Using Creativity and Movement to Build Literacy Skills at Read to Achieve Summer Camp

RTA Movemnet 450

by Jeanna White

Ribbons streaming, the first-graders glide across the stage. Although moving in unison, students perform their own dance.

Each student created their dance based on things they like to do, such as swinging a bat or swimming, and then taught it to a partner who acted as a shadow.

This exercise teaches tracking, concept identification, visualization, and sequencing. According to Noel Grady-Smith, movement instructor for Davie County Schools Read to Achieve Camp, these are important skills that influence reading.

Improved literacy skills are the ultimate goal of the intensive four-week camp.  Davie County Schools uses a unique approach to its summer Read to Achieve Camp. In addition to traditional reading exercises, the school system incorporates visual arts, music, movement, and theater to create a holistic experience for each student.

“Our premise is that students need to learn about themselves and their strengths,” she said.

Strengths come in many different forms. Developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, who created Multiple Intelligence Theory, said that every individual possesses several different and independent capacities for solving problems and creating products. He described these intelligences as verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist.

Movement is a powerful learning tool, particularly for students who are bodily-kinesthetically inclined.  

“We get to focus on the things that really drive teachers crazy, the motor skills, because this is the age group where children want to move all of the time,” Grady-Smith said with a smile. “We give them a lot of permission to move, but with a tremendous amount of structure built in.”

In addition to free movement, students manipulate props such as hoops, ribbons, and bean bags to help help them understand the impact of their movement as well as to create a connectivity to the space around them.

“As we are moving we are naming the words that describe our movements, which gives them terms they are beginning to understand. These become vocabulary words they will never forget. We are also connecting it with the literature they are seeing in their classroom,” she added. “Today we began the Corn Dance which is also being taught in music and mirrored in the first- grade curriculum and will be part of the camp’s celebratory Pow Wow.”

Third graders participate in morning stretch, a program designed to develop intense focus and collaborative skills.

“Teachers want to go into the classroom and find students who already have some of those skills. If I can build them here, it is a lot better.”

For an introductory overview of Read to Achieve Summer Camp 2017, please visit