten classroom into movement. For example when students are engaging in their poetry unit, we incorporate poems into perceptual motor—helping students move their bodies while reciting them.

The program is also geared towards social-emotional skill development. We allow students to have voice in their activities and aim to embed our desired student learning outcomes (DSLOs) and core values within each class. Students learn to share, take turns, think critically, and show compassion when trying new activities for the first time.

Unlike other schools, many of whom share their gross motor learning spaces, SAS boasts a dedicated space catering to the perceptual motor needs of students. This unique and inviting space caters for the ability to create and host up to a dozen stations at one time—climbing on a rock wall, swinging on a high bar, using a rope ladder, riding on a vehicle propelled by the student’s own body weight, throwing, catching, and bouncing a ball, building things using fine motor skills— students are allowed choice.

“It is great to see over 20 students move fluidly through the room. It’s like poetry in motion with kids having a great time,” says Kevin Donaghey, perceptual motor teacher at SAS.

Perceptual motor program at SAS

The perceptual motor program at SAS started more than 20 years ago and 220 students go through the program every year. It was earlier aligned with physical education classes and then moved to a dedicated perceptual motor space.

Movement matters. Every day, there are new articles including research which highlights the downside of prolonged sedentary activity or sitting for long periods of time. This is not only detrimental to our productivity, but also impacts our overall health. When students are able to take a brain break and move their bodies, they can reflect, recharge, and produce natural endorphins from their physical movements. These endorphins provide them with self efficacy they need to challenge themselves and experience success.

The program caters to dynamic and static balance, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills. Students may be given a box of objects and asked to build something using their creativity and imagination. They play with engineering tools, hammering stations, and even nuts and bolts. The program integrates learning in the classroom with transdisciplinary skills from science, math, and English. These concepts are used during the perceptual motor class and vice versa with motor skills and understanding being transferred back into the classroom.

During the recent festival of reading, students used poetry units and props for static and dynamic balance activities, spatial awareness, and social emotional learning. When learning math concepts, students can roll dice and manipulate objects depending on the mathematical outcome. Science concepts are reinforced through playing with objects that require pushing and pulling forces, all these movement activities allow the students to experience concepts learned in the classroom and gain a better understanding of them while reinforcing the message through movement. 

  • elementary school
  • kindergarten
  • movement
  • perceptual motor
  • social emotional



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