Physically acting out a written text—as an actor would walk himself through the gestures and emotions of a soliloquy during rehearsal—is an effective way to commit that text to memory. For adults, this process of enactment imbues abstract words with concrete meaning, fixing them more firmly in our minds.
For children, acting out words on the page can also yield benefits. Especially for beginning readers, physically moving objects or one’s own body can provide a crucial bridge between real-life people, things, and actions, and the printed words meant to represent them. Fluent readers take this correspondence for granted, but many children find it difficult to grasp.
In everyday life, after all, the words “dog” or “cup” are usually encountered when there’s an actual dog or cup around. But inside the pages of a book, words must be understood in the absence of such real-world “referents.” The research of Arthur…
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