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Animals in Motion program brings action to phonics

New program is a dream realized for PE Teacher Cindy Jones

(Podcast: STEM in the Gym and Phonics: Animals in Motion make unexpected but rich connections between physical education and other disciplines. Listen here.)

By PJ Graham, Technical Writer

After the success of STEM in the Gym™, developing another program might not seem like a big deal. But for Cindy Jones, Phonics: Animals in Motion isn’t just a sophomore project – it’s a 20-year dream realized.

Though just released in March, Phonics: Animals in Motion has been fine-tuned over the last two decades. Jones, a physical education teacher at Clover Hill Elementary in Midlothian, VA, as well as the director for the Children’s Council of ITEEA and Children’s Outreach Chair of the Virginia Children’s Engineering Council, originally developed it not for the classroom but for her own children. Her daughter has ADD and her son has ADHD, so she was trying to teach them phonics in an active way.

“They enjoyed my kinesthetic teaching method so much, it motivated me to test it with my classes, and I realized that my students enjoyed learning this way also,” Jones said, adding that one parent said that they couldn’t get their child to stop doing it at home. “It became so popular, a local TV station did an interview with me and the kids.”

Using kinesthetic activity to teach and reinforce phonics learning, the program keeps students active and engaged. Using a video featuring students executing the activities and animal animations, different flash card sets, a teacher’s guide, and student workbook, Phonics: Animals in Motion also incorporates counting and sign language into phonics and physical activity. There is a version for both the regular classroom and physical education in the gym – both are geared toward students ages 4 through 8.

According to Jones, Phonics: Animals in Motion has such a strong effect on students because it combines audio, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles into one program. “You are doing everything to imprint it into their memory,” she added. “They’re moving, they’re learning, and they’re having fun – it’s a win-win-win.”

Though it might seem an odd fit for Pitsco Education’s traditional STEM focus, Bill Holden, Pitsco product development specialist, and Pitsco CEO Harvey Dean thought otherwise.

“Pitsco was founded on the idea that students learn best through hands-on activities,” said Holden. “And while phonics is certainly outside of our normal topical area, Harvey thought that the program had merit and would help students learn phonics better through a kinesthetic program.

“Additionally, the potential for Pitsco to assist in moving this concept from the idea stage to a real product was worth pursuing, as Cindy has a proven track record of incorporating kinesthetic learning within academic topics in her physical education courses.”

Compared to the original program, Jones and Pitsco’s version is much more visual through the addition of the flash cards and animal animations in the video.

“The best part was when I got the huge flash cards of the animals that my friend and former Clover Hill parent Kelly Cleary had drawn and Pitsco had blown up to be beautiful flash cards,” Jones said. “Students love, love, love the animal pictures and that the animals have names. So, it was an amazing experience to see how much more they enjoyed the program with the visuals.”

Jones is also thrilled that after a couple less-than-satisfactory videos in the past, the current one surpassed her expectations, especially having children lead the program.

“That made it the best that it can be, because kids like to see kids,” said Jones. “I prayed that that would happen – that was the icing on the cake for the kids to be the stars.”

Adding a sign language component was a no-brainer for the educator as well.

“I used to teach my children sign language, and it was just a fun twist to keep them so completely absorbed with fun and movement that they don’t realize they are learning,” Jones added. “My son had to have sign language because he wasn’t talking, and I just think it is great for kids to be introduced to it at a young age.”

Interest from both teachers and administrators for the phonics program at a recent conference made Jones realize she has another winner on her hands. To learn more about her Phonics: Animals in Motion or STEM in the Gym programs, visit www.pitsco.com.