Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Extra Lesson

Improving Reading with Physical Exercise
When my first born was four years old he knew the entire alphabet, each letter’s sound, and how to write most of them in capital letters. I beamed and I even told the neighbor “He can read,” much to her disbelief. You see, I figured he was on the cusp if he knew three letters and their sounds. He could easily sit down and put those into a word, right? Four years later we are still learning to read and I’ve learned to be more humble.
I just assumed reading was easy. When I was a girl I loved to read. But, I never knew how I learned to read and I never appreciated language for it’s parts, more for it’s ability to come together to tell a story.  When I was pregnant I read to my son, when he was born, I read to him more. As a toddler he’d bring me tons of books and we’d point out pictures and learn general vocabulary. When he was just three he sat by while I read all of Stuart Little. Naturally, I thought reading would be easy for him, something that would magically happen. 
I’ve since learned reading is a process that involves games, rhymes, rules and repetition. As any mother would, I am always on the lookout for clear, easy and fun ways to teach him reading rules. Imagine my surprise when a fun new way to enhance reading ability arrived in the form of bean bags, crawling on the floor, and jump roping. 
The Extra Lesson: 
As a parent who prefers natural and holistic methods The Extra Lesson really appeals to me. An approach that helps children with learning disabilities, it is also beneficial to those without. For children with ADD, ADHD, Dyspraxic, Dyslexic, Auditory Processing Difficulty, or as Gifted and underachieving, this method works drug-free. For a mother trying to help her son put joy into reading, it works as well. 
As usual, this Waldorf centric approach focuses on meeting each child at his need level. Extra Lesson classes are available at many Waldorf schools from counselors following Audrey McAllen’s Steiner inspired curriculum. The most wonderful part is the exercises are really fun! 
With help from books and websites we came up with exercises we can integrate right here at home. Weekly we are tossing bean bags and doing crawling races around the house. My boys have learned to do Chinese Jump rope and are inventing their own challenges.
Both boys are improving their gross motor spacial awareness which translates to spacial awareness on paper. It’s easy to incorporate the exercises, they enjoy them, and it’s a great addition to our weekly reading practice.
Interested in finding out more about The Extra Lesson? 
Check out these websites: 
Check out these books: 
Take Time by Mary Nash-Wortham and Jean Hunt
The Extra Lesson, Movement, Drawing and Painting Exercises to Help Children with Difficulties in Writing, Reading, and Arithmetic by Audrey E. McAllen.
Waldorf Play Silk by Pail and Pie
Special thanks to Brenda from Pail and Pie for this article!


  1. We may be on our way here at some point! I just discovered my daughter, nearly 6, dos not know which direction English words run on paper--she has been trying to write the letters she knows from right to left instead of left to right. I was reading--really reading--by four, so this difficulty is new to me. I'm looking forward to learning more about reading instruction when she enters Waldorf 1st grade next year.

  2. From my experience, children learn to read at different ages and with various degrees of ease or difficulty depending on the individual nature of the child. What can be challenging for younger kids becomes easier with the added dexterity of age. The extra lesson seems like a good place for kids who may be struggling as well as focusing on activities like knitting and others that work on hand eye coordination and creative expression.