Teaching Progressions for Motor Skill Attainment

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  • 0:04 Developing Motor Skilles
  • 0:31 Fine Vs. Gross Motor Skills
  • 1:02 Developmental Progression
  • 2:04 Scaffolding Motor…
  • 3:52 Some Additional Examples
  • 4:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies, the study of American history/society/culture. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer.

In this lesson, you'll learn about different types of motor skills and why these are so important to a child's development. Find out what is meant by motor skills progression and how you can support students appropriately.

Developing Motor Skills

Four-year-old Kevin is trying to play soccer with his older sister, Jill. She gently kicks the ball to him, and Kevin runs to the ball, kicking it with all his might. But the ball heads off to the side, which is not at all where he intended it to go. He's still developing his motor skills, which will enable him to kick the ball with a sense of direction.

In this lesson, we'll consider some basic information for how to support students in developing motor skills in a developmentally appropriate way.

Fine vs. Gross Motor Skills

When you use your larger muscles to perform an activity, like Kevin kicking a ball, this is an example of gross motor skills in action.

Now, let's say Kevin's shoelace becomes untied. The motions to retie his shoelaces utilize his fine motor skills, which involve smaller muscles like the ones in your hands, wrists, and fingers. Both types of motor skills, fine and motor, are important to everyday life skills. Plus, development in the area of motor skills can influence other areas of development, such as cognitive skills.

Developmental Progression

It takes time and instruction for children to cultivate motor skills, depending on the particular task. Over time, Kevin will ultimately learn to kick a ball with direction, but he'll have progressed through a number of stages to get there. Initially, he may not know how to do the actions involved at all and must be taught. This is the case with other motor skill activities as well.

For instance, it may seem obvious to us as adults how to jump from two feet, yet a child who's never jumped before may not find this as natural as you might imagine. Will the child be able to push off from a standing position? Will he/she bend her knees when she lands? Will he/she be able to land without falling over?

A child's individual characteristics and background also need to be taken into account. For instance, some children face challenges due to a lack of opportunities to develop motor skills, such as a child who lives in an unsafe neighborhood with very few opportunities to run and play outdoors. Others may face challenges having to do with disorders that affect and impair motor function on a physical level.

Scaffolding Motor Skill Development

As you interact with a particular child, notice where that child is today in his abilities and development. Then, identify the next step in the progression of motor skills for that child and assist them in becoming proficient in that stage of development. Use proper scaffolding during this process. Scaffolding is a term used to describe teaching strategies that provide adequate support for students as they grow in their abilities. This is similar to a person using real-life scaffolding, which helps them feel a sense of security from the structure supporting them as they reach higher and higher.

To return to our example of helping Kevin learn to kick the soccer ball, you might determine the first step is teaching him the appropriate form. If Kevin can kick a ball, but he hyperextends his knee each time, that will have negative consequences over time for him. Kevin will need to learn to kick differently if he's risking injury.

Allow for plenty of opportunities to repeat an activity. Repetition gives you an opportunity to provide both encouragement and constructive feedback. The child will have a chance for both successful and unsuccessful attempts. It's important to let the child know that unsuccessful attempts are all a part of the learning process.

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