One of the exercises we consistently use at Harp Learning Institute is the Magic Eights activity. I coined the phrase for this activity because…it works like magic!
It sounds weird, I know. A magic eight activity? How could making a lopsided eight over-and-over again help with reading, writing, spelling, and math?
For starters, Magic Eights strengthen fine motor skills, eye/hand coordination, visual discrimination, visual memory, visual closure as well as auditory memory, auditory closure, and auditory discrimination. These are all “micro-skills” that build up to the bigger “macro-skills” of learning.
You see, there’s a hierarchy to learning, and Magic Eights takes the student back to some basic skills that might not have been perfected when the student was young and/or attempting to learn or obtain the micro-skills necessary for higher-level learning.
By making the sideways eight and tracing it, the student is going back and forth between the left side of the body to the right side. This helps with coordination and proprioceptive issues. It is also a continuous looping motion, so this helps with the “flow” of writing. Kids who struggle to write usually write in choppy bursts, are unorganized, and they don’t know how to set up their paragraphs or sentences in a meaningful way.
Magic Eights take care of a lot of these issues – naturally!
As the student continues to make the back and forth motion of the Magic Eights, new neural pathways are built in the brain that help the student become a “whole-brain” learner. Kids who are primarily right-brain dominant are creative, whole picture thinkers, musical, artistic, and thrive with rhythm and movement. Left-brain dominant students are bit-by-bit thinkers, learn through phonics and basic math problems, and thrive with organization.
Meeting in the middle is a great thing!!
Magic Eights are easy to do. You’ll need a table, a big white board, and markers. From there, you make a large infinity sign on the white board – from one of the student’s shoulders to the other. You guessed it – that’s a big lazy eight!!
Or, if you don’t have a white board, you can just spray shaving cream or make pudding and place on the kitchen table. Make a large infinity sign in your child’s tactile substance, and you’ll find that your child not only learns…but enjoys the process of learning. (Fun is always a good thing for learning – right?)
At this point, the student traces over the large infinity sign without lifting his marker (or finger). He traces the lazy eight pattern from shoulder shoulder at least three times then starts adding in alphabet letters or numbers on opposite sides of each other – without lifting the marker, of course!
Oh, boy, is it hard for these kids to refrain from lifting their markers! It’s important that they don’t so that messages to and from the brain are smooth and consistent. Connecting the hand with the brain is important for strong visual motor integration skills!
Once the kiddos figure this step out, the lazy eights fly. The result? Academics become easier and grades soar.
Of course, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all activity. Other skills need to be thrown into the mix to help a child overcome a learning disability, but I promise, this one activity does more for learning than any other single activity you can do.
I love walking in and seeing kids doing Magic Eights because it helps them so much. Even better, they love the movement attached to this learning. Movement and learning are not distant cousins- they are blood-tight siblings!
The best part of all is that kids love doing this exercise, so half the battle is already won. Content, learning kids make an entire household happy.
So, why don’t you give Magic Eights a try? You have nothing to lose by giving it a whirl!