Physical Development: Considerations and Accommodations for Primary School Students

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Essay - Physical Development

Primary school children, aged six to twelve years old, will undergo a variety of developmental changes, both physical and mental, and as teachers it is imperative that we both understand and accommodate the physical needs of students in the learning environment. To fully comprehend these changes, one must consider the actual physical changes that occur, in particular the development of motor skills, as well as how to accommodate the physical needs and development of students during their primary school years. Supplementary to these broader topics are the benefits of physical activity as well as the consequences of prolonged inactivity, and how a student’s physical development can either facilitate or restrict development in other areas.

Children between the ages of 6 and 10 (referred to as ‘middle childhood’) will experience a plethora of physical developments. Firstly, they will steadily gain weight and height, though their basic body structure will remain unchanged. Children will also lose their 20 primary or ‘baby’ teeth, which will be replaced by permanent teeth. Some of the most significant skills children of this age will develop are motor skills. Motor skills refer to a learned sequence of movements that combine to create an efficient action in order to become proficient at a certain activity. These can be divided into two subcategories: ‘gross motor skills’ and ‘fine motor skills’. Gross motor skills are “large movements of the body that permit locomotion through and within the environment” (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010) and includes such skills as walking and swimming, while fine motor skills are “Small, precise movements of particular parts of the body, especially the hands” (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010), and include such skills as writing and drawing. In early childhood, humans rely largely on reflexive (that is, unlearned and involuntary) movement patterns, and thus are lacking fine motor skills. As they reach middle childhood, children develop voluntary movement patterns, and begin refining both their gross and fine motor skills, gaining proficiency in a variety of actions. Children increase the speed and coordination of their running, kicking and throwing, and become able to integrate these movements into sports and other structured play activities. They also make advances in their handwriting, becoming smaller and more consistent, and their drawings, supported by further cognitive development, become more detailed. Finally, the functions of the brain are enhanced in a number of ways. The two hemispheres of the brain develop into more unique sectors, and groups of regularly used neurons are cultivated. The process of myelination, ‘the growth of a fatty sheath around neurons that allows them to transmit messages more quickly’ (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010), continues, permitting swift and sustained learning. In order to accommodate and encourage student’s physical needs and developments, teachers should first and foremost always ensure that the learning area is safe. The classroom should constantly be checked for hazards, such as sharp edges on desks, loose flooring, or potentially dangerous substances, and teachers should ensure that “Rooms, bathrooms, and hallways are cleaned daily” (Wilford, 2006). Children should also be educated on how to recognise situations or objects that could harm them, and how to deal with them effectively. As young children are especially vulnerable to illness, it is particularly important to do everything possible to prevent it, by keeping the area clean and sanitizing surfaces, and teaching children sanitary practices, such as washing their hands after toileting. This is a vital area of education; should a child suffer from a serious illness for a long period of time, their physical development may be permanently mired, having serious consequences on their entire lives. It is also important that students have access to healthy and nutritious food...
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