Improving Movement with Story and Arts (Sp. Ed 1-2)



I am a physical therapist working in the schools with physically disabled and developmentally delayed students who range in age from 3 years to 21 years old.  This lesson plan will be directed toward students who have developmental delays that make controlled movement difficult.  These students often move quickly and impulsively because fast, all or nothing movements are easier to perform than graduated controlled movements.  I work on the quality of their movement when I treat them, and I believe stories can be used to help these students become aware of how people and animals move (via emphasis on description of movement in the story).

  Grade Level: 

1st and 2nd grade self -contained special education students.  This is a small group treatment session with 6 participants.



Increase awareness of body position in space (increase kinesthetic awareness).

Increase balance.

Increase slow controlled muscle movement with emphasis on bilateral integration (coordination of right and left sides of the body).


Story- oral rendition of the story Polly’s Oats by Marc Simont

Large open space such as gym or treatment room



Have the students seated on the floor while the story is told.  Storyteller will emphasize and elaborate on descriptions of movement in the story. Following the storytelling, initiate a discussion of when the people and horses moved during the story, and what the type of movement occurred. Have the students stand and “perform” the story with the therapist as it is retold.  The therapist will be demonstrating or modeling the movements the students are expected to use as the story is told to ensure that specific movement objectives are attained. Classroom instructional assistants will assist children as needed to achieve specific body alignments and positions if a child is not able to do it independently.



The students loved this story and the change in approach to movement therapy from the typical list of activities that I have them do. Some students had a great deal of difficulty holding the positions for as long as I had them attempt to hold the position in relation to the story. I will be able to retell the story throughout the next weeks and lengthen or shorten the time of each movement based on how the students are progressing with their ability to perform what I ask them to do. The first telling revealed which actions and positions were the most challenging for them, and I will now modify as needed to progress them properly along the movement continuum. I will also work indirectly with the story in mind as I teach individual students variations on positions or movements that they could substitute for what the storyteller is demonstrating, to give the individual child the appropriate activity for their ability level. I foresee a time when I would not need to be at the head of the class demonstrating the movements, but would hope the students could integrate the story enough to perform while the story is told without the visual cues. This would allow me to move among them to fine-tune their position or movement through hands on techniques called facilitation. 



I could have the students talk about what they think the people and animals felt like when they moved (i.e., what did it feel like for Polly to be stuck in the mud?  What do you think it feels like to be so weak that you can’t move your foot?).  We can explore feelings of empathy, and for some, what it feels like to be different and not able to do what other kids can do easily.

I would also extend the activity to allow them to create different (their own) movements that could be done to act out the various parts of the story.  I could also ask them to make a variation of the story for us to move to… instead of getting stuck in the mud, maybe Polly had a hoof in a hole; instead of jumping a log maybe Polly needs to swim a river. We could talk about all the different ways your body could move to get from one point in the story to another, and then do them.


Reflection on this lesson:  I felt this was a very successful lesson and will repeat it with the variations discussed above.  Since these students take a long time to integrate movement (and any learning), the need for repetition is great.  I will stay with the initial format and story for a long time altering only the length of time each movement is performed initially before I move to the extension of having the students vary the story or movements.  I think the format is excellent and will look for other stories with a variety of movements for different grade levels.

















































Making an effort to increase student learning by integrating  storytelling will help children gain meaningful context to their lives.