This is the second part of a 3-part series on Yoga and Literacy. See also Using Yoga to Support Language and Literacy Development and Addressing Narrative Language Goals in Yoga Activities.
A long, long, time ago, I was originally trained as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired. Although I have spent the past decade focusing on Orientation and Mobility, I am always looking for ways to incorporate other areas of the ECC in to my lessons. Given the importance of literacy skills, I always love embedding them in to my lessons to enhance my students’ skills. That’s why I love using yoga activities to increase literacy skills for my students. Yoga sessions are a great time for incidental-style instruction to help increase your student’s awareness and exposure to a variety of literacy skills.
Promoting Literacy Skills Outside of Formal Instructional Settings
In my classes, we introduce emerging literacy skills by infusing them in to the class itself. I love that I can help my students in ways outside of the formal instructional setting. In our yoga sessions, they are happily engaged in an activity that they think is fun and are incidentally learning the skills they need to become a more proficient reader.
We practice skills such as tracking, finding your location on a page, and going down a line by giving my student(s) a list of our yoga routine. Starting at the top of the page, we read each pose in the sequence. This simple addition to the class not only increases their awareness of the letters or words, but it also increases their vocabulary, spelling, and comprehension skills.
For more advanced literacy skills such as reading (words, a list, a passage), matching, making choices, and writing lists, we often include a simple Yoga Activity in our sessions. They don’t take very much extra time to implement and the materials are really easy to make.
All of these skills can be supported in your yoga session through any literacy medium, or combination of literacy media that your child reads. Some of my students read tactile symbols in either a strip or a list. Other students use these yoga activities to support their braille skills. While others use print, large print, pictures, or any combination of two learning media. Since I am not the person who can actually teach these skills, I always coordinate with the TVI to make sure we are using the correct learning medium and supporting the student in the best way possible.
Yoga Activities to Increase Literacy Skills
Here are some yoga activities that I love to incorporate in to yoga sessions.
Reading the Yoga Routine
Materials: Yoga routine in the student’s preferred medium (print, braille, tactile symbols)
At the beginning of your yoga sessions, you may notice that the students do not know the words or symbols you are using. That is totally normal and to be expected. During the first yoga class, I take extra time to show each student all of the words of the sequence in their learning medium. If it is a new word, I allow them to spell it out or help them spell it out. If it is a tactile symbol, I tell them the word. We read the entire sequence at the beginning of the session. Then, we read each pose word or tactile symbol before we perform the pose. During subsequent yoga classes, we read the entire sequence in the beginning of our class, and refer back to the sequence to read the next pose as we progress through the sequence.
Directions: Have your student read the yoga sequence before the start of your yoga session and after each pose.
Pick a Pose
Materials: Cards labeled with the names yoga poses.
Directions: Have the student pick a yoga card from a bundle of yoga cards. The student then reads the card and then performs the move.
If you are teaching a class of multiple students, the student can demonstrate the move to their peers and practice their self-determination skills at the same time! The next student would then pick a card, read the name of the yoga pose, and lead the class in that pose. The teacher may want to help if the student doesn’t know how to demonstrate the pose.
This game is great for students who have age-appropriate social skills and can handle a varied routine. I would not try it with students with atypical social development and who cannot handle unexpected change.
Materials: Yoga cards with velcro, a Wheatley Picture Making board from APH
Directions: Create the student’s yoga sequence on one side of the Wheatley folder, leaving one space blank for a choice.
Place two pose options on the other side of the Wheatley Picture Making board.
As you preview the sequence before class, have the student choose which pose they want and place it in the blank spot.
Moving beyond emerging literacy skills, check out Linda Hagood’s post Addressing Narrative Language Goals in Yoga Activities. This post will provide you with information regarding increasing literacy and communication skills for children with visual impairments.
Writing a List
Description: This game is great for any teacher who wants to support language acquisition skills and writing skills. The sequence can be written prior to the beginning of class with the Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Speech Language Pathologist, etc. You can also have the words already printed/brailled or the tactile symbols created so that the student simply creates a list from the pre-written words.
Materials: materials needed to make a list in the students’ medium (brailler, audio note-taker, tactile symbols, lined paper with 20/20 pen).
Directions: Before the beginning of the yoga sequence, have the student write the yoga sequence.
Yoga Mad Libs
(Adapted from Lisa Ricketts, OTR)
Description: A Mad-Lib is a word game where one player prompts the other player for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story. The words are given before the story is read and are often prompted as types of words. For example, the words to be filled in may be a plural word, followed by an adjective, followed by the name of an item. When the words are filled in, it often creates a comical story that is read aloud.
Materials: An age-appropriate mad lib printed/embossed in the students’ preferred learning medium. This site is a place where I find a lot of ideas.
- For each blank in the mad lib, have the student choose an appropriate word.
- Then, have the student choose a yoga pose to practice.
- If you have a class with multiple students, have each student take a turn choosing a word and a yoga pose for the class.
- When the mad lib is filled in, have the student read the entire mad lib aloud. It is always a great laugh!
Here's an example:
“My favorite __________ (noun) is __________ (adjective). Everyday, I wake up and feel so __________ (emotion) to _________ (verb) with it! Yesterday, I could not find my favorite thing anywhere. I searched the entire ___________(place) to find it, but it was nowhere to be found. My _______(person) had put it in the _________(place) because it was _______(adjective). Whew! That was a close one! Glad we found my favorite thing. Now I can _______(verb) with it again.”
Why I Love Using Yoga Activities to Increase Literacy Skills
Yoga activities are easy ways to enhance your yoga session and bring literacy skills to life. You can use one or multiple activities within a yoga session, depending upon the time that you have. My students love practicing literacy skills with these activities. I hope your students love them, too!
For students who would benefit from more advanced activities that use literacy and yoga to further their communication skills. Check out Addressing Narrative Language Goals in Yoga Activities by Linda Hagood for more fun yoga activities!
What ways have you incorporated literacy in to your yoga sessions? Leave a comment below and share what is working for you!